Gentile da Fabriano's patrons were princes, the church, and various city governments as well as the customary merchant clients. His art has a cosmopolitan flavor, in which brilliant color, textural richness, and ornamental pattern are combined.
In the Madonna and Child Enthroned, painted in Florence, Mary sits on a bench covered by floral material that falls onto an elaborately tiled floor. The elegantly attired figures are surrounded by four angels, barely visible, which have been incised into the gold-leaf background. In contrast to earlier devotional images in which the Madonna and Child appear as a celestial vision, the holy figures here appear very corporeal. As if to emphasize Mary's role as Divine Mother, the Christ Child gestures with his right hand toward the Latin word Mater inscribed on the collar of her mantle. The string in his other hand tethers a butterfly, a traditional symbol of Christ's resurrection from the tomb.
Gentile's art is typical of the International Style, a manner of painting which became popular at courts throughout Europe in the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries. Characterized by a refined decorative elegance, a concern for continuous rhythms, and the lavish use of gold and bright colors, this aristocratic manner fused the stylized art of the Middle Ages with the emerging naturalistic interests of the Renaissance.
upper center on the Virgin's collar: MATER (Mother) [DEI]; across bottom on the hem of her dress: AVE MARIA GRATIA PLENA DOM[INVS] TECV[M] BEN[EDICTA] (Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee, blessed), from Luke 1:28
Alexander Barker [c. 1797-1873], London, who possibly acquired it in Florence; (his sale, Christie, Manson & Woods, London, 6 June 1874, no. 45); (Grüner). E.J. Sartoris, London(?), and Paris, by 1876; (Nathan Wildenstein and René Gimpel, Paris and New York), by 1913; purchased 1918 by Henry Goldman [1856-1937], New York; (Duveen Brothers, Inc., London and New York); sold March 1937 to the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, New York; gift 1939 to NGA.
- Exhibition of Works by the Old Masters. Winter Exhibition, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1876, no. 195, as The Virgin and Child.
- Loan for display with permanent collection, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, at least 1910-1911.
- Fiftieth Anniversary Exhibition, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1920, unnumbered catalogue.
- Duveen Brothers. Duveen Pictures in Public Collections of America. New York, 1941: no. 26, repro.
- Preliminary Catalogue of Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1941: 74, no. 366.
- Book of Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1942: 247, repro. 110.
- Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds. Masterpieces of Painting from the National Gallery of Art. New York, 1944: 26, color repro.
- Frankfurter, Alfred M. The Kress Collection in the National Gallery. New York, 1944: 74, repro. no. 49
- Paintings and Sculpture from the Kress Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1945 (reprinted 1947, 1949): 23, repro.
- Einstein, Lewis. Looking at Italian Pictures in the National Gallery of Art. Washington, 1951: 30, repro. 28.
- Shapley, Fern Rusk. Comparisons in Art: A Companion to the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC. London, 1957 (reprinted 1959): pl. 4.
- Paintings and Sculpture from the Samuel H. Kress Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1959: 46, repro.
- Shapley, Fern Rusk. Early Italian Painting in the National Gallery of Art. Washington, D.C., 1959 (Booklet Number Three in Ten Schools of Painting in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.): 22, color repro.
- Walker, John, Guy Emerson, and Charles Seymour. Art Treasures for America: An Anthology of Paintings & Sculpture in the Samuel H. Kress Collection. London, 1961: 9-12, color repro.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. New York, 1963 (reprinted 1964 in French, German, and Spanish): 298, repro.
- Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 56.
- Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds. A Pageant of Painting from the National Gallery of Art. 2 vols. New York, 1966: 1:10, color repro.
- Shapley, Fern Rusk. Paintings from the Samuel H. Kress Collection: Italian Schools, XIII-XV Century. London, 1966: 76-77, fig. 212.
- European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1968: 48, repro.
- Finley, David Edward. A Standard of Excellence: Andrew W. Mellon Founds the National Gallery of Art at Washington. Washington, 1973: 79.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 148, repro.
- Shapley, Fern Rusk. Catalogue of the Italian Paintings. 2 vols. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1979: I:195-196, II:pl. 136.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 171, repro.
- Kopper, Philip. America's National Gallery of Art: A Gift to the Nation. New York, 1991: 178, color repro.
- National Gallery of Art. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1992: 13, repro.
- 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: 288-292, color repro.
- Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 18, no. 10, color repro.