The Nativity of the Bagatti Valsecchi Museum is a witness to the profound devotion felt for the saints Sebastian and Rocco, depicted on the lefthand side of the panel, in the act of adoring the Christ Child. The painting, in all probability, was done for the Oratory of the Confraternity of S. Rocco at Castelnuovo Scrivia. It was restored in 1997 by Nuccia Comolli Chirici, thanks to a contribution from J.P. Morgan.
Acquired presumably in 1882 by the Bagatti Valsecchi brothers for their Milanese home, the panel is displayed in the Gallery of the Cupola, as the brothers wished it to be seen.
Attributed in 1974 by Dall’Acqua to a Lombard painter of the first half of the 16th century, in 1984 the panel was associated by Steve Pepper with the Annunciation of the Bob Jones University Collection of Religious Art in Greensville, a painting attributed to an anonymous painter from Bergamo of the end of the 15th century. In 1986,Giovanni Romano grouped around this painting a limited number of works, for which he proposed the name of Gabriele di Castelnuovo Scrivia, a master engaged by Tortona on behalf of Ludovico il Moro to help decorate the Sala della Balla in the Sforza Castle in 1490. In 1991, finally, Mauro Natale indicated the wooden lunette, present in S. Ignazio at Castelnuovo Scrivia, as pertinent to the Bagatti Valsecchi panel. In the figures of S. Joseph and the Christ Child, the painting, which exhibits a figurative language permeated with Ligurian and Lombard elements, presents an explicit citation of an engraving by the young Marcantonio Raimondi.
Technical Restoration Report (taken directly from the documents submitted by the restorer):
RESTORATION OPERATION: raised areas veiled, three supports dating to the 1940s removed, cracks mended (three running the entire length of the panel, a fourth up to the face of the Madonna), elimination of the old butterfly-shaped “ties” not perpendicular to the grain of the wood, and their gradual restitution with wedge-shaped ones, application of T-shaped anti-cordal aluminium supports, waxing of the panel, gradual cleaning of the panel with evaporating solvents in order to achieve a balanced and harmonious effect (during the cleaning, it was noticed that the lateral margins of the panel had been painted in oil pigments, perhaps in the 17th century, probably because a large frame, perhaps 5-6 centimeters wide, originally covered the edges; also of oil pigments are certain passages of the landscape, in order to underscore highlights; perhaps during the same intervention the sky was repainted at which time a gilded form–perhaps of a moon–was covered in the lefthand side near the cloud), stucco of rabbit glue, reintegration of painted surface using slightly paler colors, final semi-opaque varnish.