Exhibitions: Renaissance Paintings

Sano di Pietro: Madonna of Humility

Sano di Pietro (Italian, Sienese, 1405–1481). Madonna of Humility, early 1440s. Tempera and gold on panel with engaged frame. Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Mary Babbott Ladd, Lydia Babbott Stokes, and Frank L. Babbott, Jr., in memory of their father, Frank L. Babbott, 34.840

This early Madonna is unusual in Sano's prolific career in that it shows not only the graceful linear forms that characterize Sienese painting, but also the powerful effect of Florentine realism in the pliant muscularity of the Child and the sense of observed reality in the head of the Madonna. The Madonna of Humility refers to images of the Virgin seated modestly on the ground (usually, as here, on a cushion), emphasizing her humanity and motherhood, as opposed to the Madonna Enthroned, which presents her as the Queen of Heaven.

As was common in other images of this genre, this Madonna is surrounded by cherubim, junior members of the family of angels and often depicted as winged heads.