wall label: This small Madonna is one of the few known works by Barbara Longhi. Daughter of the Mannerist painter Luca Longhi, her work was praised by contemporaries, including Giorgio Vasari, for its "purity of line and soft brilliance of color."
The subject of the reading Virgin was a popular one in the Renaissance. It exalts a feminine ideal, embodied by the Virgin, in which the ability to read is exercised in the service of prayer. On another level, the book held aloft by the Virgin can be seen as a symbol of the Word. This meaning is reinforced by the figure of the infant Christ, resting his arm against the globe of the world and raising his hand in blessing.