This intimate scene is a newly-discovered and unpublished work by the female painter Elisabetta Sirani. The daughter of the painter Giovanni Andrea Sirani, Elisabetta was a talented and sought-after artist in her own right but her career was short-lived for she died prematurely at the age of twenty-seven. This painting is probably datable to the early 1660s and can be compared to her signed Christ Child with the Infant Saint John the Baptist of 1661 in the Lucchese-Salati collection, Bologna, and the Saint John the Baptist in the National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh.υ1 The Lucchese-Salati picture is of smaller dimensions and the scene is set in a landscape rather than indoors, with the infant Baptist holding his reed cross and kissing his cousin's hand in a submissive pose. Here the Christ Child gently admonishes the Baptist as he pricks his finger on the crown of thorns; a symbol of the Passion which Christ holds in calm resignation. We are grateful to Professor Emilio Negro and Dott.ssa Nicosetta Roio for endorsing the attribution to Elisabetta Sirani on the basis of photographs.
1. For the Lucchese-Salati painting see A. Modesti, Elisabetta Sirani. Una virtuosa del Seicento bolognese, Bologna 2004, p. 60, no. 26, reproduced. For the Edinburgh picture see V. Fortunati, "Frammenti di un dialogo nel tempo: Elisabetta Sirani e le donne artiste", in Elisabetta Sirani 'pittrice eroina' 1638-1665, exhibition catalogue, Bologna, Museo Civico Archeologico, 4 December 2004 - 27 February 2005, p. 28, reproduced fig. 8.