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Altarpiece: The Virgin and Child with Saints

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Sienese painting of the second half of the fifteenth century blended the artistic ideals of its own time with a continued reverence for the language of earlier Sienese art. Nowhere is this more true than in this altarpiece, painted in 1479 by Benvenuto di Giovanni, possibly for a church in Orvieto.

In the centre the Virgin Mary is seated on an inlaid throne with the infant Christ on her knee; in the side panels saints stand like statues on a marble parapet which runs across the whole altarpiece. The figures are set against burnished and tooled gold backgrounds, and all are spectacularly dressed in accordance with the Sienese passion for jewels and textiles – but they look convincingly solid underneath their clothes.

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