after Bernardino Luini, The Madonna del Roseto

Photo courtesy of Dave Penman (All Rights Reserved)


Country House
Mells Manor
The Madonna del Roseto
Medium and support
Oil on wood, glazed
Overall height: 64 cm, Overall width: 61 cm
after Bernardino Luini
Catalogue Number


The original of the present composition (oil on wood; 70 x 63 cm), entered the collection of the Brera, Milan, in 1825. Its provenance is usually given as from the Certosa di Pavia, where it may have been housed in a monastic cell, but, as Dr Cristina Quattrini has established, that is far from certain.1 

The Madonna del Roseto is an exceptionally beautiful painting which has remained one of the most popular and most reproduced pictures in Luini’s oeuvre.2 Luini’s studio seems to have produced numerous copies of the master’s portable paintings, such as Madonnas and half-length figures of Christ, and examples are to be found in many museums and fairly frequently appear on the market. The paintings that emerged from Luini’s studio are generally of a high level of finish and are refined in detail, and distinguishing these from the master’s own work is not always easy. Furthermore, without technical examination it would be unwise to speculate how many of these might be from the studio and how many might be later, for Luini’s work was popular in the nineteenth century when he became known as the Milanese Raphael, and was much copied.

The present picture is considerably coarser in handling and weaker in drawing and definition than one would expect either in a nineteenth-century copy or in a product of Luini’s studio. It is, in the opinion of the present writer, likely to be by a painter contemporary with Luini, and (obviously) familiar with his work but who had a distinct, if not particularly interesting, artistic personality and who chose not to follow Luini’s original exactly but to modify various details. Here, the Virgin’s facial type diverges from Luini’s model, her hair is differently arranged, without the ringlets that fall either side of her neck, and she wears a necklace. There is a large bow in the tie around her waist and there are many minor differences in the organisation of her drapery. The trellis framing the two figures is spaced differently and the distribution of blossoms is varied. Perhaps the most obvious divergence is that the smooth ceramic vase standing on the bench in the left foreground is replaced with an apple. The Child, instead of grasping a flower that springs from that vase, now seems to grasp one of the roses. Finally, one might note that the subtle liaison of colours in Luini’s Madonna is beyond the capacity of this painter. Dr Quattrini has suggested that it might be by Bernardino’s little-known cousin, Giovanni Lomazzo, who ran the bottega after Bernardino’s death.

by Paul Joannides


  1. Dr Cristina Quattrini kindly made available her entry on this painting from her forthcoming monograph on Bernadino Luini: private communication, 2020.

  2. For a full account of the history and historiography of this picture see the entry by Chiara Battezzati in Giovanni Agosti and Jacopo Stoppa, eds, Bernardino Luini e i suoi figli, exh. cat., Palazzo Reale, Milan, 10 April–13 July 2014, no. 27, pp. 168–171. It is variously dated by scholars to the mid–late 1510s or the mid-1520s. If the later date is correct then it is tempting to think that it might be a response to the work of Correggio in its tender chiaroscuro and trellis of roses: perhaps both artists were looking at Mantegna.


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