A Brief History of Color in Art
The Art Genome Project
Luminous and serene, this oil on canvas is a rare work by the Italian Baroque artist Giovanni Battista Salvi, known as Sassoferrato. Entitled Madonna in Ecstasy, the composition portrays the Virgin Mary as the quintessential Counter-Reformation icon, evoking a devotional piety that would have enamored Baroque-era Italy. Tranquil and contemplative, she reveals why Sassoferrato is widely regarded as “the master of the prayerful Madonna.”
An accomplished portraitist, Sassoferrato specialized in devotional easel paintings, usually representing the Madonna with the Christ Child or alone, of which the present composition is an outstanding example. The rich yet delicate tones of the piece are magnified by the juxtaposition of the pearly tone of his subject's porcelain-like skin and the vibrant ultramarine blue of her cloak. Reminiscent of the work of Raphael, Sassoferrato casts his Madonna in an ethereal light, deeply meditative and austerely composed, free from the exuberance of the contemporary Baroque style.
Giovanni Batista Salvi, more widely known as "Sassoferrato" after the town in which he was born, initially studied painting with his father Tarquino. Before embarking on a trip to Rome, he was primarily active in Urbino and other central Italian cities. In Rome, he came under the influence of Annibale Carraci, Guido Reni, and Domenichino, under whom he studied as a pupil for some time. His greatest influence, however, was Raphael. Sassoferatto's style, deliberately archaic with precise draughtmanship and an eloquent use of color, led later historians to believe he was a contemporary of the Renaissance master.
Today, Sassoferrato's work is found in the most prestigious museums in the world, most notably the collection of 60 drawings in the Royal Collection at Windsor Castle. Although the artist experienced immense popularity during his lifetime, the majority of his works are today housed in major museums and very few remain in private hands.
Canvas: 19 1/4" high x 15" wide
Frame: 27 1/2" high x 23 1/2" wide
Italian, 1609-1685, Sassoferrato, Italy