The Virgin Mary sits in the countryside outside a distant town, holding the naked, wriggling Christ Child on her lap. Archangel Michael is identified by his name inscribed on the neckline of his robes. Saint Veronica holds the veil on which the image of Christ’s face was miraculously imprinted when he passed her on his way to be crucified. The two unidentified donors of the altarpiece, probably husband and wife, may have been named after the saints who present them to the Virgin and Child.
The pose of the Virgin and Child occurs frequently in the work of Bissolo and was probably invented by Giovanni Bellini in about 1500. It seems to first appear in the Madonna and Child with a Patron by Giovanni Bellini and workshop, recently in the collection of Barbara Piasecka Johnson in Princeton, for which Bissolo painted the donor portrait. Bissolo is described as a pupil of Bellini and seems to have been a frequent collaborator, employed to add donor portraits to Bellini’s Madonnas.
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