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Gerolamo Giovenone, The Virgin and Child with Saints and Donors

Key facts
Full title The Virgin and Child with Saints and Donors
Artist Gerolamo Giovenone
Artist dates active 1513; died 1555
Date made perhaps about 1520
Medium and support Tempera and oil on poplar
Dimensions 205.7 × 123.2 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1889
Inventory number NG1295
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
The Virgin and Child with Saints and Donors
Gerolamo Giovenone

The Virgin Mary sits on a carved throne beneath a red brocade canopy. A length of cloth of gold brocade suspended from ropes forms a cloth of honour behind her. The infant Christ sits on a white cloth held by his mother and looks in our direction. Two little angels playing musical instruments perch at the back of the throne.

The Franciscan cardinal bishop on the left is Saint Bonaventure. He holds an unusual emblem – a thorny Crucifix with a pelican in her nest on top. The pelican symbolises the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, as the bird was believed to feed her chicks with her own blood if necessary. On the right, Saint Francis gazes at us and directs our attention to the Virgin and Child.

Each saint introduces an unidentified male donor to the Virgin and Child. The presence of the Franciscan saints suggests that the altarpiece was commissioned for a church owned by the Franciscan Order, to which the two donors were especially dedicated.

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