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Madonna and Child

Giottoprobably 1320/1330

National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

Giotto's explorations and innovations in art during the early fourteenth century developed, a full century later, into the Italian Renaissance. Besides making panel paintings, he executed many fresco cycles, the most famous at the Arena Chapel, Padua, and he also worked as an architect and sculptor.

Transformed by Giotto, the stylized figures in paintings such as the Enthroned Madonna and Child took on human, believable qualities. Whereas his Sienese contemporary Duccio concentrated on line, pattern, and shape arranged on a flat plane, the Florentine Giotto emphasized mass and volume, a classical approach to form. By giving his figures a blocky, corporeal character, the artist introduced great three-dimensional plasticity to painting.

Painted during the latter part of Giotto's career, the Madonna and Child was the central part of a five-section polyptych, or altarpiece in many panels. Giotto utilized a conservative Byzantine-style background in gold leaf, symbolizing the realm of heaven, and the white rose is a traditional symbol of Mary's purity as well as a reference to the innocence lost through Original Sin. Yet, the Madonna and Child introduces a new naturalistic trend in painting. Instead of making the blessing gesture of a philosopher, the infant Christ grasps his mother's left index finger in a typically babylike way as he playfully reaches for the flower that she holds.

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Details

  • Title: Madonna and Child
  • Date Created: probably 1320/1330
  • Physical Dimensions: w62 x h85.5 cm (overall)
  • Type: Painting
  • Rights: Samuel H. Kress Collection
  • External Link: National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
  • Medium: tempera on panel
  • artist: Giotto
  • Theme: religious, Madonna and Child
  • School: Florentine
  • Provenance: Probably originally commissioned for either the Pulci-Beraldi or Peruzzi chapel, Santa Croce, Florence. Edouard de Max [1869-1924], Paris;[1] sold 1917/1918 to (Duveen Brothers, Inc., London, New York, and Paris); sold by 1920 to Henry Goldman [1857-1937], New York, until at least 1930;[2] (Duveen Brothers, Inc., London, New York, and Paris); sold 1937 to the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, New York; gift 1939 to NGA. [1] Born Eduard-Alexandru Max in Iasi, Moldova, Romania, he became known as Edouard de Max during his career as a film actor in France. According to a 1949 note from Duveen's Paris representative, Edward Fowles (in NGA curatorial files, and later published in his Memories of Duveen Brothers, London, 1976: 104), Max told Fowles he had inherited the painting from a great-aunt, to whom it had been given by a Pope. [2] Goldman lent the painting to exhibitions in 1920, 1924, and 1930.

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