Virgin and Child
Antonio Rossellino

between 1475 and 1500

Stucco, remnants of old polychromy, partially retouched
Height 78 cm



This devotional image of the Virgin and Child is embellished with a frame based on classical decorative forms. The frame has more than an architectural function: it is part of the image itself, for the Infant Christ is standing on its lower rail as if on a balustrade, and Mary appears in the framed space as if she were looking through a window. The intimate relationship between mother and child is expressed by affectionate contact. Mary gently embraces her son with her arms, supporting him. Christ is drawing one end of her veil around his body, an allusion to the veil that Mary is supposed to have tied round her son as a loincloth before his Crucifixion.

From the late thirteenth century onwards, such images of the Virgin and Child became increasingly popular, generally forming part of the furnishings of a bedroom or study. This realistic, intimate portrayal of the Virgin with her son was well suited to private devotions. The Madonna is often dressed in the fashion of the time and looks like a young Renaissance woman of patrician background. The representation of the two figures is enhanced by their gilded haloes.

Devotional images for the home were very much in demand and accessible to a broad spectrum of buyers. As a result, reliefs of the Madonna by renowned sculptors were frequently produced in series using moulds and inexpensive materials such as clay, stucco and gypsum. This relief in the Liebieghaus, which is attributed to the Florentine artist Antonio Rossellino or his workshop, also exists in another version now in the Art Institute of Chicago. That one, however, is not a cast but was modelled individually by hand.