This well-preserved panel was painted during Giampietrino's full maturity as an artist and can be dated to after 1521.
The artist we know as Giampietrino appears in various documents alternatively listed as 'Gioanpietro', 'Pietro Rizzo', 'Gio. Pedrino' and 'Giovan Pietro Rizzoli'. He is one of the most interesting of all the Lombard followers of Leonardo, and it is only recently, as part of a general revival of interest in the school that grew up around Leonardo da Vinci in Lombardy, that he has been studied in any depth.
Giampietrino is documented as a member of Leonardo's studio on a sheet of drawing paper dated to circa 1495. The young painter was learning his art as the master was formulating his celebrated treatise on painting in which, amongst other things, Leonardo stressed the importance of copying the drawings and paintings of the masters. Giampietrino's earliest works do not seem to have survived and it is not until the beginning of the sixteenth century that an independent oeuvre can be identified. These paintings, including the Kneeling Leda with Children (Staatliche Museen, Kassel) and the Nymph Hegeria (Brivio Sforza collection, Milan) derive from Leonardesque prototypes.
These were followed by a series of devotional paintings, such as a Madonna and Child in the Galleria Borghese, Rome, which again follows Leonardesque models, notably in the facial type characterized by heavy-lidded eyes, a high forehead and sharply delineated facial features, all modeled with the sfumato that was Leonardo's most singular hallmark.
The return of Andrea Solario from France in 1509 marked a further development for Giampietrino, who adapted Solario's highly wrought finish and clear, crystalline palette, itself influenced by the innovation of the painters of the Flemish School.
Perhaps as a result of the exposure to Flemish painting, there was a vogue for depictions of the Passion of Christ in early cinquecento Milan. Solario painted numerous versions of the Ecce Homo (e.g. Johnson Collection, Philadelphia Museum of Art) and Christ Carrying the Cross (Galleria Borghese, Rome) for private devotional use. Giampietrino also painted a group of similar panels in this vein, mainly in the early 1520s, of which the depictions of Christ Carrying the Cross in the National Gallery, London and the Galleria Sabauda, Turin are beautiful examples.
Our painting belongs to this moment and can be compared to a Christ Crowned with Thorns in a Milanese private collection. That painting has a curtain in the background instead of the barred window and receding wall visible here. The grieving Virgin is also different (in the Milan picture she has no visible hand). However, the Christ is almost identical, and both must derive from the same cartoon. This notwithstanding, Giampietrino has introduced naturalistic details, notably in the scourge-marks on Christ's body which are absent in the Milan panel.
Giampietrino's success was such that he employed assistants, including Giovanni Francesco Boccadoli, to produce replicas of such successful compositions as the Praying Magdalene (Milan, Brescia). Throughout the 1530s, Giampietrino continued to produce altarpieces and devotional works. Although he never entirely abandoned a certain Leonardesque quality, noticeable especially in the sfumato modeling and female facial types, he began to incorporate the influence of Raphael (through the intervention of Cesare da Sesto) and, in paintings such as the Christ at the Column (Sant'Alessandro, Milan) and the Begnate altarpiece, to employ motifs that paved the way for Lombard mannerism.
Our painting, therefore, comes from a moment in Giampietrino's career when he had developed a highly personal vision and recognizable style, after he had moved away from the purely Leonardesque style of his early work yet before he began to inflect his own naturalistic tendencies with a more studied Raphaelesque elegance.
We are grateful to Professor Pietro Marani for confirming the attribution to Giampietrino on the basis of photographs and for proposing a date of around 1520-25 (written communication, December 2003).
The present painting will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of Giampietrino by Dr. Cristina Geddo (written communication, 21 Feb 2005).