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The Virgin appears lost in thought as she firmly clutches her son to her. The infant Christ holds an apple in one hand, symbolising his role as the new Adam, born to redeem mankind from original sin after the Fall.
The painting is a fragment of an altarpiece, and has been cut down. The foreshortened arms of the Virgin’s throne suggest that it was originally placed quite high above the viewer, probably flanked by standing saints.The wood it is painted on was severely damaged by woodworm, which may explain why it was cut.
Morone was one of the leading painters in Verona in the early sixteenth century. The very rich, bright colours and the clear light which sharply illuminates every detail are typical of Veronese art of the period. The painting is a late work and probably dates from the 1520s.
The Virgin appears lost in thought as she firmly clutches her son to her. The infant Christ holds an apple in one hand, symbolic of his role as the new Adam, born to redeem mankind from original sin after the Fall.
The red cloth hanging over the bar behind the Virgin has been drawn back to reveal a landscape of pine trees with a fortified town perched on top of a hill and a convent just below and outside the walls. The position of the buildings directly beside the heads of the Virgin and Child suggests that they had a special importance and may represent a real place.
The foreshortened arms of the Virgin’s throne probably mean that it was originally placed quite high above the viewer. The marble wall behind the Virgin is also unusual in a small devotional painting and suggests that this is actually a fragment from a larger picture, most likely an altarpiece. Originally, saints probably stood to either side of a raised throne with their heads just rising above the wall. The back of the panel also indicates that it has been cut down, and there is a join, which one would not expect to find in a painting of this size. Usually a small picture would be painted on a single panel. Here the join runs down the left-hand side of the painting where one would expect to find a join in an altarpiece made of three large planks of wood arranged vertically. The wood it is painted on was severely damaged by woodworm, which may explain why the altarpiece was cut down. Equally it may just have been cut to make it more attractive for sale to a private collector.
Morone’s Moscardo Madonna in the Museo di Castelvecchio, Verona, has the same composition in reverse. Either the same cartoon was used to make both or a drawing made from one composition was used to make the other. Although there are minor differences in the figures between the two paintings, the backgrounds are completely different. The outlines of the halo, curtain bar and the mouldings of the wall were all incised in the National Gallery’s painting. The painting in Verona does not have these incised lines, which would suggest that it was copied from the National Gallery’s painting.
Morone was one of the leading painters in Verona in the early sixteenth century. The very rich, bright colours and the clear light which sharply illuminates every detail are typical of Veronese art of the period, also apparent in the work of Morando and Gerolamo dai Libri. The painting is not easy to date as Morone’s style seems not to have developed in an obvious way, and works he made in the early 1500s are similar to those he was making over 20 years later. The gilt metal decoration on the wall behind the Virgin and Child can be matched exactly with that in the Sacristy of Santa Maria in Organo in Verona of 1505–1510, a church for which Morone painted an altarpiece in 1503. However the National Gallery’s painting seems a very late work, probably dating from the 1520s.
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