Madonna and Child with the Young Saint John the Baptist
19.8 cm x 18.7 cm (7 13/16 in. x 7 3/8 in.)
Pier Francesco Mazzuchelli, called Morazzone
(Morazzone (Varese), Italy, 1573 - 1626)
Medium and Support:
Brush and brown wash with white heightening on gray green antique laid paper, laid down
Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, The Suida-Manning Collection, 2017
The angular pattern of composition and the arbitrary alignment of form are Milanese habits going back at least to Bramantino, made conventional in the school of Gaudenzio Ferrari, and anchored here by the elegant formulae of late-century Rome. The description of form through extensive wash and articulate heightening on colored paper, with no use of pen, is equally characteristic of the same tradition. In both regards Morazzone is completely assured and distinctive within seventeenth-century Milanese art. But his is not just self-conscious reference or nativism. Coherent, intense, and above all optical, the illumination derives from contemporary Rome. Disengaged from naturalistic description, this Caravaggesque contrast between light and shadow becomes abstract and, if recognizable, suggests the action of moonlight. The real expression of this drawing comes not from subject matter nor even from rendered emotion, which is generic and reticent. It arises from the tension between compelling sensation and unfamiliar reality. Supernatural and expressionistic, this style also evokes, and to some extent responded to, the charged spirituality of Federico Borromeo’s Milan—a spirituality insisting upon authority to the point of repressiveness, while exalting individual sensibility to the point of mysticism. Resolute in form and poetic in expression, this drawing is a quintessential example of Morazzone’s art.