Archive for March, 2010

Cappella Maggiore

Artist: Agnolo Gaddi


Date: 1337

Location: Santa Croce

Medium: tempera on wood

Approximate dimensions of work: alterpiece

The artist was taught by his father, who had been schooled by master, Giotto. Agnolo Gaddi lived in Florence from 1350 to 1396. In 1337 he undertook his most “ambitious work” of  8 frescoes in Santa Croce in Florence, in which his paintings depicted the “Legend of the True Cross”. These focus on design rather than expression and he had “optical unification”. This was a new approach toward painting of International Gothic style.  The frescos began with the archangel Michael giving Seth a branch from the tree of knowledge, and it ended with the Emperor Heraclius carrying the cross as he entered Jerusalem (who was a conqueror and supposedly brought the true cross back to Jerusalem). It is in this last fresco that the painter included a portrait of himself. Gaddi composed his subjects  better than his father, Taddeo.  He portrayed more dignity and individuality in the figures. The images were clear with bold colourist and extremely decorative. His drawings were best viewed from a distance.

In Santa Croce, his Cappella Maggiore is the altarpiece for the church.


“Agnolo Gaddi (Italian Artist) — Britannica Online Encyclopedia.” Encyclopedia – Britannica Online Encyclopedia. Web. 14 Apr. 2010. <;.

“Gaddi – LoveToKnow 1911.” 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica – Free Online. Web. 14 Apr. 2010. <;.


Madonna of St. Vitus Cathedral

St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague

1420, first quarter of 15th Century

Location: national Gallery, Prague

Medium: Tempera on Wood

Approximate Dimension: 89X77 cm

Artist is an unknown Bohemian master

The Madonna of St. Vitus Cathedral has a lot of symbolism in the poise of the figures. The painting is of mary showing her child to the congregation of faithful.  Her coquettish posture and animation of the child is very natural stance. Some scholars believe this painting is identical with the master of Beautiful Madonna of Krumlov. There is precise modeling in the stance shows the full forms of the figures with the heavy fabric of Mary’s mantle making deep folds along with the position of the child’s body and hands  (in the Holy Sign). Their spatial relation has the Madonna’s body bent sideways and drawn backwards. The child’s torso faces the spectator. Both figures face opposite directions, showing composition by the two diagonals of the oblong standing frame. Her torso is tilted toward the upper right corner while the baby Jesus and her head tilt towards the parallel and opposite corner. These spatial relations were not common prior to this era in art, and are part of the reason for the significance of the depiction of Madonna and Child.


Web Gallery of Art, Image Collection, Virtual Museum, Searchable Database of European Fine Arts (1000-1850). Web. 13 Apr. 2010. <;.

Madonna and Child –Theodora

Title: Madonna and Child -Theodora

Date: 5th or 6th century

Location: St. Celements Rome

Fourth Century Basilica

Byzantine Fresco

Discovered by Fr. Joseph Mullooly in 1857.

This fresco is believed to originally be a portrait of Empress Theodora , painted in the 5th or 6th Century. She is in the basilica probably only because her husband, Emperor Justinian gave litergical gifts to Pope John II (533-535). His image should be in the paralleling niche, but is not found there. These two would have their images present because of Pope John’s gifts bestowed to San Clemente’s church to embellish and decorate the basilica. In the 9th century Theodora’s portrait was modified into a Madonna and Child. There was the addition of a chair and the Child in her lap with the extension of her left arm to hold Him. On either side of Theodora were two ladies who were probably members of the imperial court. Their figures were transformed into saints Euphemia and Catherine, each with crowns of Martydrom.


A short Guide to St. Celements of Rome by Leonard Boyle O.P.

Mary Enthroned Holding a Flowered Scepter

Title: Mary Enthroned Holding a Flowered Scepter

Date: 1887

Location of the work: Above the central portal of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, Italy

Medium: Sculpture done in half relief

Approximate dimensions of work: Approximately 9ft

The Florence Cathedral is the result of 170 years of work.  It was said to be, “”a structure so immense, so steeply rising toward the sky, that it covers all Tuscans with its shadow”. The last part to be completed was the façade, which was done in a neo-gothic style. This cathedral was dedicated to the Madonna and given the title “Saint Mary of the Flower”, honoring the Mother of Christ, which is apparent from this central statue done by Tito Sarrocchi. This statue is located above the central portal of the cathedral, where it is a central focus. The sculpture depicts Mary holding an infant Jesus with her left arm, and a flowered scepter in her right. This flowered scepter is said to be a symbol of both the city of Florence as well as a symbol of Christ.

Santa Maria del Fiore


Adoration of the Maggi

Title: Adoration of the Maggi

Date: circa 1475-1480

Location of the work: Ufffizi Gallary Florence, Italy

Medium: Tempera on panel

Approximate dimensions of work: 43 3/4” x 52 ¾”

This painting by Sandro Botticelli was originally painted for the Lama family chapel in S. Maria Nuova, and was commissioned by Pier il Gottoso de Medici. This painting is especially interesting because the main focus is not necessarily on the Madonna and child being pictured. Rather those viewing this painting during this time would have recognized the figures of Cosimo the Elder, Piero the Gouty, Lorenzo the Magnificent, and Polition and Pico della Mirandola featured as the adoring Maggi. By placing these prominent societal figures in the painting, the focus is placed more on the brotherhood of these characters, rather than on the well known story of the birth of Jesus. These brotherhoods were a significant part of life in Florence since the Middle Ages, and it is celebrated here by Botticelli in these recognizable figures.


“Uffizi Florence-Great Museums of the Word”

Title: The Ognissanti Madonna

Date: 1310

Location of the work: Uffizi Museum

Medium: Tempera on panel

Approximate dimensions of work: 10ft 8in x 6ft 8 ¼in

The third and final painting in this trio is Giotto’s version of Madonna and Child in Majesty. This painting marks the end of an era. With Giotto’s work stops using the former practice of using symbols to make a two dimensional picture, and starts to paint people. Giotto takes what Cimabue started with showing Mary’s knee and applies it throughout the whole painting. In this Madonna and Child the viewer can see that Mary and Jesus both have curves and shapes underneath their robes. Before this point the figures in a painting were only symbols of the characters, not representations. Giotto’s work changed that, now paintings were not only a representation of the characters, but it also brought with it a desire for physical accuracy. This can be seen in everything from the way the angels recede into the background to the way Jesus’ robes fall over his legs.


“Uffizi Florence-Great Museums of the Word”

Title: The Rucellai Madonna

Date: 1310

Location of the work: Uffizi Museum

Medium: Tempera on panel

Approximate dimensions of work: 10ft 8in x 6ft 8 ¼in

The second painting in the gallery with Cimabue’s Maesta of Santa Trinita is Duccio’s painting of the same subject. This Painting has received significantly less attention than the Cimabue and Giotto pantings that are next to it. This Painting more closely resembles the byzantine art of the previous era. The two dimensionality and objects independence from one another are typical of this era. The depiction of angels with one over top of the other and the way Mary floats over her chair without actually seeming to sit in it are examples of these traits. Also note how Mary seems to disappear into her robes so that you cannot see her body underneath, this contrast with Cimabue’s work where he began to articulate the human body.


“Uffizi Florence-Great Museums of the Word”

Title: Maesta of Santa Trinita

Madonna and Child by Cimabue

Date: 1280-1290

Location of the work: Uffizi Museum

Medium: Tempera on panel

Approximate dimensions of work: 12ft 7 ½in x 7ft 3 ¾in

This Madonna and Child in Majesty painting by Cimabue is currently being displayed in the Uffizi Museum in Florence Italy in Room Two: The 13th Century and Giotto. It is alongside two other similar works, all three are Madonna and Child in Majesty’s. Two of these paintings, the Cimabue and Giotto, were alter pieces while the Duccio was not. The Duccio is never the less displayed alongside them due to, not only the similar time period, but also the similar theme of the Madonna and Child in Majesty.

Cimabue was born in Florence sometime in the 1240’s AD. He was heralded as a master of his time and his paintings were considered to be revolutionarily humanistic. In this Painting you can see that a sense of depth is returning to art as the angels overlap instead of being stacked on top of one another. Another attribute that sets this painting apart from its contemporaries is that Mary and Jesus have physical definition to their bodies rather than their bodies disappearing into their robes. An example of this is how Mary’s robes conform to her knee so that the viewer can tell where her leg is. Two features that set this Madonna and Child apart from the rest are how Jesus’ face is depicted as uncharacteristically old for a baby and that His hand is raised in the sign of blessing.

“Uffizi Florence-Great Museums of the Word”

Unknown Artist

Pauline Chapel, Santa Maria Maggiore Rome, Italy

Thick slab of cedar wood

117 X 79 Centimeters

Mary, the Virgin Mother of God, is depicted throughout Christian art. Her presence and religious power is portrayed be depictions of her holding the infant Jesus Christ. The oldest known icon of Madonna and Child is at Santa Maria Maggiore in the Pauline Chapel called “Salus Populi Romani” (Savior of the people of Rome). This 117 by 79 centimeter work has no known author although some believe that St. Luke the Evangelist was the artist. History only dates back to the early 13th century; however, it is much older. Some historians date the piece to the time of the Council of Ephesus in 431 where it was declared that the Mother of Jesus Christ is the Mother of God and that a church should be erected in Rome in honor of Her.

Mary’s gold laced, blue attire and red tunic all symbolize her respectable power and authority with in the church. Different than later Madonna and Child paintings, She gazes out to the spectator while Jesus stares at His Mother.

Hanging in a specially designed reliquary above the alter in the Pauline Chapel, “Salus Populi Romani” has been a highly praised icon in the Catholic faith. Pope St. Gregory the Great (590-604) was known to pray devoutly to Mary “Queen of the Apostles” for guidance and wisdom. During the plague that disrupted Rome, according to history, he paraded this icon around the city while droves of people solemnly followed in prayer. The procession ended at Castel Sant’Angelo where it is said that an angel appeared to the gathered masses, St. Michael. Upon his arrival he replaced the statue that had originally stood atop with one of him holding the sword of vengeance.

Madonna dell Granduca (1505)

Oil on wood

84 x 55 cm (33 x 21 1/2 in.)

Palazzo Pitti, Florence

Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino ,or more commonly known today as just Raphael, was born in Florence on Good Friday, 1483. As the son of a painter, his life work was destined for nothing less than artistic bliss. Later in his life he traveled all over Italy; however, he always seemed to return home to Florence.

“Madonna dell Granduca” is an 84 by 55 centimeter piece bountiful in beauty but supported by its simplicity as oil on wood painting. A 19th century restoration left the marvelous painting partially different. The blackened background is result of the restorer’s decision to cover Raphael’s original background. Thankfully they did not alter Madonna or Child. As the infant Christ looks out towards the spectator we can quickly be captivated and drawn in. Hanging in the Palazzo Pitti in Florence where droves of visitors annually pass by, this artwork has become a world renowned piece of artwork.