The Madonna of Humility

The Virgin is shown wearing a crown of twelve stars, with the moon at her feet. This image of her recalls the Woman of the Apocalypse, as described in chapter 12 of the Book of Revelation, the last book of the New Testament.

The Book of Revelation sets out Saint John's vision of the end of the world and the establishment of Christ's kingdom on earth. John sees the Woman of the Apocalypse, clothed with the sun and wearing a crown of twelve stars, persecuted by a dragon. The Woman gives birth to a male child, who is carried to heaven by angels before the dragon can devour him. The saviour's return to earth results in the defeat of the dragon, giving way to a millennium of peace.

The Woman of the Apocalypse and chapter 12 of the Book of Revelation are often associated with the Virgin Mary and the Second Coming of Christ. Here the Virgin is shown before a golden disc representing divine light, recalling the description of the Woman of the Apocalypse as 'clothed with the sun'.

This is the earliest painting on canvas in the collection. It has been much damaged and repainted in the past.

Key facts

Artist dates
about 1353? - 1410
Full title
The Madonna of Humility
Date made
about 1390
Medium and support
Egg tempera on canvas
110 x 88.2 cm
Inscription summary
Acquisition credit
Bought, 1866
Inventory number
Location in Gallery