La Madonna della Rondine (The Madonna of the Swallow)

The altarpiece represents the Virgin and Child enthroned with Saint Jerome and Saint Sebastian, but it is named after the swallow ('rondine' in Italian) perched above, which may be intended as a symbol of the Resurrection. It comes from San Francesco in Matelica and bears the arms of the Ottoni family. It was commissioned in March 1490 by Ranuzio Ottoni, Lord of Matelica, and Giorgio di Giacomo, guardian of the local Franciscan convent. Crivelli signed himself 'Miles' (Latin: knight), a title he received in 1490.

This is one of only three large Italian Renaissance pictures in the National Gallery to retain their original frames. The gilded frame is striking for its 'all'antica' form and rich variety of colour simulating porphyry, granite and marble.

The central scenes of the predella, the lower section of the altarpiece, relate to the main figures above. They are, from left to right, Saint Jerome in the Wilderness, the Nativity at Night, and the Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian. At either end are Saint Catherine of Alexandria, with her traditional attribute of a wheel, and Saint George in combat with the dragon.

Key facts

Artist dates
about 1430/5 - about 1494
Full title
La Madonna della Rondine (The Madonna of the Swallow)
Date made
after 1490
Medium and support
Egg and oil on poplar
150.5 x 107.3 cm
Inscription summary
Acquisition credit
Bought, 1862
Inventory number
Location in Gallery

Other paintings in the group: Altarpiece from S. Francesco dei Zoccolanti, Matelica