The Madonna of the Cat ('La Madonna del Gatto')

The Holy Family is represented with unusual informality and liveliness. John the Baptist holds a goldfinch, a traditional symbol of Christ's Passion, teasing the cat shown in the left foreground. His reed cross rests against the wall. The Virgin appears prominently in the centre suckling the Child, while Saint Joseph stoops forward to observe the scene.

According to Bellori, the painting was made for Count Antonio Brancaleoni, who lived near Perugia. The design was engraved in 1577 and the picture may have been commissioned not long before.

Key facts

Artist dates
about 1533 - 1612
Full title
The Madonna and Child with Saint Joseph and the Infant Baptist ('La Madonna del Gatto')
Date made
probably about 1575
Medium and support
Oil on canvas
112.7 x 92.7 cm
Acquisition credit
Bequeathed by Revd Holwell Carr, 1831
Inventory number
Location in Gallery