National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Madonna and Child with Saint Peter and Saint John the Evangelist [left panel] Nardo di Cione (artist)
Florentine, active 1343 - 1365/1366
Madonna and Child with Saint Peter and Saint John the Evangelist [left panel], probably c. 1360
tempera on panel
painted surface (left panel): 45.1 × 12.5 cm (17 3/4 × 4 15/16 in.) overall (left panel): 49 × 16.9 × 1.8 cm (19 5/16 × 6 5/8 × 11/16 in.) overall (entire triptych): 76 x 66.4 cm (29 15/16 x 26 1/8 in.)
Samuel H. Kress Collection
1939.1.261.a
On View
From the Tour: Byzantine Art and Painting in Italy during the 1200s and 1300s
Object 8 of 8

Nardo, who with brothers Andrea (called Orcagna) and Jacopo had Florence’s busiest workshop in the late 1300s, painted this small work similar to a church altarpiece for use in private devotion at home. It may have been specifically commissioned or bought from stock. The wings pivot to close like shutters; because they protected the surface, this painting is especially well preserved. Its splendor and clear colors, now rare, must have been typical.

Nardo’s Virgin, despite her soft expression, appears removed from human concerns. Bright, artificial colors separate her from the real world, and the stiff saints on either side underscore her hierarchical importance. Around the middle of the fourteenth century, Florentine artists like Nardo and his brothers abandoned the human concerns and naturalism of Giotto. For several decades the older, traditional styles again predominated. Art historians continue to debate why this occurred. Perhaps Giotto’s work was only appreciated, as Petrarch believed, by a small, educated elite.

Perhaps intensified religious sentiment following the plague of 1348—when up to half the population of Italian cities died within a few weeks—prompted this conservatism. Or perhaps the deaths of so many artists and patrons changed the nature of commissions and workshop practice.

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