National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Madonna and Child Antonello da Messina (artist)
Sicilian, c. 1430 - 1479
Madonna and Child, c. 1475
oil and tempera on panel transferred from panel
painted surface: 58.1 x 43.2 cm (22 7/8 x 17 in.) overall: 58.9 x 43.7 cm (23 3/16 x 17 3/16 in.) framed: 86.7 x 74.8 x 8.3 cm (34 1/8 x 29 7/16 x 3 1/4 in.)
Andrew W. Mellon Collection
1937.1.30
On View
From the Tour: Venetian Painting in the Early Renaissance
Object 1 of 7

Antonello da Messina probably painted this work during his eighteen-month visit to Venice, at which time, it was once thought, he introduced Venetian artists to oil paints. It is now known that they were using oils well before Antonello's arrival. For many years Italian merchants returning from business in the Low Countries had brought home Netherlandish oil paintings. An eager market for these highly detailed and naturalistic works already existed -- probably this prospect led Antonello north to Venice in the first place -- and Venetian painters themselves were experimenting with the new medium. Nevertheless, Antonello does seem to have exerted a strong influence: Venetian painting simply looked different after his stay than it had before. Probably his contribution was to teach techniques for using oils. Before his arrival Venetian painters had sometimes applied oils in alternating layers with tempera or brushed them on with the same short parallel strokes they used for opaque colors. These practices effectively blocked the full ability of oil paint to capture and reflect light, which is achieved only when translucent pigments are built up in thin, blended layers.

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