Pietro degli Ingannati was a painter from the Veneto documented in Venice in the first half of the 16th century. His life and his work, which has on occasions been confused with that of Francesco Bissolo, has been reconstructed on the basis of studies by Adolfo Venturi, Bernard Berenson and Paola Caccialupi. The latter’s text of 1978 included a biography. Berenson attributed more than 30 paintings to the artist in which he noted significant stylistic traits, evident in the present panel.
The artist’s work clearly reveals the influence of Giovanni Bellini, particularly with regard to the physical type of the faces, the colour and compositions. In addition, it is possible to detect the influence of Lazzaro Bastiani, Benedetto Diana, Vicenzo Catena and the late work of Palma Vecchio (1479/1480–1528). Pietro degli Ingannati’s first known paintings are dated to the first decade of the 16th century and his last to the late 1540s, including a Holy Family with Saint John the Baptist and Saint Catherine of 1548 (Sellar collection, London).
The attribution of the present panel to Pietro degli Ingannati, recorded in the catalogues of the Thyssen-Bornemisza collection since 1937, was made by Georg Gronau in a report of May 1934, the year the painting was acquired for the collection. Gronau noted its connections with the work of Giovanni Bellini, particularly late works by that artist which Pietro degli Ingannati could have used as a basis for his work. In his study of Italian Renaissance painting, Berenson subsequently included this panel in his list of the artist’s works.
The painter locates the seated Virgin with the Child on her lap on the right, on a higher plane than the saint. This figure, who has been identified in the Collection’s catalogues as Saint Agnes, does not in fact have any of her traditional attributes that would allow for a secure identification and she only holds a palm of martyrdom. The composition is considerably indebted to Bellini, as Gronau noted: the horizontal format with the half-length figures, the way they are located and the background landscape all recall that artist’s Sacre conversazioni, although here the landscape is notably simplified.
The Art Museum of Portland (Oregon) has a painting signed by Pietro degli Ingannati depicting a Portrait of a young Girl as a Martyr Saint. This single figure is almost identical to the present saint. The few differences relate to the pattern on the dress, the face, which has broader features, and the curls that frame it. The most importance difference relates to the background, which includes a city in the Portland composition.