Madonna and Children (Favorites from Washington’s National Gallery, 6)

Since it’s the week of Christmas, here’s two more of my favorite works from the National Gallery that happen to be on religious subjects.

Fra Filippo Lippi (Italian, c. 1406 - 1469 ), Madonna and Child, c. 1440, tempera on panel. Washington, National Gallery, Samuel H. Kress Collection

Fra Filippo Lippi (Italian, c. 1406 – 1469 ), Madonna and Child, c. 1440, tempera on panel. Washington, National Gallery, Samuel H. Kress Collection. Photo: National Gallery

This one was done about 120 years after Giotto’s Madonna and Child (see yesterday’s post). I love this Madonna’s ethereal face, and the fact that she actually seems to be holding her wriggling child. This and many more charming Madonnas of the mid-15th century are direct descendants of Donatello’s  Pazzi Madonna  relief (1420s-1430s) – one of the rare cases where a sculpture had a major impact on the course of painting. (On why the Pazzi Madonna was such a big deal, see Innovators in Sculpture.)

The Christ Child

Another descendant of Donatello’s Pazzi Madonna is this exquisitely carved head of a child: until the Pazzi Madonna, the Christ Child tended to be more majestic than child-like. I’m curious to see how this sculpture looks from other angles. It’s not clear to me why the photographer for the National Gallery chose to shoot looking slightly down at the piece. (It is rather lovely hair, but the face ain’t too shabby, either.)

Desiderio da Settignano (Italian, c. 1429 - 1464 ), The Christ Child (?), c. 1460, marble,. Washington, National Gallery, Samuel H. Kress Collection. Photo: National Gallery

Desiderio da Settignano (Italian, c. 1429 – 1464 ), The Christ Child (?), c. 1460, marble,. Washington, National Gallery, Samuel H. Kress Collection. Photo: National Gallery

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About Dianne L. Durante

I constantly seek out art that's inspiring, thought-provoking, skillfully executed, and/or beautiful so I can share it (in jargon-free language) with others who need and enjoy such art, but don't have time to search for it themselves. As an independent scholar, writer, and lecturer, I focus on art history and history, with forays into food, history, politics, and publishing. My most recent projects are three volumes on Alexander Hamilton, Central Park: The Early Years, Innovators in Sculpture (a survey of 5,000 years of art in 2 hours), and two videoguide apps by Guides Who Know. Click on the Books & Essays tab for a list of all books. For upcoming projects, see my Patreon page.

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