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After studying Roman antiquities Aspertini returned to Bologna. His expressive style rejected the classicism of Raphael. This small altarpiece of about 1520 includes the Virgin and St Joseph on the flight into Egypt in the background. At the bottom stone-coloured figures depict Moses and the Golden Calf, the Virgin and Child, and Josiah destroying the false altars. These events and the presence of St Helena, mother of the Emperor Constantine and famous for her adoration of the Cross on which Christ was crucified, indicate that the principal theme is the triumph of Christianity over paganism. The Child wears a red coral necklace, an Italian charm against the Evil Eye. Beneath his foot is a crystal sphere with God creating Adam. This work was in the collection of William Roscoe in Liverpool by 1816, where the painter Henry Fuseli attributed it to Ghirlandaio and Michelangelo.
oil on poplar panel
H 85.5 x W 71.1 cm
NMW A 239
purchased from Matthiesen Fine Art Ltd, 1986