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Photo by Peter Paul Geoffrion
Culture Group:FlorentineTitle:Madonna of Humility Date:1390 - 1420 Medium:tempera and gold leaf on panel Culture: Italian, Florentine Dimensions:12 5/8 x 8 5/8 in. (32.1 x 21.9 cm) Credit Line:Gift in honor of Marilyn M. Segal by Her Family Accession number:1998.22.1 Label Copy: The Madonna of Humility is a painting type that emerged in Avignon (in present-day France) and throughout the Italian peninsula as early as the 1340s. Though many variations exist, this example shows the Virgin Mary seated on the ground with the Christ Child in her lap, his hand raised in a gesture of blessing. The Virgin’s humble position emphasizes her role as a compassionate and maternal intercessor for all who pray to Christ. With the emphasis by certain religious orders on cults dedicated to Mary and saints during the Medieval and early Renaissance periods, images such as this were prolific. The panel’s small, portable size indicates that it would have been used for private devotion within a chapel or home. In the painting’s top corners, miniature images of archangel Gabriel (left) and the Virgin Mary (right) reference the Annunciation, when Gabriel announced to Mary that she would give birth to Christ. A low architectural relief separates this foreshadowing scene from the central image, providing a sense of spatial and chronological distance. Painted in tempera (pigment and egg yolk), this image is an example of the early Renaissance shift towards the depiction of more life-like human forms through the use of modeling and shading. The gold background, creating a heavenly atmosphere for the religious subject, would fall out of use by the late 1400s as artists began to favor more realistic representations of the natural world. Provenance: Purchased circa 1850 through (probably Christie's) by Elizabeth Stainton, Esq.; by bequest to her heirs. Richard D. Segal; gift 1998 to Duke University Museum of Art, now Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University.

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