Francesco de Rossi, known as Salviati (Florence 1509 c. – Roma 1563 )
The young woman kneeling in the foreground stands out against the drapes in the background. She is clothed in a lightweight robe that enhances her prosperous, sculptural curves and leaves one breast bare. She is surrounded by three children: one is playing with her robe, while the others cling to her shoulder and thigh, exchanging affectionate glances. Salviati has constructed the four figures as if they were a single body, connecting each movement harmoniously within a highly sophisticated balance of elements to create one of the most effective examples of what Vasari called the ‘Bella Maniera’. The composition is inspired by the undisputed cornerstone of early 16th century Florentine painting: Michelangelo’s ‘Doni Tondo’ , mirrored here in the poses of both the female figure and the three children. However, the sinuous fluidity, languid expressions and exquisite nature of the details in the surroundings are more specifically reminiscent of the cultural hub that had been developing since the mid-1520s at the court of Clement VII in Rome. There, artists from different origins - including Parmigianino, Perin del Vaga, Giulio Romano, Rosso, Sansovino and others – had come together with results that would influence the direction of painting through to the final decades of the century. Salviati painted this piece in Florence when staying in the city to carry out several public works, such as the frescoes in the Audience Room in Palazzo Vecchio, and some religious commissions.