Ippolito Scarsella (c. 1550-1620)
The Visitation
late sixteenth century,
oil on canvas

Vatican Pinacoteca, Inv. 40366

General Description

Originally attributed to Paolo Veronese, this rendering of The Visitation is in fact the work of one of his disciples, Ippolito Scarsella, who had joined Veronese during his stay in Venice (1570-1576) and adopted his style. Called Scarsellino, Ippolito was born in Ferrara and lived there most of his life. He was a prolific painter, and highly acclaimed by contemporary critics. Scarsellino’s style was further influenced by Jacopo Bassano and the refined Ferrara tradition of Dosso Dossi.

His paintings have a frequently narrative character; they are generally vivid in color and graceful in form. Easy and elegant, they suggest “lightness of being.” Scarsellino excelled in the “poetry of the narrative” as some scholars would say.  This painting of The Visitation was dated to the last decade of the sixteenth century (Novelli). The overall atmosphere is that of a “bucolic idyll” with a classicist landscape made of trees, river, and the faraway mountain under hazy skies. The Visitation in the foreground follows the classical schema of Mary’s visit to Elizabeth.  Zachariah (left) and Joseph (right) are standing by while the women embrace.  However, the encounter is located on the threshold of Zachariah’s house giving the human element greater density and animation.  It is contrasted with the serene peacefulness of the right half of the painting and its enchanting counterpoint, the ever musing Joseph.

The Life of Mary

The Visitation is one of the few events in Mary’s life which are recorded in the Bible. There are a number of ancient texts not in the canon of Sacred Scripture which claims to present details about the life of Mary, e.g., the Protevangelium of James (second century) and the Transmits Mariae (fifth century). The first examines Mary’s early life, and gives us details like the names of Mary’s parents, Joachim and Anne. The Transitus legends recount the end of Mary’s life on earth.

For more information:

To view more information on what scripture tells us about Mary’s life, read the following: campus.udayton.edu/mary/questions/faq/faq02.html.

Consult the exhibit catalog: The Mother of God:  Art Celebrates Mary,  pp. 64-65.

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