Giovanni di Paolo (Giovanni di Paolo di Grazia) (Italian, Siena 1398–1482 Siena)
Tempera on wood, gold ground (partly checkered with modern red glazes)
Shaped top: overall 57 1/8 x 32 in. (145.1 x 81.3 cm); painted surface 54 1/4 x 32 in. (137.8 x 81.3 cm)
Bequest of George Blumenthal, 1941
Not on view
Dating from ca. 1445–50, this image was probably the center panel of an altarpiece paid for by the diminutive kneeling figure. The Virgin's humility is exalted by showing her seated on the ground, on an elaborately embroidered cushion, nursing the Christ child. The Anatolian carpet—a much valued object—is beautifully rendered.
At some point in the past the gilt background was scraped away and substituted by the modern checkered background. The haloes of the Madonna and Child are also modern, but the rest of the painting is in very good condition.
This painting dates from about 1445. The flesh areas of the Virgin and Child, the angels and donor, and the floor and pillow are remarkably well preserved; however, the haloes of the Virgin and Child, the checkered cloth of honor, and the gilt floral ornament on the Virgin's cloak are modern, the red of the Virgin's dress has been repainted, and her cloak is heavily abraded.
The compositional type of the Madonna of Humility, with the Madonna seated on the ground (usually on a cushion), derives from an early fourteenth-century prototype probably invented by Simone Martini (see Millard Meiss, "The Madonna of Humility," Art Bulletin 18 [December 1936], pp. 435–64).
The small donor kneeling at lower left has not been identified.
[Gretchen Wold 2011]
?[Durlacher, London]; George Blumenthal, New York (by 1926–d. 1941; cat., vol. 1, 1926, pl. XXVII)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Giovanni di Paolo: Paintings," August 14–October 8, 1973, no. 6.
Stella Rubinstein-Bloch. Catalogue of the Collection of George and Florence Blumenthal. Vol. 1, Paintings—Early Schools. Paris, 1926, unpaginated, pl. XXVII.
Bernhard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance. Oxford, 1932, p. 246, as an early work.
Bernhard Berenson. Pitture italiane del rinascimento. Milan, 1936, p. 212.
John Pope-Hennessy. Giovanni di Paolo, 1403–1483. London, 1937, pp. 67–68, 71, 92, 105 n. 22, 154, 173, pl. IX A, dates it shortly after 1445; compares it with a Madonna and Child in the church of S. Simeone, Rocca d'Orcia.
Cesare Brandi. "Giovanni di Paolo." Le arti 3 (April–May 1941), p. 241, 244 n. 34.
Cesare Brandi. "Giovanni di Paolo, II." Le arti 3 (June–July 1941), p. 327 n. 67, dates it about 1445–47.
Cesare Brandi. Giovanni di Paolo. Florence, 1947, pp. 17, 73 n. 34, p. 83 n. 67, p. 120 [same text as Refs. Brandi 1941].
Bernard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: Central Italian and North Italian Schools. London, 1968, vol. 1, p. 178.
Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1972, pp. 90, 347, 536, 608.
Federico Zeri with the assistance of Elizabeth E. Gardner. Italian Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Sienese and Central Italian Schools. New York, 1980, pp. 28–29, pl. 46, call it typical of the artist's style of about 1445–50.
Barbara G. Lane. The Altar and the Altarpiece: Sacramental Themes in Early Netherlandish Painting. New York, 1984, pp. 2, 4, 10 n. 7, fig. 2, dates it about 1455–60.
Henk van Os. Sienese Altarpieces, 1215–1460: Form, Content, Function. Vol. 2, 1344–1460. Groningen, 1990, pp. 83–84, fig. 69, sees the influence of Sassetta in the asymmetrical music-making angels, and that of Gentile da Fabriano in the mantle with dotted lining and brocade dress of the Madonna.
Frank Dabell inGold Backs, 1250–1480. Exh. cat., Matthiesen Fine Art. London, 1996, p. 139 n. 2, under no. 20, discusses the carpet, comparing it with that seen in a Madonna and Child by the same artist at Matthiesen.
Mojmír S. Frinta. "Part I: Catalogue Raisonné of All Punch Shapes." Punched Decoration on Late Medieval Panel and Miniature Painting. Prague, 1998, pp. 118, 222, classifies the punch marks appearing in this painting.
Walter B. Denny. How to Read Islamic Carpets. New York, 2014, p. 129, figs. 118–19 (color, overall and detail).