We are grateful to Professor Lauro Magnani and Dr. Mary Newcome Schleier for independently confirming the attribution of this recently discovered panel to Luca Cambiaso.
Cambiaso was the leading artist in Genoa in the sixteenth century and is widely regarded as having been the founder of the Genoese school. During his training under his father Giovanni (1495-1579), a provincial artist about whom little is known, Luca made extensive studies of the works in Genoa by Perino del Vaga, Pordenone, Beccafumi and Giulio Romano. It is probable that he visited Rome between 1547 and 1550, when he might have come into contact with Pellegrino Tibaldi and Daniele de Volterra. Their work and that of Michelangelo in particular must have made a profound impression on the young artist.
The present picture has been dated by Magnani to the early 1550s, a time when the artist was still formulating an innovative style based on spontaneous and free application of paint, exaggerated gestures and bold foreshortenings. 'Too bold and proud' and 'rich in invention' was how Soprani described Luca's early style (R. Soprani, Vite, 1674, pp. 35-51) and it is precisely these attributes that characterise the present work. The most obvious point of comparison (cited by both Magnani and Newcome-Schleier), is Cambiaso's picture of the same subject, datable to circa 1550 in the Galleria Sabauda, Turin (L. Magnani, Luca Cambiaso, Genoa, 1995, fig. 38). Both pictures adopt an unusually low viewpoint and Magnani observes similarities in the Christ Child, the head and posture of Saint Joseph and the outstretched arm of the king. In a more mature treatment of the subject (his altarpiece for the church of Santissima Annunziata, Pontremoli, dated 1558, op. cit., fig. 84), Cambiaso depicts two crowned kings in the upper left corner that were clearly inspired by those in the present picture.