The life and career of Alessandro Rosi had long remained hidden from scholarly attention, until 1989 when Alessandra Guicciardini published a study on his commission for the Palazzo Corsini in Florence. Until that point, many of his pictures had routinely been attributed to Sigismondo Coccapani, a Florentine contemporary, close in style. Rosi led a colourful life, noted by his biographers as a skilled draughtsman, who trained with Cesare Dandini and worked for Ferdinand de’ Medici, and died in an ‘extraordinary accident’: while walking on the via Condotta in Florence, a column fell from a terrace above and killed him (P.A. Orlandi, Abecedario pittorico, Venice, 1753, p. 43).
The arrangement of the Madonna and Child is drawn from a successful invention by Dandini, which Rosi’s master treated on a number of occasions, including versions in the Ospedale di Santa Maria Nuova in Florence and a private collection in Milan (S. Bellesi, Cesare Dandini, Turin, 1996, pp. 177-8, nos. 119-120). Rosi elaborates on the composition with a touch of humour and domestic realism, as the cat paws at the dish on the table, and the Child plays with the bows of the Madonna’s dress; the embroidered draperies and architectural setting meanwhile speak of a new baroque exuberance. The fine condition of the picture allows the vivid colours and fabulous variety of textures to be fully appreciated: Rosi shows a virtuoso touch, from the book held in Saint Joseph’s hand, to the carpet draped on the table and the wonderfully patterned fabric of the Madonna’s sleeve.