The Madonna in Art eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 74 pages of information about The Madonna in Art.

More frequently a domestic scene of this sort includes other figures belonging to the Holy Family.  A typical German example is the picture by Schongauer in the Belvedere Gallery at Vienna.  The Virgin is seated in homely surroundings, intent upon a bunch of grapes which she holds in her hands, and which she has taken from a basket standing on the floor beside her.  Long, waving hair falls over her shoulders; a snowy kerchief is folded primly in the neck of her dress; she is the impersonation of virgin modesty.  Her baby boy stands on her lap, nestling against his mother; his eyes fixed on the fruit, his eager little face glowing with pleasure.  Beyond are seen the cattle, which Joseph is feeding.  He pauses at the door, a bundle of hay in his arms, to look in with fond pride at his young wife and her child.

Schongauer’s work belongs to the latter part of the fifteenth century, and there was nothing similar to it in Italy at the same period.  It is true that Madonnas in domestic settings have been attributed to contemporaneous Italians, but they were probably by some Flemish hand.


Giulio Romano, a pupil of Raphael, was perhaps the first of the Italians to give any domestic touch to the subject of the Madonna and child.  His Madonna della Catina of the Dresden Gallery is well known.  It is so called from the basin in which the Christ-child stands while the little St. John pours in water from a pitcher for the bath.  Another picture by the same artist shows the Madonna seated with her child in the interior of a bedchamber.  This was one of the “discoveries” of the late Senator Giovanni Morelli, the critic, and is in a private collection in Dresden.

To Giulio Romano also, according to recent criticism, is due the domestic Madonna known as the “Impannata,” and usually attributed to Raphael.  It is probable that both artists had a hand in it, the master in the arrangement of the composition, the pupil in its execution.  A bed at one side is concealed by a green curtain.  In the rear is the cloth-covered window which gives the picture its name.  Elizabeth and Mary Magdalene have brought home the child, who springs to his mother’s arms, smiling back brightly at his friends.  One other Madonna from Raphael’s brush (the Orleans) has an interior setting, but the domestic environment here is undoubtedly the work of some Flemish painter of later date.

By the seventeenth century, the Holy Family in a home environment can be found somewhat more often in various localities.  By the French painter Mignard there is a well-known picture in the Louvre called La Vierge a la Grappe.  By F. Barocci of Urbino there is an example in the National Gallery known as the Madonna del Gatto, in which the child holds a bird out of the reach of a cat.  A similar motif, certainly not a pleasant one, is seen in Murillo’s Holy Family of the Bird, in Madrid.  By Salimbeni, in the Pitti, is a Holy Family in an interior, showing the boy Jesus and his cousin St. John playing with puppies.

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The Madonna in Art from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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