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Work The Madonna and Child Surrounded by Six Angels, St. Anthony of Padua, St. John the Evangelist

Department of Paintings: Italian painting

La Vierge et l'Enfant entourés d'angesSaint Antoine de Padoue

© 2003 RMN / Hervé Lewandowski

Paintings
Italian painting

Author(s):
Bastien Speranza

Commissioned from Sassetta in 1437 by the monks of the monastery of San Francesco at Borgo Sansepolcro in Tuscany, and installed in their church over the tomb of the Blessed Ranieri Rasini (d. 1304) in 1444, this double-sided altarpiece originally comprised sixty panels. Half of these have survived and are to be found in private collections and museums in Settignano (near Florence), London, New York, Berlin, Chantilly, Cleveland, Moscow, Detroit, and elsewhere.

In memoriam

In memory of the Blessed Ranieri Rasini, a native of their town, the monks of the monastery of San Francesco at Borgo Sansepolcro decided in 1437 to call on Sassetta, the most highly reputed of Siena's artists, to create a multipanel, double-sided altar piece, or polyptych. Painted in 1437-44, the work was made up of sixty panels, thirty of which have been identified in public and private collections around the world. The Madonna and Child Surrounded by Six Angels occupied the central panel, facing the faithful in the nave and flanked by images of four saints: John the Evangelist, Anthony of Padua, the Blessed Ranieri Rasini, and John the Baptist. Below them the predella comprised scenes from the Passion. On the back of the polyptych an image of St. Francis, the monks' patron saint, was set amid eight episodes from his life. The predella, two scenes of which are in the Louvre, recounts the life of Rasini.

Engaging naïveté

From the great Sienese masters of the 14th century Sassetta inherited a marked taste for gold and silver, vivid colors - lapis lazuli in particular - and finely worked frames. At the same time, however, he was abreast of the new approaches to perspective being explored in Florence in 1410-20, and here he creates a feeling of depth for the Virgin's throne and the multicolored floor, and gives his figures real volume. The engaging naïveté of the figures - the affectionate gaze of the Virgin, the naturalness of the Child's pose, and the smiles of the angels - alleviates the solemnity of the scene.

Iconography

Seated on a throne, the Virgin wears a voluminous blue cloak that also covers her head. She is given a starred halo, for she is being compared to the morning star, herald of the sun. Upright on his mother's knee, the Infant Jesus is wearing a transparent veil. Here Sassetta depicts the Madonna and Child in Paradise, the hedge of roses to each side suggesting the traditional image of Eden as a luxuriant garden. Around them, angels sing to the glory of God. In the foreground to the left, we see a hurdy-gurdy, to the right a lute; behind them are a harp on the left and a psaltery on the right. In the upper part of the picture, two angels hold a jewel-encrusted crown over the Virgin, Mother of God and Queen of Heaven.

Technical description

  • Stefano di Giovanni dit SASSETTA (Connu à Sienne en 1426 - Sienne, 1450)

    La Vierge et l'Enfant entourés d'angesSaint Antoine de Padoue

    Entre 1437 et 1444

  • H. : 2,07 m. ; L. : 1,18 m.

  • Acquis en 1956 , 1956

    R.F. 1956-11 a et b

  • Paintings

    Denon wing
    1st floor
    Salle des Sept-Mètres
    Room 4

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