Virgin & Child with Saints John the Baptist, Jerome, Lawrence, and Dominic

Inventory Number: 40347

EKTA 4255 (12X18 cm)


The altarpiece, from the Chapel of the Annunciation in the Church of San Domenico in Perugia, depicts the Madonna and Child seated on a throne, surrounded by the usual halo in the shape of a large almond, between Saints John the Baptist and Lawrence (at the left), and Jerome and Dominic (to the right). The Virgin is in a retracted pose, in the act of turning her gaze to the little Jesus, while he, seated in turn on the knees of the Mother, turns his attention to the book that she holds, naturally in her left hand; it is almost as though the Child, moved by a sudden intuition, lends interest to the reading that Mary, a moment ago, interrupted because of him. Here one deals with, as usual in compositions of the period, a rhetorical device to foreshadow future events that the Mother and Son share within the Divine Plan. The book is evidently a prophetic text, allusive to the trials Jesus will have to face as an adult for the salvation of mankind. The composed serenity of the Virgin and the informal liveliness of the Child keep the image in the ambit of a warm domestic scene. The otherworldly dimension of the scene, that which gives the vision its aura of sacredness, is evoked by the blue of the sky and by the clouds of the pedestal, conformed to the canons of a ‘Sacred Conversation.’ The gold halo surrounding the Virgin and the baby Jesus itself, emanating light and adorned by exalting cherubim, is wedged between two angels with clothes billowing in the wind who hold high a crown on the head of Mary. This fusion of Madonna in Majesty style with the more archaic style of The Coronation, dating back in its first form to Medieval Byzantine, obeys the specific request of the commissioners and reflects an iconographic module rather diffuse in Tuscan and Umbrian-Marche painting of the late 1400s. The chapel itself, founded in 1484 by Piergentile Belli in memory of his father Lorenzo, was originally dedicated to the Madonna of the Rosary (this was a Marian devotion of medieval and Dominican tradition), before the dedication was changed to that of the Annunciation to the Virgin, here alluding to one of the three ‘stories’ inserted in the predella/dais (the others were the Martirio di San Lorenzo/The Martyrdom of St. Lawrence and the Deposizione di Gesù dalla Croce/Deposition of Jesus from the Cross, left up until now without identification). This painting is expected to be returned on display to the Painting Gallery.