The full title of this oil on panel painted by Sebastiano del Piombo around the year 1520 is The Virgin and Child with Saint Joseph, Saint John the Baptist and a donor.
That donor would possibly be theFlorentine banker Francesco Borgherini, and here he is depicted on his knees directing his prayers to the Christ Child. The Renaissance painter Sebastiano del Piombo (c. 1485 – 1547) is known to have had a good relationship with this banker, for whom he also painted his chapel in the Roman church of San Pietro in Montorio.
Madonna and Child by Sebastiano del Piombo
On the other hand there is no complete and absolute evidence that he painted this panel for him, which is currently kept in the National Gallery in London.
The fact is that this image is prototypical of this painter, capable of merging influences from the painting made in Rome and the one made in Venice. For example, here the horizontal format has a lot of Venetian. Although the format is not the only thing taken from the painting of the city of canals, the treatment of color is also Venetian influenced. Here we see a very wide palette. The brightest occupying the center with the harmonious ranges of oranges, blues, greens, beiges and reds. All of them tones that contrast against the black background and that are compensated with the stain of sober and dark clothes of the donor inthe bottom of the first term.
However the figures are most certainly inspired by Michelangelo'spaintings, especially his Roman period works. For example, the Child recalls the one holding the book of the prophet Daniel in the Sistine Chapel.
In addition to that there are details of enormous quality, such as the sleight of hand that the different characters offer us. On one side are the hands of Saint John the Baptist and Saint Joseph, the latter sleeping, both with dark hands, like all his figures, as they emerge from the darkness of the background to flank the figure of the Virgin.
María, in turn, supports her very clean and clear hands on the shoulders of the Child and the donor, in the first case gently and the second more firmly. At the same time, the only visible hand of Jesus seems to seek the breast of his mother looking for food. And as for the donor, we see his fervor and his prayers not only in his face and his eyes, but also in his respectful gesture of folding his hands, as if praying.
Already in his time, Sebastiano del Piombo was a painter much admired for his ability to paint portraits, and really when checking the face of the donor, it is easy to think that he painted it from a series of drawings taken from nature.