The Virgin and Child with a Saint, by Bartolomeo Montagna, at the Walker Art Gallery Cheshire Life: December 2018
Completed over half a millennia ago, the subject of this charming panel painting still resonates with audiences today. At its heart is the subject of motherly love. The Virgin Mary tenderly holds the baby Jesus, presenting him to, whilst also guardingly protecting him, from the mysterious bearded man who kneels in reverence. His identity remains unknown. It has been proposed that he is John the Baptist but representing him as an adult next to the baby Jesus would be unusual – more often when they are portrayed together they are shown as being of the same age. Arguably the man might have been a wealthy donor to the chapel for which this work would have been originally commissioned or a patron of the artist. People of status and power liked to immortalise themselves in artworks and also to elevate their status by showing themselves to be closer to God. Intriguingly the presence of the halo on his head suggests that he is no mere mortal and so the debate rages on.
Despite this work’s modest dimensions, being only little more than the size of a vinyl album, the artist has included many fine examples of his skill. The landscape to the left and the vanishing point on the horizon shows the artist’s awareness and mastery of perspective, a concept which we now take for granted but which was still very much a modern construct when this painting was created. Many contemporary paintings would still be depicting the figures as flat and two dimensional as seen in pre-renaissance medieval and Byzantium art. The Virgin Mary’s blue robes and white undergarments are used by the artist to show the play of light and shadow upon the folds of cloth.
Bartolomeo Montagna is a noted painter of the Italian Renaissance who, it is believed, trained in the studio of the great master Giovanni Bellini. He was known for his depictions of the Madonna, many of which hang in prestigious galleries around the world.
“The Virgin Mary’s blue robes and white undergarments are used by the artist to show the play of light and shadow upon the folds of cloth”
8TH- JANUARY 13TH
PETER PAN There’s an all-star cast in this swashbuckling pantomime.