Very little is known about the life of Paolo Morando, called Cavazzola. According to Giorgio Vasari in his Vitae he was a 'young man of good habits without the slightest trace of vice' ('giovane di ottimi costumi e senza macchia di alcun vizio') and, had he lived, he would have acquired great celebrity. Indeed Vasari considered him to have been one of the most important masters of the school of Verona, before Paolo Veronese (G. Vasari, Le Vite de' più eccellenti pittori, scultori, ed architettori, Firenze, 1555, p. 317).
His brief career as a painter began as an assistant to Francesco Morone (1471-1529), when Francesco was still working with his father Domenico. But so talented was the young man that soon, as Vasari states, 'he knew much more than his master'. His first signed work, a Madonna and Child now in the Museum of Castelvecchio in Verona, shows not only how attentively he followed the example of Morone's workshop, but also how important Giovanni Bellini's influence was in early Renaissance Verona. Similarly his work recalls the influence of Mantegna's San Zeno altarpiece, on view in Verona in the church of the same name from 1457-1460, which proved to be a great source of inspiration for Cavazzola and his generation. His brief career reached its peak in 1517 when, together with Francesco Morone, he painted a series of panels with scenes from the Passion of Christ for the chapel of the Cross in the church of San Bernardino (Museo di Castelvecchio, Verona).
This panel is the second version of a Madonna and Child signed by Cavazzola which is now in the Cagnola Collection in Villa Gazzada, Varese. The picture in the Cagnola collection is dated a year earlier than this picture and bears a slightly different signature: 'PAVLVS MORANDI'. In this picture, the monumental figure of the Madonna is isolated behind a stone ledge, as she embraces the Christ child and reads from a book of prayer. The Infant Christ appears to be holding a pear, a symbol of peace, now hidden by old restoration. The firm, clear draughtsmanship and solid tonal modelling of the figure in light and shade lends the work a sculptural quality characteristic of Cavazzola's works. This is further emphasised by the way the artist places the figures against a plain dark wall, which opens up on the right to reveal a simple and spacious mountainous landscape, demonstrating Cavazzola's debt to the landscapes of Girolamo dei Libri. Meanwhile the artist's treatment of the drapery, with its sobre use of colour and rigid rendering of the folds, reminds us how close Cavazzola's style was to that of Caroto and Bonsignori.