National Gallery of Art - EXHIBITIONS

Image: Artistic Exchange: Europe and the Islamic World

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Gentile da Fabriano
Umbrian, c. 1370 - 1427
Madonna and Child
c. 1422, tempera on panel, 95.7 x 56.5 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington
Samuel H. Kress Collection
Image: Gentile da Fabriano
Madonna and Child, c. 1422
Samuel H. Kress Collection

The exquisitely crafted halo of Gentile's Madonna was patterned after inlaid brass trays from fourteenth-century Egypt and Syria. Their principal ornament is an encircling inscription in a cursive Arabic script known as Mamluk thuluth, after the ruling dynasty. Blossoms or other decorative motifs divide it into equal sections. Gentile's letter forms echo the script's gracefully tapered verticals and angular tops--and the single vertical of the Arabic letter alif is recognizable--but his inscription is illegible because he invented most of the letters and their connections.

Compare the Madonna's halo with the brass tray from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, in the Palace and Mosque: Islamic Art from the Victoria and Albert Museum exhibition and a plate from the Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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