This portrait of a young woman by Gaetano Gandolfi is traditionally identified with that of the artist's wife.

More likely, however, it should be interpreted as a "character study", one of those canvases in which the painter was testing his ability to portray the most nuanced and subtle expressions of feelings.

The painting, dating from 1766 and 1767, is proof of how Gaetano Gandolfi managed to harness the painting knowledge of the great Venetian masters that he acquired during his stay in Venice.

The colour, spread with rapid brush strokes and small touches of light on the face and in the hair covered by a thin veil, helps to create the refined image of a sweet discreet feminine beauty, caught in a moment between dreaming and melancholy.

In this extraordinary painting, donated to the Museum by British historian and collector Denis Mahon, the artist now known as Guercino, one of the protagonists of seventeenth-century European painting, gives evidence of his artistic maturity, using all his skill to pass on a complex message in seemingly simple but actually very well-thought-out forms.

In this painting, which can be dated to around the years 1615-16, the figures of the Madonna and Child emerge from a dark background. The naked child sits on his mother's knees clasping her robe with one hand.

Both of them are looking toward a sparrow that the Virgin is holding on her index finger and that is tied by a thin golden thread to the child's left hand.

In representations of the Madonna with the Child, the presence of a little bird was not unusual. On the one hand, it refers to the widespread habit, during the medieval, of using little birds as children's playthings, and on the other hand, it has a very specific symbolic value.

According to Christian tradition, the sparrow is the symbol of man's unhappiness: the golden thread that binds him to Jesus prevents us from falling, thanks to the intercession of the Virgin, into the temptations of sin. Emanating from the scene is an atmosphere of affectionate tenderness, thanks to the sobriety of colours in shades of ochre, brown and dark red, and the soft light that gently brings the forms out of the shadows, to the point that the delicacy of the gestures, expressed with the greatest painterly skill, is in itself emotionally moving beyond any iconographic interpretation.

The cycle dedicated to the Four Seasons was painted by Marcantonio Franceschini for one of the rooms in the Belvedere Palace in Vienna, the residence of Prince Eugene of Savoy Prince of Carignano between 1716 and 1717, as the payments entered in the painter's notebook bear witness.

In all four paintings, made in a simple elegant style, there are those criteria of naturalness and clarity that make Marcantonio Franceschini one of the most prominent Bolognese painters of the Arcadian cultural movement.

In Spring, the lush countryside and blue hills provide the background for young people intent on weaving flower garlands, while in Summer, the fields of golden wheat and the stream tell us how dry the hot season is.

On the wall facing it, Fall is represented by the beautiful peasant girl with red cheeks, busy pressing grapes, and giving an alluring look to the young man who watches her, ecstatic.

Winter, on the other hand, is set inside a loggia, with a view of the snowy hills in the distance. A family warms itself around the fire. The father seeks comfort in the cold, drinking a little wine. A child blows on the fire to revive the flame. Another warms his feet. The mother feeds her youngest child, while the grandmother is busy spinning wool.

The horizon line, the trees that close the scenes laterally, the clothing and colours, create a feeling of continuity between the four paintings: the cycle of the seasons is also the cycle of life, represented explicitly in the Winter scene with the representation of the various ages.