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Giorgio Schiavone, The Virgin and Child Enthroned

Key facts
Full title The Virgin and Child Enthroned
Artist Giorgio Schiavone
Artist dates 1436/7 - 1504
Series S. Niccolò Altarpiece, Padua
Date made probably about 1456-61
Medium and support Tempera on wood
Dimensions 91.5 × 35 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Bought, 1860
Inventory number NG630.1
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
The Virgin and Child Enthroned
Giorgio Schiavone

The Virgin Mary sits on a grand throne, a chubby Christ Child balancing precariously on her knee. This is the central panel of a large polyptych (multi-panelled altarpiece) painted by Giorgio Schiavone, probably for the church of San Niccolò in Padua.

This altarpiece sits on the cusp of the shift in Italian painting from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance, and combines features of both periods. Although the background is gold, as was usual in medieval Italian painting, the Virgin sits on a classical marble throne decorated with carvings of putti (young boys in the persona of angels).

Christ rests one foot on an unusual glass ball with a pink string; four windows are reflected in it. This is perhaps an allusion to the globe sometimes held by the adult Christ in paintings, although it looks more like a bauble from a Christmas tree.

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S. Niccolò Altarpiece, Padua


These ten panels once made up a polyptych (multi-panelled altarpiece) painted by Giorgio Schiavone, probably between 1456 and 1461. They were perhaps originally made for the chapel of the Frigimelina family in the church of San Niccolò in Padua.

In the fifteenth century the chapel may have been dedicated to the Virgin Mary, as she appears in the middle with saints on either side. We don‘t know exactly how the panels were arranged, but the full-length saints would have been in the bottom layer with the half-length figures above; this was a very popular format for Italian polyptychs. The altarpiece may well have had an elaborate frame, now missing.

The artist’s real name was Juraj Čulinović. Schiavone means ’Slavonian': he came from Dalmatia (in modern-day Croatia) but trained in Squarcione’s workshop in Padua in the late 1450s, when these panels were painted.