Oil on copper, 27.8cm by 20.6cm.
This exquisite little painting, which in design, reflects the influence of Raphael, is likely to have been executed in Genoa, circa 1620.
It demonstrates Gentileschi’s meticulous technique and genius at achieving monumentality on a small scale.
In 1774, it was a gift from Pope Clement XIV (r.1769-1774) to Brownlow, 9th Earl of Exeter (1725-1793), who had long wished to acquire it.
A list written in the 9th Earl’s distinctive hand records: ‘Virgin with ye. Bambino asleep by B: Castiglione, being a present from Clement ye. 14th. to Ld. EX. ye. 18 of July 1774 but did not arrive in England until after ye. Ps death.’
At the time, the painting was thought to be by the Genoese artist Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione (1609-1664).
An inscription on the frame reads: ‘Del F o Gio, Benedetto Castiglione da Comp.a di Gesù Genovese,’ suggesting that he may have belonged to the Jesuit Order.