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Circle of. The Virgin Bathing the Christ Child. Engraving and drypoint. 30.4 x 27.2 cm. Bartsch XVI, p. 383, 17 (Anonymous, School of Fontainebleau); Meyer, Allgemeines Künster-Lexikon, vol. II, 37, 11; Terence Mullaly, Battista del Moro in Perspective, in: Print Quarterly, vol. IV (1987), pp. 403–7; cat. La bella maniera, Druckgraphik des Manierismus aus der Sammlung Georg Baselitz, edited by Ger Luijten, Berlin 1994, no. 71 II. Watermark: Anchor in circle.
This charming, intimate scene is probably the result of stylistic suggestions made by Giulio Romano, whose Madonna della Catina of 1525 (Dresden, Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister) displays a compositional scheme of a comparable nature. Whereas Bartsch assigned the present sheet to an anonymous master of the School of Fontainebleau, Terence Mullaly advocated in 1987 that it should be attributed to Giovanni Battista d’Angolo.
While the playful baby Jesus is being bathed by Mary he lovingly embraces the Infant Baptist, who pours water into the bowl from a jug. Elisabeth looks over her shoulder at what is going on as she warms a bath towel over the fire. The setting, which is radiant with tenderness and a sense of comfort and security, is framed by a draped curtain that takes up the elegant, flowing lines of the women’s garments. D’Angolo addressed the topic of the bathing of the Christ Child on several occasions. In an engraving after Giulio Romano the main figures are accompanied by Joseph, Anne and Elisabeth together with the Infant Baptist (Bartsch XVI, 11). There is also a version of the present sheet in reverse in which the arrangement of the figures is only slightly modified, although the backdrop is completely different and the work bears the signature of Giovanni Battista d’Angolo (Bartsch XVI, 10). This version has been executed in a concentrated, distinctly sculptural style which is markedly different from the very free, somewhat unpolished, albeit very painterly and expressive approach that is apparent in the present sheet. Certain shortcomings in the draughtsmanship are, indeed, reminiscent of the formal idiom of the masters of Fontainebleau, although it seems more likely that the evocative print could be the work of an anonymous Upper Italian artist from the circle around Giovanni Battista d’Angolo.
A superb, warmly luminous impression, trimmed to the platemark, with traces of it at the top right. Tiny pinholes in the corners and one in Mary’s foot, a few tiny repairs in the margins, slight discolouring, otherwise in immaculate, pristine condition.
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