Overview

With this terra-cotta statue, slightly under life-size, we encounter figures that demonstrate the beginnings of the Italian Renaissance admiration for the human body. Earlier statues in the collection, like the Pisan Annunciation pair, The Archangel Gabriel and The Virgin Annunciate, present the figure as a relatively simple and static form, with drapery arranged in graceful, decorative patterns that tell little about the body it covers. Here, while some decorative folds remain, the clothes work more effectively to describe the form and movement of the body beneath them. Projecting folds wrap around Mary's bent right leg, and deep pockets of space penetrate the sculptural mass, articulating the figure of a young woman with the strength to move vigorously in her heavy garments and support a sturdy child. For a fifteenth-century audience, the child's nudity would have represented Christ's humility in entering the world as a small, poor, and helpless human being.

The mother, whose costume details recall ancient sculpture -- classical sandals, a fillet around the head, and palmette ornament on the sleeve cuffs -- shares much with images conceived by the Florentine master Donatello (1385/86-1466), the greatest sculptor of the early Renaissance.

Inscription

Marks and Labels

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Provenance

Pazzi family, Florence.[1] Count Giacomo Michelozzi, Tarvarnelle, Florence.[2] Henry Goldman [1857-1937], New York, by 1922.[3] (Duveen Brothers, Inc., London and New York); purchased 26 April 1937 by The A.W. Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust, Pittsburgh;[4] gift 1937 to NGA.

Exhibition History

Bibliography

1921
Bode, Wilhelm von. "Eine Unbekannte Madonnenstatue Donatellos." Kunst und Kunstler 19(April 1921): 238, repro.
1940
Valentiner, Wilhelm R. "Donatello and Ghiberti." The Art Quarterly III, no. 2 (Spring 1940): 196-203, fig. 15.
1941
Preliminary Catalogue of Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1941: 222-223, no. A-1, as by Donatello.
1942
Book of Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1942: 253, repro. 228, as by Donatello.
1944
Duveen Brothers, Inc. Duveen Sculpture in Public Collections of America: A Catalog Raisonné with illustrations of Italian Renaissance Sculptures by the Great Masters which have passed through the House of Duveen. New York, 1944: figs. 9-13, as by Donatello.
1949
Paintings and Sculpture from the Mellon Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1949 (reprinted 1953 and 1958): 148, repro., as by Donatello.
1949
Seymour, Charles. Masterpieces of Sculpture from the National Gallery of Art. Washington and New York, 1949: 174, note 15, repro. 59, 61-63, as by Donatello.
1951
Pope-Hennessy, John. 'Review: Charles Seymour Jr., Masterpieces of Sculpture from the National Gallery of Art." College Art Journal 10 (1951): 204-206.
1964
Pope-Hennessy, John, assisted by Ronald Lightbown. Catalogue of Italian Sculpture in the Victoria and Albert Museum. 3 vols, London, 1964: I: 423, 688-691, repro.
1965
Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 153, as by Donatello.
1968
European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1968: 136, repro., as by Donatello.
1984
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 623, no. 962, repro.
1991
Kopper, Philip. America's National Gallery of Art: A Gift to the Nation. New York, 1991: 108-109, color repro.
1992
National Gallery of Art. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1992: 282, repro.
1994
Sculpture: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1994: 85, repro.

Technical Summary

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