The Cleveland Museum of Art announced recent acquisitions including a 16th-century Mannerist painting by Maso da San Friano, an Italian painter whose real name was Tomaso D’Antonio Manzuoli. Florentine artist Maso da San Friano (1531–1571) worked for the Medici court and the most eminent ecclesiastical and private patrons of his time. Maso was renowned for his distinctive style characterized by smooth flesh tones, a rich color palette and clearly delineated, sculptural figures. “Holy Family with the Mystic Marriage of Saint Catherine” (c. 1560) is a masterpiece of High Mannerist painting and among the best preserved 16th-century panel paintings to come on the market in decades. Research suggests that the painting once belonged in the private collection of sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Maso imbues this popular post-Reformation subject with his idiosyncratic style, introducing a young Saint John the Baptist and emphasizing the nude Christ’s humanity as he symbolically weds the virgin Saint Catherine of Alexandria. The work was painted when Maso was at the height of a successful career that ended prematurely when he died in 1571 at age 39.
Highly fluent in the visual vocabulary of revolutionary Florentine painters of the previous generation, Maso was adept at combining Mannerist proportion and elegance with High Renaissance balance and tonal clarity. He excelled at painting portraits, cabinet pictures and large altarpieces, but this intimate subject was probably executed for the personal devotion of a private patron.
While the CMA has masterpieces by Renaissance master Filippino Lippi and celebrated Italian Baroque paintings by Caravaggio, Annibale Carracci and Orazio Gentileschi, Maso’s “Holy Family” brings the first significant Italian Mannerist painting to the museum’s collection. The painting will become a lynchpin connecting the CMA’s strong holdings in Renaissance and Baroque painting.