Sassoferrato (Italian, 1609-1685)
The Holy Family, n.d.
Chalk on paper 8 7/8 in. x 12 3/16 in. (22.54 cm x 30.96 cm)
Crocker Art Museum, E. B. Crocker Collection
Giovanni Battista Salvi, known as Sassoferrato from his birthplace in the Marche region of central Italy, was the son of a painter and likely learned the rudiments of art from him. Though the rest of his training is not well documented, he may have studied in Naples under Domenichino, a pupil of the Carracci family whose style had transformed painting in Rome. Sassoferrato himself, however, turned away from the new form of painting, preferring to base his own work on early 16th-century models. His archaizing style, combining the tranquil logic of Raphael and Perugino with the softness of his Florentine contemporary Carlo Dolci, found a ready market.
Although he did compose some large altarpieces, including a Madonna of the Rosary for the church of Santa Sabina in Rome, Sassoferrato mainly produced devotional works and was adept at varying compositions to suit the needs of private patrons. This drawing shows the Virgin holding the Christ Child as he makes a gesture of blessing towards St. Joseph. The drawing, squared for transfer to canvas, was used for a painting known in two versions, one in Chantilly and the other in Opo?no in the Czech Republic.