Giovanni Battista Moroni
Gentleman in Adoration before the Madonna and Child, ca. 1555
Oil on canvas
23 1/2 x 25 1/2 in. (59.7 x 64.8 cm)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Samuel H. Kress Collection (1939.1.114)
Courtesy National Gallery of Art Washington
Derived from the tradition of the donor portrait, the sacred portrait is a genre invented by Moroni. The artist’s three surviving sacred portraits (one shown here, Gentleman in Contemplation of the Baptism of Christ, and Two Donors in Adoration before the Madonna and Child and St. Michael) are in this exhibition united for the first time. In all three, portraits of contemporary sitters who appear to pray to, or before, sacred figures dominate the composition. Moroni distinguishes between the mortal and divine through style: here, the young man seems to have been painted from life with the naturalistic effect characteristic of Moroni’s portraits, while the Madonna and Child are based on a print by Albrecht Dürer and are rendered in the abstracted, stylized mode typical of Moroni’s religious paintings.