ZANINO DI PIETRO
doc. Bologna, 1389-Venice 1448 c.
tempera on wood, 50×33 cm
This charming image of the Madonna seated on a lawn covered by flowers, holding the Child to her breast, an iconography typical of the late Fourteenth century that is conventionally referred to as “Humble Madonna”, is the work of the painter Zanino di Pietro, also known as Giovanni di Pietro Charlier, of French origin but Venetian citizen, active in Bologna from 1389 to 1403 and subsequently in the lagoonal city.
Along with Niccolò di Pietro and Jacobello del Fiore, Zanino was among the greatest Venetian painters in the first fourth of the Fifteenth century, author of an interesting combination of late Gothic motifs borrowed from Gentile da Fabriano and Michelino da Besozzo, both of whom were active in Venice in those years.
In her expertise on the work Linda Pisani dates the execution approximately to the years between 1410 and 1420, or in other words to the Venetian period of the painter, who we know was active in the city, in the district of Sant’Apollinare; she however also observes relations with his period in Bologna and dwells on the “ability, at the same time popular and sophisticated”, evident in details as the two elaborate, very refined and charming halos. Similar halos appear in the work by Zanino, with the same motif, at the National Gallery and Alexandros Soutzos Museum of Athens, mentioned by the researcher for purposes of comparison; this painting, perhaps the one that is most similar to the one examined here, which is however in less good condition, was part of the Urbinate exhibition of 1998 (Late-Gothic flourishing in the Marche region, edited by P. Dal Poggetto, Milan, 1998, no. 71, pages 204-207).
As pointed out by Pisani, our Humble Madonna is included, with an attribution to Zanino di Pietro, in the photo archive of the Kunstihistorisches Institut of Florence (KHI 451354).