National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of The Madonna of the Stars Jacopo Tintoretto (artist)
Venetian, 1518 - 1594
The Madonna of the Stars, second half 16th century
oil on canvas
overall: 92.7 x 72.7 cm (36 1/2 x 28 5/8 in.) framed: 118.4 x 99 x 8.8 cm (46 5/8 x 39 x 3 7/16 in.)
Ralph and Mary Booth Collection
On View
From the Tour: Venetian Painting in the Later Sixteenth Century
Object 3 of 7

Here, Tintoretto combined a traditional religious subject with a tender image of young motherhood. Shown in half-length, the Virgin Mary is seated in an unidentified space, with the Christ child lying contentedly across her knees in a pose that prefigures images of the pietà. With her hands joined in prayer, Mary bows her head toward her son in a gesture of adoration. The stars that encircle the Virgin's head refer to the purity of her own birth and identify her as the Immaculate Conception, an important theme in art of the Counter Reformation period. The heavenly cherubs in the background endow this earthly moment between mother and child with a supernatural quality.

In contrast to the dramatic use of color found in many of Tintoretto's late works, his palette is here light and harmonious. The warm yellow of the background balances the soft red of the Virgin's dress and the Child's rosy flesh. The paint is thinly applied with the rapid, confident brushstrokes that characterize Tintoretto's later style. The painting's small size and intimate mood suggest that it was made for personal devotion in a private home.

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