In publishing this picture, Professor Mller Hofstede drew attention to the influence of Raphael's Madonna di Loreto in the motif of the Virgin lifting up the swaddling cloth, and of Correggio's La Notte in the cloud-borne angels and position of the Child in the crib, thus bearing out van Mander's remarks about the influence of these two artists on Goltzius following his visit to Italy in 1590-1591. Notable also, is the influence of earlier Netherlandish art, with the washing bowl on the table and the upright pose of the Virgin, which are reminiscent of Gerard David, as in, for example, his Virgin and Child at Brussels, (M.J. Friedlnder, Early Netherlandish Painting, VI, Hans Memlinc and Gerard David, with comments and notes by N. Verone-Verhaegen, Leyden, 1971, fig. 206a). Of contemporary relevance is the realistic treatment of the mandolin-playing angel which anticipates the directness and informality of Frans Hals' treatment of portraiture and 'genre' subjects.
Mller Hofstede associated Goltzius's drawing of a seraph in the Muse des Beaux-Arts, Besanon, with the pointing angel top, centre-left. Although it was perhaps not made in preparation for the angel in the painting, the faces are very similar, and would thus appear at least to have been the same model. The drawing bears the date 1606, which Reznicek thought was a likely time for its execution (see E.K.J Reznicek, Die Zeichungen von Hendrick Goltzius, Utrecht, 1961, I, p. 262, no. 80, and II, fig. A406).
The present lot is known in the original to Lawrence W. Nichols who included it in his 1990 Columbia University doctoral dissertation on the artist.
Goltzius, famous as a draughtsman and engraver, only took up painting in 1600; his painted oeuvre, now consisting of some forty items, was admired by van Mander but later came to be neglected until quite recently.