National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Madonna and Child Giotto (artist)
Florentine, probably 1266 - 1337
Madonna and Child, probably 1320/1330
tempera on panel
overall: 85.5 x 62 cm (33 11/16 x 24 7/16 in.) framed: 128.3 x 72.1 x 5.1 cm (50 1/2 x 28 3/8 x 2 in.)
Samuel H. Kress Collection
1939.1.256
Not on View
From the Tour: Byzantine Art and Painting in Italy during the 1200s and 1300s
Object 6 of 8

While Duccio—with his reliance on Byzantine traditions, flat planes, and decorative line—can be said to sum up the past, Giotto was recognized even by his contemporaries as anticipating the future. Dante, Boccaccio, and Petrarch all praised his naturalism. Giotto’s panel, probably the central section of a five-part altarpiece, was painted late in his career. The colors are sober and restrained. Soft shadows model the Virgin and child. We sense the weight and volume of their bodies and feel the pull of gravity on them.

We also sense that they are actors in a quiet drama. We are witnesses to the human interaction between a mother and a child. The infant steadies himself by grasping his mother’s finger and reaches—like any baby—for the flower she holds. This emphasis on the humanity of the participants is a departure from the devotional Byzantine tradition, as in the Gallery’s Enthroned Madonna and Child, in which the infant Christ does not turn to his mother, but rather offers a blessing to the worshiper.

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