Attributed to Pietro di Niccolò da Orvieto, Virgin and Child
(Pietro di Nicola Baroni)
Central Italy, first half of 15th century
Tempera with gold on panel, painted with feigned marble on the verso
Families treasured paintings of the Virgin and Child such as this one, and handed them down through the generations. Surrounded by dazzling golden light, the Madonna is simultaneously Queen of Heaven and a human mother. She gently rests her cheek against her child’s head as he clasps her finger. Looking out, she offers her blessing to those who said their daily prayers to her.
Many small-scale religious paintings made for the home were kept in chests or hung with their faces to the wall for most of the day. They could then be brought out or uncovered for moments of devotion. Often their backs were decorated, as is the case here: the panel is painted to look like marble. The abstract coloured patterns may have helped to focus religious meditation.
Cambridge, The Fitzwilliam Museum
Given by Francis Neilson through the National Art Collections Fund, now the Art Fund