The Virgin Mary, enthroned as Queen of Heaven, is surrounded by angels, some in attitudes of prayer, others playing musical instruments and singing. Twisting in his mother’s lap, the infant Christ reaches for a lily, a symbol of Mary’s purity, and clutches a goldfinch, an allusion to his future Crucifixion.
The scene is rich in detail and saturated color. Gherardo Starnina delighted in sumptuous surface effects, such as the brocaded fabrics, the marble footstool, and the patterned floor tiles. These decorative tendencies, together with the willowy forms of the figures, reflect Starnina’s extended sojourn in Spain, where he had absorbed the local refined stylistic approaches. He probably produced this work sometime after his return to his native Florence, after June 1401.
Before being identified as the documented Florentine painter Gherardo Starnina, this artist was known simply as the “Master of the Bambino Vispo” (Master of the Lively Child), a soubriquet which refers to his penchant for painting Madonnas with a wriggling Christ Child, as in this painting.