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Overview

This work shows the Madonna and Child seated in a garden that represents Eden. The orange trees bloom with pure white flowers that symbolize Mary's virginity. An Annunciation scene appears in the raised and gilded foliate scrolls at the top of the painting.

Since antiquity, sleep was regarded as "the brother of death," and during the Renaissance, representations of the sleeping Christ Child were considered prefigurations of the death that he would suffer for mankind. In Cosmè Tura's painting, death is also foreshadowed by the stone sarcophagus on which Mary is seated.

Cosmè Tura is considered the first great painter in Renaissance Ferrara, a city in northern Italy. He spent most of his professional life in the service of the noble d'Este family, the dukes of Ferrara. Because Ferrara lacked strong artistic traditions, Cosmè was free to develop a very personal style. He may have been inspired by the works of Tuscan and Paduan artists, as well as by the Flemish, some of whose paintings figured in Ferrarese collections in the fifteenth century. In this early work, Cosmè showed an eccentric tendency to exaggerate human anatomy for expressive ends, as seen in the treatment of the Virgin's elongated hands. Purposeful distortions increase in his later works, which reverberate with spiritual and emotional fervor.

Provenance

Possibly (Duveen Brothers, Inc., London and New York).[1] Harold Irving Pratt [1877-1939] and Harriet Barnes Pratt [1879-1969], New York, by 1917 until at least 1939.[1] (Wildenstein & Co., Inc., New York); sold December 1943 to the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, New York;[2] gift 1952 to NGA.

[1] The provenance of the painting in the 1939 World's Fair catalogue begins with "Joseph Duveen, Millbank," although no other source lists Duveen. The second name in the 1939 provenance in "Francis Kleinberger." The picture first came to public attention when Pratt exhibited it in 1917 at Francis Kleinberger's in New York, but there is no convincing evidence that Pratt actually acquired the work from Kleinberger's.

Exhibition History
1917
Loan Exhibition of Italian Primitives, F. Kleinberger Galleries, New York, 1917, no. 78, repro.
1935
Italian Paintings of the Renaissance, The Century Association, New York, 1935, no. 16.
1939
An Exhibition of Italian Paintings and Drawings, Fogg Museum of Art, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1939, no. 40, as The Virgin and Child with The Annunciation.
1939
Masterpieces of Art. European Paintings and Sculpture from 1300-1800, New York World's Fair, 1939, no. 389.
1946
Recent Additions to the Kress Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1946, no. 827.
2000
The Gualenghi-d'Este Hours: Art and Devotion in Renaissance Ferrara, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 2000, brochure, repro. of detail, and unnumbered catalogue, fig. 54.
2002
Cosmè Tura: Painting and Design in Renaissance Ferrara, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, 2002, no. 4, repro.
2007
Cosmè Tura e Francesco del Cossa. L'arte a Ferrara nell'età di Borso d'Este [Cosmè Tura and Francesco del Cossa. Art in Ferrara at the time of Borso d'Este], Exhibit Halls, Palazzo dei Diamanti, Ferrara, 2007-2008, no. 55, repro.
Bibliography
1945
Paintings and Sculpture from the Kress Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1945 (reprinted 1947, 1949): 72, repro.
1946
Frankfurter, Alfred M. Supplement to the Kress Collection in the National Gallery. New York, 1946: 34, color repro. frontispiece
1952
Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds., Great Paintings from the National Gallery of Art. New York, 1952: 42, color repro.
1957
Shapley, Fern Rusk. Comparisons in Art: A Companion to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. London, 1957 (reprinted 1959): pl. 35.
1959
Paintings and Sculpture from the Samuel H. Kress Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1959: 122, repro.
1961
Walker, John, Guy Emerson, and Charles Seymour. Art Treasures for America: An Anthology of Paintings & Sculpture in the Samuel H. Kress Collection. London, 1961:, 48, colo repro. pl. 47
1963
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. New York, 1963 (reprinted 1964 in French, German, and Spanish): 301, repro.
1965
Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 132.
1966
Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds. A Pageant of Painting from the National Gallery of Art. 2 vols. New York, 1966: 1:60, color repro.
1966
Shapley, Fern Rusk. Paintings from the Samuel H. Kress Collection: Italian Schools, XIII-XV Century. London, 1966: 81-82, fig. 225.
1968
European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1968: 119, repro.
1975
European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 352, repro.
1979
Shapley, Fern Rusk. Catalogue of the Italian Paintings. 2 vols. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1979: I:509-510, II:pl. 356
1984
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 116, no. 97, color repro.
1985
European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 403, repro.
1992
National Gallery of Art, Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 18, repro.
1997
Barstow, Kurtis. "The Gualenghi-d'Este Hours": Art and Devotion in Renaissance Ferrara. Ph.D dissertation, University of California, Berkeley, 1997: viii, 22-23, 212 fig. I.9
1997
Campbell, Stephen J. Cosme Tura of Ferrara: Style, Politics and the Renaissance City, 1450-1495. Yale University Press, 1997: 16, repro. no. 9.
2003
Boskovits, Miklós, and David Alan Brown, et al. Italian Paintings of the Fifteenth Century. The Systematic Catalogue of the National Gallery of Art. Washington, D.C., 2003: 656-660, color repro.
2004
Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 26, no. 18, color repro.
2013
Acres, Alfred. Renaissance Invention and the Haunted Infancy. London and Turnhout, 2013: 105-106, fig. 73.