Giovan Battista Naldini The Holy Family with Saints Dominic and Catherine of Siena


Museo del Palazzo Pretorio di Prato




560 x 700 mm



historical period


Exhibit Artwork

Artwork Details

The work consists of three panels. The central one represents Mary in the foreground, on her knees and slightly inclined towards her son. In fact, the young woman opens her arms to hold little Jesus and young St. John the Baptist, at whose feet you can see a water bowl and reeds. John’s bowl alludes to water, that he, as a child, brought to his cousin Jesus, when he had injured himself with a nail, predicting his crucifixion. Behind the Virgin, in a secondary position, you can see her mother St. Anne on her left and Mary’s husband St. Joseph the carpenter on her right with a wooden stick on his hand. The two side panels depict in niches St. Dominic with a branch in his hand and St. Catherine of Siena, holding a crucifix in her right hand and a branch with flowers in her other hand. Given its small size and the presence of two closing doors, the painting seems to be a small altar, which probably belonged to a nun of Dominican convent, as suggested by the presence of the two saints of that religious order. The altarpiece was probably used for private moments of prayer and after the nun’s death the painting remained in the convent, until it reached Spedale della Misericordia e Dolce in Prato, from where it was moved to the Civic Museum of Palazzo Pretorio in 1858. The central panel was made by Giovan Battista Naldini, an artist linked to the renewal of Tuscan painting after the Counter-Reformation, which maintains the wide and robust forms of the Florentine tradition in the panel, both in Mary whose large body refers to the big figures of Francesco Salviati and Giorgio Vasari, and in the two children. The colors, on the other hand, are characterized by rather bright tones, faded with chiaroscuro, and by the warm light that surrounds the figures. Naldini’s composition can be found in one of his drawings, which was perhaps a preparatory study for another work and which dates back to the sixties of the century, preserved today in the Cabinet of Drawings and Prints of the Uffizi Galleries in Florence. The two side panels, on the other hand, were made by Giovanni Balducci, who was Naldini’s student and who seemed to prefer painting of much lesser tone. The two saints, in fact, are almost monochrome, nevertheless in their canonical iconography they are represented in Dominican black and white clothes. The background with two niches is neutral and the depth is created only by very light chiaroscuro. St. Catherine is more expressive of the two figures, with her serene face, like a person in love, the Crucifix in her hand, while St. Dominic is looking at the branch which he is holding in front of him. The work is dated on the right panel with the inscription "(L) XXVIII", meaning 78, which completed with the century makes 1578.

Artist Details

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Naldini was born in Florence around 1537. He was still very young when his father entrusted him to Spedale degli Innocenti, the institution that welcomed abandoned children or those whose parents could not take care of them. He grew up in this place, and when he was a little older, his father figure and friend in Spedale degli Innocenti, Vincenzo Borghini, introduced him to Pontormo’s workshop, where he trained between 1549 and 1557. A few years later Naldini traveled to Rome to study ancient art and Renaissance painting to complete his artistic training. He returned to Rome in 1580 to decorate the chapel of San Giovanni Decollato in the church of Trinità dei Monti.

He returned to Florence, where he worked in Giorgio Vasari’s workshop between the sixties and the seventies of the century, who made him work on Grand Duke’s commissions, especially on the decoration of the Studiolo of Francesco I in Palazzo Vecchio.

He was linked to the renewal of art, required by the Counter-Reformation, which demanded artists to abandon the refined and complex Mannerist compositions, but Naldini actually continued his Mannerist representations, influenced by Michelangelo’s works. In fact, like Vasari and other Tuscan painters of this decade, also Naldini developed a style that was close to the examples of Michelangelo, with powerful figures and large draperies, and shimmering colors with strong chiaroscuro. These elements characterized the reformed Florentine painting of this period, that later became marked by a greater sweetness of the forms through the students, like Francesco Curradi. Naldini died in Florence in 1591.

Collection Details

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Prato’s Museo Civico is situated in the Palazzo Pretorio, in Piazza del Comune at the city center.

The first documents of the Palazzo date back to the end of the 13th century, when captain of the Guelfs, Francesco de’ Frescobaldi decided to purchase the building already owned by Pipini, to house the foreign magistrates, the court and the prisons. Between 1334 and 1338 the building was enlarged by Florentine craftsmen and the medieval appearance was changed. During the following centuries and especially in the 18th century a series of improvements were implemented finally until the late 19th century, when the building came under the demolition threat.

In 1912 an important restoration work led to the opening of the Galleria Comunale, which was previously housed in the Palazzo del Comune. The last restoration started in 1998 and it was finished in 2013. In September of the same year the museum reopened with the exhibition “From Donatello to Lippi. Officina pratese”.

The historical origins of the museum are linked to the decision of the grand duke of Tuscany, Leopold II, who wanted to create a collection of paintings for the students of the city’s drawing school (1788).

The collection was enriched thanks to various donations and purchases, until the official inauguration of the first exhibition organized by Giovanni Papini in 1912.

In 1926, thanks to Angiolo Badiani’s initiative, the State museum received their first assemblage of plaster casts by local sculptor Lorenzo Bartolini and in 1954 the museum was reopened with new layout, designed by Giuseppe Marchini.

In the late 1980s’ the gallery was closed for restoration work. During these years of improvements, the museum purchased the Crucifixion by Filippino Lippi and the altarpieces by Santi di Tito and Alessandro Allori were donated to the museum by Angela Riblet.

The museum holds many artworks, ranging from the Middle Ages to the 19th century. Among these there are the polyptych with the Stories of the Cintola by Bernardo Daddi, polyptychs by Giovanni da Milano and Lorenzo Monaco, Filippo Lippi’s Madonna del Ceppo and the Adoration of the Child and Vincenzo Ferrer, Filippino Lippi’s Annunciation with St. Julian, Mattia Preti’s Repudiation of Agar and the Cabins by Ardengo Soffici.

The collection includes also an important assemblage of sculptures of the most important artists of the time, among them Andrea della Robbia and Benedetto Buglioni.