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Madonna of Humility

Sano di Pietro

European Art

This early Madonna is unusual in Sano’s prolific career in that it shows not only the graceful linear forms that characterize Sienese painting, but also the powerful effect of Florentine realism in the pliant muscularity of the Child and the sense of observed reality in the head of the Madonna. The Madonna of Humility refers to images of the Virgin seated modestly on the ground (usually, as here, on a cushion), emphasizing her humanity and motherhood, as opposed to the Madonna Enthroned, which presents her as the Queen of Heaven.

As was common in other images of this genre, this Madonna is surrounded by cherubim, junior members of the family of angels and often depicted as winged heads. Here, they are painted in silver, whose tarnishing adds to their otherworldly effect. With the expanding and contracting of the wood panel over the past six centuries, a knot in the wood has emerged, pushing forward the area of the panel around the Child’s eye.
MEDIUM Tempera and tooled gold and silver on panel with engaged frame
  • Place Made: Italy
  • DATES early 1440s
    DIMENSIONS 20 7/8 × 14 1/4 in. (53 × 36.2 cm) frame: 27 1/2 × 19 1/4 × 3 1/2 in. (69.9 × 48.9 × 8.9 cm)  (show scale)
    COLLECTIONS European Art
    CREDIT LINE Gift of Mary Babbott Ladd, Lydia Babbott Stokes, and Frank L. Babbott, Jr. in memory of their father Frank L. Babbott
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    CAPTION Sano di Pietro (Italian, Sienese, 1405–1481). Madonna of Humility, early 1440s. Tempera and tooled gold and silver on panel with engaged frame, 20 7/8 × 14 1/4 in. (53 × 36.2 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Mary Babbott Ladd, Lydia Babbott Stokes, and Frank L. Babbott, Jr. in memory of their father Frank L. Babbott, 34.840 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 34.840_SL3.jpg)
    IMAGE overall, 34.840_SL3.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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    RIGHTS STATEMENT No known copyright restrictions
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