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Garofalo, The Virgin and Child enthroned with Saints

Key facts
Full title The Virgin and Child enthroned with Saint Dominic and Saint Catherine of Siena ('Madonna della Scimmia')
Artist Garofalo
Artist dates about 1481 - 1559
Date made about 1499 - 1502
Medium and support Oil on wood
Dimensions 46.3 × 34.8 cm
Acquisition credit Layard Bequest, 1916
Inventory number NG3102
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
The Virgin and Child enthroned with Saints

This early work by Garofalo probably dates from about 1499–1502 when he was in Ferrara. Saint Dominic, the founder of the Dominican Order, is identified by the lily and the miraculous star on his chest. Saint Catherine of Siena is also a Dominican saint; her hands, feet and side are marked with Christ’s wounds, known as the stigmata.

The tethered monkey is an unusual feature and may represent man’s base nature disciplined by the Christian faith. It could have been copied from a monkey in an engraving by the German artist Dürer or from a real monkey in the Duke of Ferrara’s menagerie.

Christ’s sacrifice is symbolised by the goldfinch he holds on a string. The bird is traditionally associated with Christ’s Passion because of the legend that one flew down and took a thorn from Christ’s crown of thorns while he was on his way to the Crucifixion, and its head was marked red with Christ’s blood.

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