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The Virgin Mary sits in front of a parapet, gazing tenderly at the Christ Child on her lap. Behind her is a cloth of honour, of the kind which was hung behind royalty. The plump infant turns his head away from his mother to look at something outside the picture.
Christ’s position is curious: it’s not clear what he’s looking at or whether he was meant to be holding something. The picture might have been a reduced version of a larger composition. The inscription ‘A.A.P.’ on the parapet perhaps stands for Andrea di Aloigi, known as L‘Ingegno (’The Talented'), a pupil of Perugino.
Behind the parapet is a landscape dotted with late-medieval buildings. Such landscapes, which look more like northern Europe than Italy, were derived from Netherlandish painting, in particular the work of Hans Memling, which was much revered in Renaissance Italy.
The Virgin Mary sits in front of a parapet, gazing tenderly at the Christ Child on her lap. Behind her is a cloth of honour, of the kind which was hung behind royalty. She wears a red dress and a blue cloak with a dark green lining, both edged with gold embroidery. Her fair hair is looped up under a grey headscarf. Both mother and child have brown eyes, pink cheeks and rosebud mouths. The plump infant turns his head away from his mother to look at something outside the picture.
The inscription on the parapet by the Virgin’s hand, ‘A.A.P.’, is perhaps short for ‘Andrea di Aloigi or Andrea da Assisi pinxit’ (‘Andrea di Aloigi or Andrea da Assisi painted this’), and might be the signature of Andrea di Aloigi, known as L‘Ingegno (’The Talented').
The style of the painting – in particular the sweet-faced and porcelain-skinned Virgin – is very much influenced by that of Pietro Perugino. According to Vasari, Aloigi was the best of Perugino’s pupils. He collaborated with Perugino in the decoration of the Sistine Chapel, and with him and the young Raphael on Collegio del Cambio in Perugia. Vasari recounts that Aloigi surpassed his master, but became blind and was given an administrative post at Assisi by the pope.
Christ’s position is curious: it’s not clear what he is looking at, or whether he was meant to be holding something in his hands. The painting is perhaps a reduced version of some larger composition, along the lines of The Virgin and Child with Saints Dominic and Catherine of Siena, and Two Donors or The Virgin and Child with Saints Jerome and Francis. Christ’s position echoes that in Perugino’s Madonna and Child of about 1500 (National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.) – he turns away from his mother and makes the same curious gesture – as does the whole composition. It’s very likely that Aloigi made use of drawings and motifs that were circulating in Perugino’s workshop.
Behind the parapet is a landscape dotted with late medieval buildings. On the left, behind a rocky foreground, a man walks along a road which winds between houses, drawing our eye into the distance. A woman in a white headdress stands in front of the house on the right. Chimneys and a church spire can be seen in the distance behind the trees. On the right, successive hills painted in different shades of green, fading to blue trees and bushes on the horizon, create the illusion of receding space. These kinds of landscapes, which look more like those in Northern European than Italian painting, were strongly influenced by Netherlandish paintings available in Italy. Aloigi might have seen or known drawings of Memling’s much-imitated Pagagnotti Triptych which was painted for a Florentine patron in around 1480. Its wings, Saint John the Baptist and Saint Lawrence, are now in our collection.
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