42. Pietro da Cortona

Cortona 1596 – 1669 Rome

The Virgin Adoring the Child, circa 1638

Pietro da Cortona was one of the greatest representatives of Italian Baroque art. He developed a painstaking graphic style, as can be seen in our drawing and in the one preserved in Würzburg, both preparatory sketches for the painting Rest on the Flight into Egypt (1638, Church of Walterskirchen, Austria). In the German drawing, the artist arranged the figures with a very free pen. The Virgin and Child are there, with Joseph on the left, but the group containing the young John the Baptist and his mother was not transferred to the painting. Our study belongs to a later stage in the conception of the painting: here Cortona concentrated on the figure of the Virgin, sketching the two angels kneeling on the right in only the most summary fashion. Treated in the same synthesising manner as Mary’s robe, the small figure of Jesus seems to disappear completely into the mass of drapery. In the painting, Cortona made the Child’s proportions more realistic and, by placing him on white drapery, gave him a stronger presence.