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Massignano, Church of James the Greater - Vittore Crivelli, Madonna

adoring the Child






This painting, attributed definitively to Vittore Crivelli by the art critic Pietro Zampetti in 1950, was considered a late work painted for the oratory of the Confraternity of the Sacrament of Massignano. Characterized by a strongly symmetrical composition, in which the alternation of volumes is balanced as is the harmonious equilibrium of the colours red and green, the work re-proposes the theme of the Adoration of the Baby Jesus. The vermilion cloth together with the tall figure of the Virgin seems to divide the painting into two parts, in a bilateral symmetry which re-proposes the figure of the praying angel, the group of triple winged heads and the presence of an allegory specific to mediaeval Christian iconography on the parapet edged with droplets. Whilst on the left there is an open book which alludes to the Bible, on the right there is a crimson carnation which symbolises the Passion of Christ. According to the Christian tradition, at the moment in which the Redeemer died, Mary gave in to her maternal pain and the tears that rolled down her face wet the earth from which vermilion carnations sprouted. Undoubtedly many artists knew this legendary story and, influenced by its moving poetry, inserted so-called “little nails” into works on sacred subjects to allude to the martyrdom of the Saviour. The only element that breaks up the studied balance of the work is the juicy apple at the Madonna's feet which recalls the reason for which the ivory faces of the Virgin, the Cherubim and the winged heads are marked by a prophetic sadness. The apple, the only feature that escapes from the balancing system used by Crivelli, attracts the gaze of the observer who is forced to reflect on the sacrifice of Christ, who died to save the world from its dissolute sins.