This Holy Family is a superb addition to the growing corpus of works by Alessandro Rosi. Vibrant in palette and rich in detail, this canvas is not alone in having been traditionally attributed to Sigismondo Coccapani, a Florentine contemporary who worked in a comparable style to Rosi. However, when Alessandra Guicciardini published a study in 1989 on the commission for the Palazzo Corsini in Florence, he established that Rosi was in fact the hand behind works that had been routinely given to Coccapani. In subsequent years, Rosi’s oeuvre has been steadily recovered and his distinctive talent fully recognised. Attention has also been given to the colourful life he led. Noted by his biographers as a skilled draughtsman, who trained with Cesare Dandini and worked for Ferdinand de’ Medici, Rosi died in an ‘extraordinary accident’: while walking on the via Condotta in Florence, a column fell from a terrace above and killed him (P.A. Orlandi, Abecedario pittorico, Venice, 1753, p. 43).
The arrangement of the Madonna and Child here is drawn from a successful invention by Dandini, which Rosi’s master treated on a number of occasions, including versions in the Ospedale di Santa Maria Nuova in Florence and a private collection in Milan (S. Bellesi, Cesare Dandini, Turin, 1996, pp. 177-8, nos. 119-120). Rosi though elaborates on the composition with a touch of humour and domestic realism, as the cat paws at the dish on the table, and the Child plays with the bows of the Madonna’s dress; the sumptuous draperies meanwhile speak of a new baroque exuberance. The picture’s fine state of preservation, in these passages in particular, allows Rosi’s virtuouso brushwork to be fully appreciated. This composition was treated by Rosi on at least one other occasion, in a picture sold in these Rooms, 6 July 2017, lot 31; the present lot though shows a number of subtle differences to that picture, notably in the colour scheme of the Madonna’s sleeve, and the design of the upper left background.
We are grateful to Francesca Baldassari for confirming the attribution on the basis of photographs.