I am writing on Good Friday. I was looking through my Rosary booklet, which my wonderful Charlotte provided to me when we started dating, just confirm that I had the right mystery to pray (Sorrowful Mysteries, of course). In so doing, I came across a painting by Sassoferrato which struck me.
Giovan Battista Salvi known, from his town of origin in the Marche, as Sassoferrato, shows the Madonna seated on the clouds with her feet resting on the half moon. She embraces the Child Jesus who holds in his hands a rosary that ends in a rose. Heads of cherubs rise from the clouds. The image confirms the stylistic elements that characterize his vast production of subjects of a religious nature: images of a solid formal layout with brilliant and almost enamelled colours.
This painting is strikingly clear in its composition. The colours are vivid, the way the Virgin Mary is holding onto Jesus, with such tenderness, must move even the most ardent atheist. The adoration with which the cherubs are looking at the pair is rendered beautifully. The half moon upon which she is seated is brilliant white. The rosary has become my favourite prayer and to see Jesus holding onto it, with it ending in a splendid rose, warms me. Rosary comes from the Latin rosarium, meaning “garland of roses.” The fragrance released from the beads while praying was said the please God and reinforce, therefore, one’s sincerity in prayer.
This piece also struck me because when Charlotte and I were in France for a recent holiday, we saw a painting by the same artist. We were visiting the chapel in Chenonceau and Charlotte, with her always-keen eye for religious art, spotted The Virgin with a Blue Veil on the left wall. We both spent a few minutes enjoying it and marvelling at how a painting so old could retain such vibrancy of composition and pigmentation.
Both Sassoferrato paintings struck Charlotte and I. I am glad to be able to share them with you.