This work reflects the relief style of the great Florentine sculptor Donatello, whose approach to statuary is glimpsed in the terra-cotta Madonna and Child of c. 1425. In both marble and bronze, Donatello had devised ways of using very low, flat relief to suggest figures in a deep space. The able and intelligent follower of Donatello who produced this small image has suggested an architectural setting receding into space behind the Madonna and Child.
The figures appear in a close-up view on a balcony or parapet. The child stands on the ledge in a lively pose that combines a forward shift of his weight with a twist backward to cling to his mother. With delicate modulations of his wax model, the sculptor varied the textures of crumpled cloth, fine fringe, and feathery hair, set against powerful architecture. The gestures of the Madonna's and Child's hands, paralleling each other with choreographic grace, recall those of Donatello's statues at the Basilica of Saint Anthony in Padua. Here the figures seem to reach out in greeting toward acclaiming worshippers. One scholar has named the composition "The Madonna of Welcome."
Gustave Dreyfus [1837-1914], Paris; his estate; purchased 1930 by (Duveen Brothers, Inc., London and New York); purchased 1945 by the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, New York; gift 1957 to NGA.
- Italian Renaissance Sculpture in the Time of Donatello, Detroit Institute of Arts; Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas; Forte Belvedere, Florence, Italy, 1985-1986, no. 33 (English catalogue), no. 51 (Italian catalogue), repro.
- From Filippo Lippi to Piero della Francesca: Fra Carnavale and the Making of a Renaissance Master, Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2004-2005, no. 12, repro.
- Mantegna e Padova, 1445-1460, Musei Civici agli Eremitani, Padua, 2006-2007, no. 47, repro.
- Molinier, Émile. Les Bronzes de la Renaissance. Les Plaquettes; Catalogue Raisonné. 2 vols. Paris, 1886: 1:34, no. 64, as by Donatello.
- Migeon, Gaston. “La collection de M. Gustave Dreyfus, III: Petits bronzes—Bas-reliefs.” Les Arts 73 (Jan. 1908): 22, repro. 17, as attributed to Desiderio da Settignano.
- Vaudoyer, Jean-Louis. “La collection Gustave Dreyfus.” L’Amour de l’Art 6, no. 7 (1925): 256-257 (as by Desiderio [?]), repro. 254 as by Donatello.
- Ricci, Seymour de. The Gustave Dreyfus Collection. Reliefs and Plaquettes. Oxford, 1931: 10, no. 7, pl. 5, as Donatello.
- Renaissance Bronzes: Statuettes, Reliefs and Plaquettes, Medals and Coins from the Kress Collection. Introduction by Perry B. Cott. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1951: 141, repro. 55, as Madonna and Child, Attributed to Donatello.
- Pope-Hennessy, John, assisted by Ronald Lightbown. Catalogue of Italian Sculpture in the Victoria and Albert Museum. 3 vols. London, 1964: 1:90-91, no. 72, note.
- Pope-Hennessy, John W. Renaissance Bronzes from the Samuel H. Kress Collection: Reliefs, Plaquettes, Statuettes, Utensils and Mortars. London, 1965: 21-22, no. 60, fig. 7, as style of Donatello.
- Negri Arnoldi, Francesco. “Bellano e Bertoldo nella bottega di Donatello.” Prospettiva 33–36 (1983-1984): 99, fig. 14, as after Donatello (Bertoldo?).
- Wilson, Carolyn C. Renaissance Small Bronze Sculpture and Associated Decorative Arts at the National Gallery of Art. Washington, 1983: 14-15, no. 6, as Paduan follower of Donatello.
- Avery, Charles. L’invenzione dell’umano: introduzione a Donatello. Florence, 1986: 52, fig. 44, as follower of Donatello.
- Avery, Charles. “Donatello’s Madonnas Revisited.” In Donatello-Studien. Ed. Monika Cämmerer. Munich, 1989: 226–228, fig. 17.
- Vertova, Louisa. “La mano tesa: contributo alle ipotesi di ricostruzione dell’Altare di Donatello a Padova.” In Donatello-Studien. Ed. Monika Cämmerer. Munich, 1989: 209–218, esp. 216, note 10.
- Kokole, Stanko. “Notes on the sculptural sources for Giorgio Schiavone’s Madonna in London.” Venezia Arti 4 (1990): 50–56, fig. 3, as style of Donatello.
- Avery, Charles. Donatello: catalogo completo delle opere. Florence, 1991: 50, no. 31, repro.
- National Gallery of Art, Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 285, repro.
- Avery, Charles. Donatello: An Introduction. New York, 1994: 45–46, 121.
- Chapman, Hugo, ed. Padua in the 1450s: Marco Zoppo and his Contemporaries. Exh. cat. British Museum, London, 1998: 20 fig. 9, 22, 41 n. 28
- Lewis, Douglas. "Mantova e la produzione di placchette nel XV secolo." In Rossi, Francesco, ed. Placchette e rilievi di bronzo nell'età del Mantegna. Exh. cat. Museo della Città di Palazzo San Sebastiano, Mantua, 2006: 7.
- Bormand, Marc. La Vierge et l'Enfant: Deux reliefs en terre cuite. Paris, 2008: 13, 40 fig. 16.
- Leino, Marika. Fashion, Devotion and Contemplation: The Status and Functions of Italian Renaissance Plaquettes. Oxford, 2013: 187-188, fig. 117.