The Virgin in Prayer by Sassoferrato (1609-1685)
I first saw this painting quite by accident whilst wandering through the National Gallery in London. I think it was the vibrant use of colour that first attracted my attention and once I actually stood in front of it I found that I just couldn’t take my eyes off it.
The image above doesn’t really do this breathtaking work of art justice. Over the years I have bought various representations of this painting but none of lived up to the real thing. The painting, now 350 years old, doesn’t so much reflect light as generate its own light – it’s really quite something to behold. The colours of her garments actually glow. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. I remember standing there like a fool, with my mouth open in wonder at the genius of the artist. How can such a thing be made, I thought to myself.
Some of you will probably be wondering about now if I have lost my mind. I am, after all, gushing over a piece of religious art - a representation of the Virgin Mary (and you already know what I think of that story). But if religious feeling and religious myth can produce truly stunning works of art like this one, I can almost (but not quite) forgive it for everything else.
I do love art and as with anything you love it’s hard to put things in a rank order. However, if I had to place this painting in a rank it would definitely be in my top 5 paintings. I honestly can’t think of any other that has had such a profound and immediate effect on me. If you get a chance to visit London, and you like your art, then go see it in the National Gallery. I assure you that you won’t be disappointed.