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Miklós Boskovits (1935–2011), “Byzantine 13th Century/Enthroned Madonna and Child/c. 1250/1275,” Italian Thirteenth and Fourteenth Century Paintings, NGA Online Editions, (accessed October 27, 2016).


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Mar 21, 2016 Version

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The composition of this Virgin and Child is loosely based on the Hodegetria, one of the more powerful and enduring icon types of the Orthodox Christian church. The Virgin gestures toward the child to show him as the “way” (hodos in Greek), the source of salvation. The throne and her red shoes present her as the Queen of Heaven, and the archangels in the roundels beside her hold imperial regalia, which are typical attributes of archangels. The first of this type, housed in the Hodegon monastery in Constantinople, was an active part of civic and religious life in the Byzantine capital. Said to produce miracles daily, it was taken out of the monastery every Tuesday so the public could see it. It was invoked against plague and carried by imperial armies as a talisman in battle.

Expert opinion differs about the origin of this painting (known as the Kahn Madonna after an earlier owner) and the National Gallery of Art’s Madonna and Child on a Curved Throne, also of Byzantine origin. The soft shadows of this Virgin’s face and her tender expression are paralleled in a mosaic of Mary in the great basilica of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul (formerly Constantinople).

Byzantine art made a powerful impact on 13th- and 14th-century Italian painting, which emphasizes the spiritual world of Paradise, with elongated and weightless figures, more like spirits than physical human beings, skies of heavenly gold, and flat, stylized patterning of drapery. The gold striations that define folds in clothing, the round volume of Mary’s veiled head, and Jesus’s frontal pose—looking more like a miniature adult than a child—are all part of the Byzantine tradition.


The painting shows the Virgin seated on an elaborate wooden throne with openwork decoration. She supports the blessing Christ child on her left arm, according to the iconographic tradition of the Hodegetria.[1] Mary [fig. 1] is wearing a purple dress and a deep blue mantle highlighted with brilliant chrysography. Bearing a scroll in his left hand, the child [fig. 2] is wearing a red tunic fastened around his waist with a blue fabric belt supported by straps that encircle his shoulders. This motif perhaps alludes to his sacerdotal dignity.[2] In the upper corners of the panel, at the level of the Virgin’s head, are two circular medallions containing busts of archangels [fig. 3], each wearing a garment decorated with a loros and with scepter and sphere in hand.[3]

Art historians have held sharply different views on not only the attribution of the painting but also its origin and even its function. Apart from Osvald Sirén’s attribution to Pietro Cavallini (1918),[4] the critical debate that developed after its first appearance at a sale in New York in 1915 (where it was cataloged under the name of Cimabue) almost always considered the painting together with Madonna and Child on a Curved Throne. For a discussion of the problems surrounding both panels and some further proposals, see the catalog entry for the latter painting.

Miklós Boskovits (1935–2011)

March 21, 2016


Said to have come from a church, or convent, in Calahorra (province of La Rioja, Spain);[1] (art market, Madrid), in 1912. (Herbert P. Weissberger, Madrid).[2] (Emile Pares, Madrid, Paris, and New York); (his sale, Anderson Galleries, New York, 18-19 February 1915, 2nd day, no. 306, as by Giovanni Cimabue); (Emile Pares, Madrid, Paris, and New York);[3] sold 26 November 1915 to (F. Kleinberger & Co., New York).[4] Otto Kahn [1867-1934], New York, by 1917;[5] by inheritance to his widow, Addie Wolff Kahn [d. 1949], New York;[6] gift 1949 to NGA.

Exhibition History
Loan Exhibition of Italian Primitives, F. Kleinberger Galleries, New York, 1917, no. 69, repro., as The Madonna and Child by Pietro Cavallini.
Sirén, Osvald, and Maurice W. Brockwell. Catalogue of a Loan Exhibition of Italian Primitives. Exh. cat. F. Kleinberger Galleries. New York, 1917: 178, repro. 179.
Sirén, Osvald. "A Picture by Pietro Cavallini." The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs 32 (1918): 44-47, pl. 1.
Berenson, Bernard. "Due dipinti del decimosecondo secolo venuti da Costantinopoli." Dedalo 2 (1921): 284 (repro.), 285–286, 289, 292–304, repro. 300–301.
Marle, Raimond van. La peinture Romaine au Moyen-Age. Strasbourg, 1921: 227-228, fig. 116.
Marle, Raimond van. The Development of the Italian Schools of Painting. 19 vols. The Hague, 1923-1938: 1(1923):502, 503, 505, fig. 291.
Mather, Frank Jewett. A History of Italian Painting. New York, 1923: repro. 13.
Mayer, August L. "Correspondence." Art in America 12 (1924): 234-235.
Busuioceanu, Alexandru. "Pietro Cavallini e la pittura romana del Duecento e del Trecento." Ephemeris Dacoromana 3 (1925): 394.
Toesca, Pietro. Il Medioevo. 2 vols. Storia dell’arte italiana, 1. Turin, 1927: 2:1035 n. 39.
Cecchi, Emilio. Trecentisti senesi. Rome, 1928: 12, 125.
Berenson, Bernard. Studies in Medieval Painting. New Haven, 1930: 4-16, figs. 1, 10, 11.
Schweinfurth, Philipp. Geschichte der russischen Malerei im Mittelalter. The Hague, 1930: 377-379.
Fry, Roger. "Mr Berenson on Medieval Painting." The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs 58, no. 338 (1931): 245.
Marle, Raimond van. Le scuole della pittura italiana. 2 vols. The Hague and Florence, 1932-1934: 1(1932):519, 522-523, 520 fig. 345.
Lazarev, Viktor Nikitič. "Early Italo-Byzantine Painting in Sicily." The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs 63 (1933): 283-284.
Sandberg-Vavalà, Evelyn. L’iconografia della Madonna col Bambino nella pittura italiana del Dugento. Siena, 1934: 44 no. 120, pl. 27a.
D’Ancona, Paolo. Les primitifs italiens du XIe au XIIIe siècle. Paris, 1935: 46-47, fig. 17.
Muratov, Pavel P., and Jean Chuzeville. La peinture byzantine. Paris, 1935: 137, pl. 193.
Comstock, Helen. "A Dugento Panel at the Toledo Museum." Connoisseur 98 (1936): 231.
Lazarev, Viktor Nikitič. "New Light on the Problem of the Pisan School." The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs 68 (1936): 61-62.
Lazarev, Viktor Nikitič. Istorija vizantijskoj živopisi: v druch tomach. Moscow, 1947-1948: 192, 351 n. 116.
Rice, David Talbot. "Italian and Byzantine Painting in the Thirteenth Century." Apollo 31 (1940): 89-90.
Garrison, Edward B. Italian Romanesque Panel Painting: An Illustrated Index. Florence, 1949: repro. 44.
Comstock, Helen. "The Connoisseur in America." Connoisseur 126, no. 517 (1950): 52, repro. 53.
Einstein, Lewis. Looking at Italian Pictures in the National Gallery of Art. Washington, 1951: 12-15, repro., as Enthroned Madonna and Child.
Bettini, Sergio. "I mosaici dell’atrio di San Marco e il loro seguito." Arte veneta 8 (1954): 32, n. 6.
Felicetti-Liebenfels, Walter. Geschichte der byzantinischen Ikonenmalerei. Olten, 1956: 61, pl. 64.
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1956: 7, repro.
Shapley, Fern Rusk. Comparisons in Art: A Companion to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. London, 1957 (reprinted 1959): 3-4, pl. 2.
Demus, Otto. "Die Entstehung des Paläologenstils in der Malerei." In Berichte zum XI Internationalen Byzantinisten-Kongress. Munich,1958: 16, 54-55.
Demus, Otto. "Zwei Konstantinopler Marienikonen des 13. Jahrhunderts." Jahrbuch der Österreichischen Byzantinischen Gesellschaft 7 (1958): 87-104, figs. 1, 4.
Lazarev, Viktor Nikitič. "Constantinopoli e le scuole nazionali alla luce di nuove scoperte." Arte veneta 13-14 (1959-1960): 11-13, figs. 4, 5.
Swoboda, Karl Maria. "In den Jahren 1950 bis 1961 erschienene Werke zur byzantinischen und weiteren ostchristlichen Kunst." Kunstgeschichtliche Anzeigen 5 (1961-1962): 148.
Bologna, Ferdinando. La pittura italiana delle origini. Rome, 1962: 80-81.
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. New York, 1963 (reprinted 1964 in French, German, and Spanish): 64, repro.
Pallucchini, Rodolfo, ed. La pittura veneziana del Trecento. Venice, 1964: 71-72.
Calì, Maria. "L’arte in Puglia." Arte antica e moderna 15 (1965): 389.
Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 21.
Stubblebine, James H. "Two Byzantine Madonnas from Calahorra, Spain." The Art Bulletin 48 (1966): 379-381, figs. 1, 4, 8, 9.
Lazarev, Viktor Nikitič. Storia della pittura bizantina. Turin, 1967: 318-319, 347 n. 177.
European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1968: 14, repro.
Rice, David Talbot. Byzantine Painting: The Last Phase. London, 1968: 55, pl. 67.
Bologna, Ferdinando. I pittori alla corte angioina di Napoli, 1266-1414, e un riesame dell’arte nell’età fridericiana. Rome, 1969: 22, 354.
Beckwith, John. Early Christian and Byzantine Art. The Pelican History of Art. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, 1970: 140.
Demus, Otto. Byzantine Art and the West. New York, 1970: 216-218, 251 n. 147, fig. 237.
Fredericksen, Burton B., and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1972: 230, 311, 647.
European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 50, repro.
Stoichita, Victor Ieronim. Ucenicia lui Duccio di Buoninsegna. Bucharest, 1976: 30-34, 149-150.
Shapley, Fern Rusk. Catalogue of the Italian Paintings. National Gallery of Art. 2 vols. Washington, 1979: 1:96-99; 2:pl. 66.
Belting, Hans. "Introduzione." In Il medio oriente e l’occidente nell’arte del XIII secolo, Atti del XXIV congresso internazionale di storia dell’arte, September 10-18, 1979. Edited by Hans Belting. Bologna, 1982: 4-5, 9 n. 19, pl. 9.
Belting, Hans. "The 'Byzantine' Madonnas: New Facts about Their Italian Origin and Some Observations on Duccio." Studies in the History of Art 12 (1982): 8ff, repro.
Hoenigswald, Ann. "The 'Byzantine' Madonnas: Technical Investigation." Studies in the History of Art 12 (1982): 25-31, figs. 3 (X-radiograph), 4 (detail), 5 (photomicrograph detail),
Os, Hendrik W. van. Sienese Altarpieces 1215-1460. Form, Content, Function. 2 vols. Groningen, 1984-1990: 1(1984):23, 26, fig. 22.
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 64, no. 1, color repro.
Corrie, Rebecca W. "Tuscan Madonnas and Byzantine Masters." In Abstracts and Program Statements for Art History Sessions: Seventy-Third Annual Meeting, College Art Association of America, February 14-16, 1985. Los Angeles, 1985: 46.
European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 23, repro.
Leone De Castris, Pierluigi. "Pittura del Duecento e del Trecento a Napoli e nel Meridione." In La Pittura in Italia. Il Duecento e il Trecento. Edited by Enrico Castelnuovo. 2 vols. Milan, 1986: 2:463.
Folda, Jaroslav. "The Kahn and Mellon Madonnas: Icons or Altarpieces?" In Research Reports and Record of Activities, National Gallery of Art, Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, 7 (1987): 57+.
Belting, Hans. Bild und Kult: Eine Geschichte des Bildes vor dem Zeitalter der Kunst. Munich, 1990: 33, 415 pl. 8, 417, 419 fig. 225, 420.
Campagna Cicala, Francesca. "Messina. Scultura, pittura, miniatura e arti suntuarie." In Enciclopedia dell’arte medievale. Edited by Istituto della Enciclopedia italiana. 12 vols. Rome, 1991-2002: 8(1997):353.
Leone De Castris, Pierluigi. “Sicilia: Pittura e miniatura.” In Enciclopedia dell’arte medievale. Edited by Istituto della Enciclopedia italiana. 12 vols. Rome, 1991-2002: 10(1999):616-623.
Pace, Valentino. "Dieci secoli di affreschi e mosaici romani: osservazioni sulla mostra ‘Fragmenta picta’." Bollettino d’arte 76 (1991): 204-205, fig. 9.
National Gallery of Art, Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 10, repro.
Di Dario Guida, Maria Pia. Icone di Calabria e altre icone meridionali. 2nd ed. Messina, 1993: 111 (repro.), 119, 121.
Folda, Jaroslav. "The Kahn and Mellon Madonnas: Icon or Altarpiece?" In Byzantine East, Latin West. Art-Historical Studies in Honor of Kurt Weitzmann. Princeton, 1995: 501+, repro.
Weyl Carr, Annemarie. "Byzantines and Italians on Cyprus: Images of Art." Dumbarton Oaks Papers 49 (1995): 352 n. 71.
Gordon, Dillian. “Duccio (di Buoninsegna).” In The Dictionary of Art. Edited by Jane Turner. 34 vols. New York and London, 1996: 9:341.
Schmidt, Victor M. "Die Funktionen der Tafelbilder mit der thronenden Madonna in der Malerei des Duecento." Mededelingen van het Nederlands Instituut te Rome 55 (1996): 60-63, fig. 15.
Chelazzi Dini, Giulietta, Alessandro Angelini, and Bernardina Sani. Sienese Painting From Duccio to the Birth of the Baroque. New York: 1997: 26, 177 n. 16.
Cracraft, James. The Petrine Revolution in Russian Imagery, Chicago and London, 1997: no. 1, repro.
Evans, Helen C., and William D. Wixom, eds. The Glory of Byzantium: Art and Culture of the Middle Byzantine Era, A.D. 843-1261. Exh. cat. Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1997: 397.
Maginnis, Hayden B. J. Painting in the Age of Giotto: A Historical Reevaluation. University Park, PA, 1997: 77, fig. 5.
Martin, Frank, and Gerhard Ruf. Die Glasmalereien von San Francesco in Assisi: Entstehung und Entwicklung einer Gattung in Italien. Regensburg, 1997: 70 n. 33, 72 n. 142.
Bellosi, Luciano. Cimabue. Edited by Giovanna Ragionieri. 1st ed. Milan, 1998: 58-59 (repro.), 62 n. 19, 63 n. 22.
Lauria, Antonietta. "Una Madonna tardoduecentesca tra Roma e Assisi." in Arte d’Occidente: temi e metodi. Studi in onore di Angiola Maria Romanini. Edited by Antonio Cadei. 3 vols. Rome, 1999: 2:641-642.
Polzer, Joseph. "Some Byzantine and Byzantinising Madonnas Painted During the Later Middle Ages, 2." Arte cristiana 87 (1999): 167-182, figs. 11, 24.
Kirsh, Andrea, and Rustin S. Levenson. Seeing Through Paintings: Physical Examination in Art Historical Studies. Materials and Meaning in the Fine Arts 1. New Haven, 2000: 179-180, fig. 188.
Labriola, Ada. "Lo stato degli studi su Cimabue e un libro recente." Arte cristiana 88 (2000): 343, 350 n. 18-19, 351 n. 33.
Folda, Jaroslav. "Icon to Altarpiece in the Frankish East: Images of the Virgin and Child Enthroned." In Italian Panel Painting of the Duecento and Trecento. Edited by Victor M. Schmidt. Studies in the History of Art 61 (2002): 127-129, 131-133, 139, fig. 4.
Polzer, Joseph. "The ‘Byzantine’ Kahn and Mellon Madonnas: Concerning their Chronology, Place of Origin, and Method of Analysis." Arte cristiana 90 (2002): 401-410, repro. 402,
Pasut, Francesca. A Critical and Historical Corpus of Florentine Painting. Supplementary Volume. Vol. 2: Ornamental Painting in Italy (1250–1310). An Illustrated Index. Edited by Miklós Boskovits. Florence, 2003: 125 n. 20.
Evans, Helen C., ed. Byzantium: Faith and Power (1261-1557). Exh. cat. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. New Haven, 2004: 476-477, repro.
Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 4-5, no. 1, color repro.
Corrie, Rebecca W. "The Khan and Mellon Madonnas and their Place in the History of the Virgin and Child Enthroned." In Images of the Mother of God: Perceptions of the Theotokos in Byzantium. Edited by Maria Vassilaki. Aldershot, UK and Burlington, VT, 2005: 293-300, pl. 20, fig. 24.1, fig. 24.3.
Folda, Jaroslav. Crusader Art in the Holy Land: From the Third Crusade to the Fall of Acre, 1187-1291. New York, 2005: 457, 557, fig. 299.
Herbert, Lynley Anne. "Duccio di Buoninsegna: Icon of Painters, or Painter of “Icons"?." Ph.D. dissertation, University of Delaware, Newark, 2006: 11, fig. 6.
Harris, Neil. Capital Culture: J. Carter Brown, the National Gallery of Art, and the Reinvention of the Museum Experience. Chicago and London, 2013: 246, 250.
National Gallery of Art. Highlights from the National Gallery of Art, Washington. Washington, 2016: 35, repro.
Technical Summary

The support is a three-member poplar panel [1] with the grain running vertically. Thinned and cradled during an undocumented treatment,[2] the panel is still set in part of its original engaged frame, which has probably been reduced from its original width. The studs decorating the frame molding are original, although they have been overpainted. The white gesso ground [3] is applied over a fabric that covers not only the painted surface but also the engaged frame.[4] The gold leaf was laid over an orange bole. Incised lines were used to outline the figures, and a green underpainting is visible in the flesh tones. The incised decoration of the halos apparently was executed freehand, and the additional decoration of the halos was created by dripping a resinous material onto the gold, as opposed to punchwork. The panel has a convex warp. A vertical crack runs from the top of the painting to the Virgin’s nose. Two additional cracks appear on the left side of the panel, running through the bust of the angel on the left. The join of the two boards on the right side, passing through the face of the angel, has opened from the top to the bottom. Worm tunneling is evident both on the surface of the panel and in the x-radiographs. The painting is in a generally fair state, although there is inpainting in the various small losses in the gilding overlaying the damages of the wooden support, as well as some lacunae in the Virgin’s cloak. The head and dress of the angel to the right and the area of gold ground above the Virgin’s head are also inpainted. In addition, the inpainting extends to the cloak covering the Madonna’s head.