Carlo Dolci, Italian, 1616-1687

SN 136, Oil on Canvas

From "The Pages

Carlo Dolci was born in Florence in 1616 and, as a child prodigy, trained there with Jacopo Vignali beginning in 1625. He became the major Florentine painter of the 17th century, spending almost his entire career in his native Florence.

He was renowned for his fine portraiture, and became a member of the Accademia del Disegno. He began to paint a large number of works for private patrons; several paintings commissioned by the Medici family now hang in the Palazzo Pitti. He also painted a number of altarpieces. He enjoyed an international reputation in his own lifetime, his works being highly prized by the British aristocracy.

He was a devout Catholic and considered his paintings an offering to God, even writing prayers on the back of some of his works. His last years were spent in anxiety and sadness due to his depression resulting from peer criticism. He died in 1686.

The Blue Madonna is beautiful in its simplicity. Light from above is falling on her face, accentuating her innocence and peace….and just a hint of sadness. Her eyes are downcast. A royal blue veil frames her head and is softly draped over her shoulders. A shimmer of light just above her head gives the impression of a halo.

The mix of sweetness and sadness is typical of Dolci. This painting could be hung in a church as well as a home. A similar piece, Madonna and Child, hangs in the Royal apartment Palazzo Pitti.

The religious context, the exquisite technique – imperceptible brushwork – brilliant color are all Dolci characteristics.

The surface perfection of Dolci’s technique suggests possible influence of Bronzino – and certainly that he had studied Flemish art. Florentine artists of the period, unlike the Bolognese school, retained a significant interest in elegance and local detail, apparent in rich dress and pose.