PROCACCINI, Giulio Cesare
(b. 1574, Bologna, d. 1625, Milano)

The Virgin and Child with the Infant St John the Baptist and Attendant Angels

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Oil on panel, 51 x 37 cm
National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh

Procaccini, although relatively little-known outside Italy, was one of the most successful and prolific painters of the early years of the seventeenth century. He was born into an artistic family in Bologna, which moved to Milan in the mid-1580s. His earliest works were statues commissioned for churches in Milan and Cremona, but in about 1600 he turned to painting. He worked across much of northern Italy, finding employment in Modena, Cremona, Pavia and Genoa, where he assimilated a broad range of styles.

This lyrical, small-scale devotional picture would have been intended as an aid to prayer and contemplation: it shows the infant Saint John holding up a lamb before the Holy Family, representing Christ's future sacrifice. Its style reflects Procaccini's study of Parmigianino's works, and it is painted with a liquid freedom usually associated with preparatory sketches, although it is considered a resolved painting.