Girolamo Macchietti began his artistic training in Florence in the studio of Michele Tosini, which he entered in 1545 at age ten. In 1555 he enrolled as an assistant of Giorgio Vasari and spent four years collaborating on the decoration of the Palazzo Vecchio as a painter of frescoes. After a brief stint in Urbino, where he decorated the Palazzo degli Albanini with grottesche and battle scenes, Macchietti traveled to Rome. During his nearly two-year stay in the city, beginning around 1560, Macchietti studied the works of Michelangelo and Raphael and absorbed the pictorial language of Parmigianino, amassing a large collection of engravings after the Parmese master’s drawings.
This brilliantly colored and beautifully preserved Madonna and Child with the Infant Saint John the Baptist typifies the poetic, Mannerist style that Macchietti developed following his return to Florence in 1563, where the cool artificiality of Bronzino informed much of the city’s pictorial language. The panel was first identified as the work of Girolamo Macchietti by Herman Voss (written communication, 17 September 1965). Marta Privitera has since confirmed the attribution and published the panel, noting: ‘This extremely refined panel…is without doubt a work from the first maturity of the Florentine painter Girolamo Macchietti, executed in the years following the artist’s return to Florence in 1563, after his stay in Rome…’ (written communication, 14 February 2008). As Privitera has observed, the arrangement of the gracefully intertwined figures within the landscape, refined draftsmanship, and fluid, elegant handling of the paint are all characteristic of Macchietti’s private commissions during this period. Comparable works made for private patrons at a similar moment include his Venus and Adonis (Pitti Palace, Florence) and his Adam and Eve, known in two versions (Courtauld Institute of Art, London and formerly the Earl of Crawford at Balcarres).
It was not uncommon for Macchietti to repeat his compositions when he had worked out a successful one: the present image was based on a lost drawing the painter used for a second panel that Marta Privitera has also confirmed to be autograph, though of lesser quality (sold Dorotheum, Vienna, 12 October 2011, lot 102).