Born of a Milanese father and a Portuguese mother, who where living at the court of the Prince of Eboli, Don Ruy Gmez de Silva, Maino probably travelled to Italy before the end of the sixteenth century. The considerable influence that the work of Caravaggio had on the artist is illustrated by the altarpiece he painted for the Dominican convent of San Pedro Mrtir, Toledo, after his return to Spain in 1612 (A.E. Prez Snchez, 'Sobre Juan Bautista Maino', Archivo Espaol de Arte, no. 278, 1997, pp. 114ff.). The nervous pattern of the richly coloured drapery contrasting with the pale skin tones, coupled with the dramatic use of light, results in the eccentric style that characterizes the present picture and also the various scenes of the San Pedro Mrtir altarpiece, and especially the Adoration of the Magi (The Prado, no. 886).
Professor Alfonso Prez Snchez points out that the interpretation of Caravaggio's work is close to that of Orazio Gentileschi, 'showing a preference for light, intense colours, tight sculptural modelling and precise, incisive drawing that is revealed in the naturalistic details' (The Dictonary of Art, London, 1996, XX, pp. 125-126). It is not, therefore, surprising that this picture has been attributed to Orazio in the past. Professor Roger Ward Bissell rejected this attribution and recognized the hand of Maino (letter, 3 January 1999).
Pictures by Maino are rare and very few are recorded in Spanish inventories. Thus it is possible that this unpublished picture is the Penitent Magdalen, full-length, in the Desert mentioned in the will of 1628 of Doctor Juan de Matute: 'Ansimo un quadro entero de la Magdalena en el desierto de muy alta pintura de mano de Ju.o Bapta Pastrana, de la orden de S. domingo q de pste es y a sido [...]' (M. B. Burke and P. Cherry, Spanish Inventories, I: Collections of Paintings in Madrid 1601-1755, Michigan, 1997, I, p. 279, no. 14). It is interesting that Matute noted that Maino was a Dominican monk probably because he himself had taken religious orders (ibid., p. 278).