The Christ Child lies in the Virgin Mary’s arms and holds a small bird to his lips. This tender image was intended to show the bond between Christ and his mother.
Christ’s pose is found in paintings of the Virgin adoring the Child that were produced by Lippi and his workshop, such as the so-called Annalena Adoration (Uffizi, Florence). But it’s difficult to assess the degree of Lippi’s involvement here: the picture has been repainted more than once, and once from scratch. Technical analysis has revealed the original version underneath the new one.
The coats of arms may have been added to celebrate a marriage which united two Florentine families – the Strozzi (left) and the Gaetani (right) – in the sixteenth century.
The Christ Child lies in the Virgin Mary’s arms and holds a small bird to his lips. This tender image was intended to show the bond between Christ and his mother. His head rests on a cushion embroidered with gold; his little foot is tucked into his mother’s robe.
This pose is unusual: images in which the Christ Child lies on a cushion usually show him naked and breastfeeding, a motif that was picked up from Netherlandish artists, particularly Rogier van der Weyden. This artist has altered the popular motif, adding a little bird. A similar pose is found in paintings of the Virgin adoring the Christ Child that were produced by Fra Filippo Lippi and his workshop, such as the so-called Annalena Adoration (Uffizi, Florence).
This painting was certainly produced by an artist working with Lippi or in his workshop, but it’s difficult to assess the degree of Lippi’s own involvement as the picture has been repainted more than once. The haloes – as we see them now – may be later additions, for example. Technical analysis has revealed that the original version of the picture was painted over and repainted from scratch. The changes, however, were only minor: the position of the Virgin’s head and clothing were altered slightly.
The arch which frames the figures was not part of the original design. Its spandrels (the spaces on either side of the arched frame) were filled in later still. The coats of arms of the Strozzi family (left) and the Gaetani family (right) may have been added to celebrate a marriage between members of the families in the sixteenth century.
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