The leading work by the great Bologna artist Ubaldo Gandolfi, this painting originally bore the artist’s signature and the date, 1768, on the back of the original canvas, which was visible before restoration. Made for the church of Santo Spirito in the town of Cingoli, in the Marches, it was removed in 1811 and transferred to Milan following the suppression of the Napoleonic era. In 1822, it was placed in the church of Sant’Anna di Besozzo, near Varese, before reaching its final destination in the Pinacoteca di Brera, where it has been on display since 1979 (Biagi Maino 1990). Its original location still contains another altarpiece, which portrays the Immaculate Virgin from the following decade (c. 1776–77), which has now been returned to the catalogue of Gandolfi’s works by the present writer (Biagi Maino 1990, p. 277).
A work of great creativity, the painting was preceded by a model, now in a private collection in London (Biagi Maino 1990, p. 256). The final version presents a few but significant variations, which place the action in a “naturalistic” environment more in line with the tale of St Francis.
Donatella Biagi Maino