Compositionally, Sangallo’s treatment of the Madonna and Child theme is strikingly novel. The figure of the Virgin Mary seated in repose, which recalls motifs in Michelangelo’s works, sharply contrasts with the almost three-dimensional figure of the infant Jesus. The sculptor succeeds in using their gestures, and the lines of fabric folds, to bond these two figures of different size with palpable tautness. Yet in so doing, he departs from traditional compositional approaches in which the Madonna is generally seen giving intense emotional attention to her child. There are unusual details too, such as the small sections formed by the folds of the fabric. Clearly the artist was seeking out formal difficulties, in order to display his virtuoso skills in overcoming them.


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