Bagnacavallo probably entered the workshop of Francesco Francia when he arrived in Bologna in 1503. Although his earliest securely dated work is from 1522, Bagnacavallo was already a well established painter in Bologna by the beginning of the second decade of the century. In 1511 he was commissioned, together with Biagio Pupini, to paint frescoes in the Church of San Pietro in Vincoli, Faenza. Throughout Bagnacavallo's career, the two artists collaborated on numerous projects; according to Vasari, they travelled to Rome together during Raphael's sojourn there (1508-20). The treatment of the facial features, in particular the downcast eyes and the colours, show a great affinity with the style of Biagio Pupini (see Pupini's Madonna and Child appearing to Saints sold in these Rooms, 10 July 1998, lot 58).
The present picture can be compared with Bagnacavallo's Madonna and Child enthroned in Heaven in the Church of Santa Maria della Misericordia in Bologna, and with the Holy Family with Saint Jerome in the Galleria Nazionale in Parma. In her monograph on the artist, Bernardini assigns those two pictures to the 1530s and it is therefore likely that the present picture is also a mature work by the artist (C. Bernardini, Il Bagnacavallo Senior, Rimini, 1990, pp. 106-109, nos. 29-30, illustrated).
We are grateful to Professor Federico Zeri for confirming the attribution on the basis of a photograph.