Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Giovanni Battista Salvi da Sassoferrato

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Catholic Encyclopedia (1913), Volume 13
Giovanni Battista Salvi da Sassoferrato

by Gaston Sortais


Born at Sassoferrato in the March of Ancona, 1609; died at Rome, 1689, where he had passed the greater part of his life. His father, Tarquinio Salvi was his first master. At Naples, he studied under Dominichino and through him was a pupil of the Carracci. Several of his pictures are direct imitations of Perugino, Raphael, and Titian. His Madonnas, especially, are inspired by Raphael, and in their quiet sweetness rival those of Carlo Dolci. In the seventeenth century the Blessed Virgin was too frequently portrayed with a cold dignity, and reserve so austere towards the Child Jesus that it is difficult to realize her motherhood. "Consequently, men grew more fond of Sassoferrato whose Madonnas, tender, lovely, carefully painted, all reveal the mother's heart, as men more readily forgive certain errors when they are lofty, and certain weaknesses when they are picturesque" (Burckhardt). Sassoferrato gave to his compositions a pleasing air of intimacy, and a certain naivete, in happy contrast to the melancholy expression too frequently found in the paintings of his time. Among others the "Adoration of the Shepherds," and the "Workshop of the Carpenter Joseph with the Infant Jesus Sweeping the Shavings" (Museum of Naples) present this charming character of intimacy. His masterpiece, however, is to be found in Rome, in the Church of St. Sabina on the Aventine: "Our Lady of the Rosary with St. Dominic and St. Catherine." This was painted at the request of the Princess de Rossano, and finished in 1643, the artist receiving the sum of one hundred écus (crowns) in payment. "The Virgin in a blue cloak and purple dress is seated in the centre with the Infant Jesus on her left knee; kneeling at the right is St. Dominic to whom she presents the rosary, whilst the Divine Child with one hand extending the rosary to St. Catherine, who kneels at the left, with the other places upon her head reverently bent, the crown of thorns. Circling the head of the Virgin is a crown of five small angels of ravishing grace and devotion" (Berthier). Besides these, there is at the Louvre, the "Assumption of the Blessed Virgin"; at the Muscé des Offices, the "Infant Jesus asleep on His Mother's knees" (this last subject is also found in the Museums of Dresden and Madrid); his Portrait; "The Virgin of Sorrows"; at the Vatican there is the "Madonna with Angels"; at Turin, the "Madonna of the Rose"; at Berlin, the "Holy Family"; at Frankfurt-on-the-Main, Galerie Städel, the "Virgin praying." Madonnas of Sassoferrato are likewise to be found in the Museums at London, St. Petersburg, Brussels, Vienna.

LANZI, History of Painting in Italy, tr. from the Italian by ROSCOE, I (London, 1847), 469; BLANC, Histoire des peintres de toutes les Ecoles; Ecole ombrienne (Paris, 1869-77); BERCKHARDT AND BODE, Le Cicerone, tr. GERARD, II (Paris, 1892), 810-11; BRYAN, Dictionary of Painters and Engravers, V (London, 1905); BERTHIER, L'Eglise de sainte Sabine a Rome (Rome, 1910), 313-16.

GASTON SORTAIS