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Carlo Crivelli: 'The Virgin and Child with Saints Francis and Sebastian'

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Oradea, the widow of Giovanni Becchetti, founded an altar dedicated to S. Maria della Consolazione (Holy Mary of Consolation) in the church of San Francesco at Fabriano in 1490. This fulfilled her husband's wish, expressed in his will.

Crivelli painted the altarpiece in the following year. The inscription along the base in Latin emphasises the expense of the commission. The inclusion of Oradea's portrait reflects the widow's pride in her commission from the leading artist of the Marches, who had been knighted. He refers to his title in his signature.

Saint Francis appears because the church was of the Franciscan order. Saint Sebastian was a knight and martyr. Many of the objects in the picture are symbols of Mary as the Virgin Mother of Christ. The transparent glass is a symbol of Mary's virginity. Fruit can be a sign of fertility. Christ is referred to as the fruit of Mary's womb. The white lily is Mary's special flower, symbolising purity. Snails were (erroneously) thought to reproduce asexually, referring to the Immaculate Conception. Among the flowers there is a carnation, sometimes a symbol of Christ's Passion.

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