Madonna and Child Enthroned with Four Saints

Artists: Margaritone d’Arezzo 

A woman wearing a long black robe sits on a wide, bench-like seat and holds a child on her lap in this vertical painting. Both have pale skin, rosy cheeks, and gold halos.

The panel is shaped so that it is round around the woman’s head and halo; it then widens into a tall rectangle at her shoulders. That woman, Mary, sits with her body facing us and looks off to our right with brown, almond-shaped eyes. She has an oval face with arched brows, a long, straight nose, and her narrow pink lips are closed.

Her black garment has a pattern of brick-red diamond shapes with tiny white swirls at the corners. The area between her hood and her face is red, suggesting a veil or the underside of the robe. The pointed tips of red shoes extend out from under the hem, which reaches the floor.

A gold crown over her hood comes to a point above her forehead, and rows of circles dangle down each side like a stylized chain. Dark blue and red circles suggest gemstones and touches of white suggest pearls. She supports the baby’s torso with one long-fingered hand and touches a tiny foot with the other.

The child, Jesus, has adult-like proportions with a small head, sloping nose, and blond hair. The hand to our left is raised with the first two fingers extended and he holds a scroll in the other hand. He wears a pale gold garment wrapped tightly around his body. Distinct, rose-pink lines suggest folds. The two people’s features and clothing are outlined in black or darker shades.

The bench on which they sit is nearly as wide as the panel and seems to curve up a bit to each side. It is scarlet red with designs in black to make scrolls, nested triangles, or stylized leaves. Four people, half the height of Jesus, float against the faded gold background, two to each side. All four have pale, peachy skin and wear long robes in cream white, pale pink, blue, or brown.

The bottom two, near Mary’s elbows, wear gold crowns and hold jugs. The man at the top left, near Mary’s shoulder, is bareheaded and gestures toward the center. In the upper right, a bearded man with his gray hair cut into ring around his head holds a red book in one elbow and holds up his other hand, palm facing us. The background seems a little scuffed and some of the gold has worn away. An inscription along the bottom reads, “MARGARIT RITIO ME FECIT.”

Credit: Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington.

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