Between the realms of heaven and earth, the Madonna of Humility, as she is called when seated on the ground, is positioned at the horizon of a sky filled with adoring angels. Among the layers of surface details are two remarkable angels freely tooled into the gold background as they crown the Madonna Queen of Heaven. The Christ Child is shown in a deep sleep—an allusion to his future sacrifice and death. It is one of the finest works by Pietro di Domenico, who was active in the region of the Marches. Exceptionally, the picture survives intact with its original engaged frame decorated with a continuous flower pattern and the artist's signature.
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Title:Madonna and Child with Angels
Artist:Pietro di Domenico da Montepulciano (Italian, Marchigian, active first quarter 15th century)
Medium:Tempera on wood, gold ground
Dimensions:Overall, with engaged frame, 34 5/8 x 26 1/4 in. (87.9 x 66.7 cm); painted surface 30 5/8 x 22 1/4 in. (77.8 x 56.5 cm)
Credit Line:Rogers Fund, 1907
Aside from the damage to the Virgin’s face and the discoloration of her blue mantle and the green of the garden, this work is in exceptionally fine condition and retains its original, engaged frame, decorated with a floral motif and the artist’s signature and date, 1420. It is one of the most refined works by Pietro di Domenico, who was a leading, late Gothic painter active in the Marches. The Virgin is shown seated on a cloth spread in a garden, surrounded by music-making angels. Other angels, tooled into the gold background rather than painted, hold a crown over her. Seraphs decorate her mantle. Thus a number of themes traditionally associated with the Madonna are combined: Mary as Queen of Heaven; the Madonna of Humility, the Madonna in a hortus conclusus, or enclosed garden (the lack of an enclosure is not unusual in Italian painting of the period). The Christ Child is shown asleep on her lap, covered with a transparent veil, a motif frequently thought to refer Christ to the Eucharist and its presentation with a humeral veil. He wears a coral amulet as a talisman. The picture thus has some of the same imagery found in such popular sources as the medieval hymn, the Salve Regina.
De Marchi (1987) rightly suggests that the technique of incising the angels into the gold background derives from Gentile da Fabriano. It is a practice otherwise more common to goldsmith work of the period than to painting.
The first record (in 1841) of The Met'spicture is in a convent near Naples and this has given rise to suggestions about contacts between the Marches and the Kingdom of Naples and of the range of Pietro’s activity (Bologna 1985). However, Mazzalupi (2006) has suggested that the picture could well have been moved from a Camaldolese hermitage near Ancona—the area in which we know Pietro di Domenico to have been active. It is the kind of deluxe object that was intended for private devotion in a domestic setting.
Keith Christiansen 2011
Inscription: Signed, dated, and inscribed: (base of frame) petrus·dominici·demonte·pulitiano·pinsit· M·CCCC·XX·; (on Madonna's halo) AVE GRATIA PLENA D[OMIN]US TECU[M] (Luke 1:28); (on her crown) ACCIPE CORONAM (Receive [thy] crown); (border of her mantle) MARIA VIRGO SPONSA CHR[ISTI] (Virgin Mary, Bride of Christ); (neck of her dress) REGINA C[O]ELI (Queen of Heaven); (edges of her sleeves) AVE MARIA
church of the Camaldolese monastery, Camaldoli, near Naples (by 1841–at least 1870); [Georges Brauer, Florence, until 1907; sold to The Met]
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Italian Renaissance Frames," June 5, 1990–January 6, 1991, no. 61.
Urbino. Palazzo Ducale. "Fioritura tardogotica nelle Marche," July 25–October 25, 1998, no. 107.
Fabriano. Spedale di Santa Maria del Buon Gesù. "Gentile da Fabriano e l'altro Rinascimento," April 21–July 23, 2006, no. II.6.
Giovanni Rosini. Storia della pittura italiana esposta coi monumenti. Vol. 3, Pisa, 1841, p. 25 n. 28 [2nd ed., vol. 3, 1850, p. 21 n. 26], as in the church of the monastery of Camaldoli near Naples; describes the composition and mentions the signature and date; relates it to Simone Martini.
E. Pistolesi. Guida metodica di Napoli. Naples, 1845, p. 172, as in the church of the monastery of Camaldoli near Naples; describes the composition and mentions the signature and date.
Giovanni Battista Cavalcaselle. Unpublished manuscript. n.d. [Biblioteca Marciana, Venice; see Ref. Gardner 1972].
Heinrich Wilhelm Schulz. Denkmaeler der Kunst des Mittelalters in Unteritalien. Dresden, 1860, vol. 3, pp. 178–79, as in the church at Camaldoli; transcribes the inscriptions and describes the painting, including a few erroneous details.
Joseph Archer Crowe and Giovanni Battista Cavalcaselle. A History of Painting in Italy from the Second to the Fourteenth Century. Vol. 1, London, 1864, p. 558, as in the choir of the church of the monastery at Camoldoli.
A. Novelli. Guida . . . di Napoli. 1870, p. 124 [see Ref. Zeri and Gardner 1980], mentions it as in the monastery at Camaldoli.
J[oseph]. A[rcher]. Crowe and G[iovanni]. B[attista]. Cavalcaselle. A History of Painting in Italy: Umbria, Florence and Siena from the Second to the Sixteenth Century. Ed. Langton Douglas. Vol. 2, Giotto and the Giottesques. repr. 1923. London, 1903, p. 304.
L[ucy]. O. P[erkins]. "A Painting by Pietro di Domenico." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 3 (June 1908), pp. 117–19, ill., notes the influence of Gentile da Fabriano, and only an indirect connection to the art of Siena, perhaps through Allegretto Nuzi.
Joseph Breck. "Sammlungen: Die Neuerwerbungen des Metropolitan Museum in New York." Der Cicerone 1 (1909), p. 292, ill.
Arduino Colasanti. Gentile da Fabriano. Bergamo, 1909, p. 90, ill. p. 95, finds Gentile da Fabriano's influence obvious in this work.
Wilhelm Rolfs. Geschichte der Malerei Neapels. Leipzig, 1910, p. 75.
F. Mason Perkins. "Alcuni dipinti senesi." Rassegna d'arte senese 7, nos. 1–2 (1911), p. 19 n. 1.
Mario Salmi. "Appunti per la storia della pittura in Puglia." L'arte 22 (1919), p. 160, relates it to a fresco of the Madonna and Child in the church of Santa Maria Vetere, Bitetto; assumes Camaldoli to be the provenance of the picture.
Umberto Gnoli. "Pietro da Montepulciano e Giacomo da Recanati." Bollettino d'arte 1 (June 1922), pp. 574–78, ill., identifies the artist as the same one who painted an altarpiece of the Madonna and Child with saints, formerly in the church of San Vito, Recanati (now Pinacoteca Civica, Recanati), signed and dated 1422.
Raimond van Marle. The Development of the Italian Schools of Painting. Vol. 8, The Hague, 1927, pp. 264–65 n. 1, pp. 267–68, ill. (frontispiece), calls the artist a follower of Gentile; assumes that Camaldoli was the original destination of the picture.
Roberto Longhi. "Una 'Coronazione della Vergine' di Pietro di Domenico da Montepulciano." Vita artistica 2 (January 1927), p. 18.
Bernard Berenson in The Michael Friedsam Collection. [completed 1928], p. 65.
W. G. Constable. "An Umbrian Puzzle." Pantheon 3 (January–June 1929), pp. 26–28, ill., compares it with a similar picture he attributes to the school of Gentile da Fabriano (W. H. Woodward, London); suggests that both paintings may be copies after a lost work by Gentile.
Lionello Venturi. Pitture italiane in America. Milan, 1931, unpaginated, pl. CX.
Bernhard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance. Oxford, 1932, p. 457.
Arduino Colasanti. Die Malerei des XV. Jahrhunderts in den italienischen Marken. Florence, 1932, p. 26, pl. 22.
Lionello Venturi. Italian Paintings in America. Vol. 1, Romanesque and Gothic. New York, 1933, unpaginated, pl. 134.
[F. Mason] Perkins inAllgemeines Lexikon der bildenden Künstler. Ed. Hans Vollmer. Vol. 27, Leipzig, 1933, p. 18.
Luigi Serra. L'arte nelle Marche. Vol. 2, Il periodo del rinascimento. Rome, 1934, pp. 380–82, fig. 486.
Bernhard Berenson. Pitture italiane del rinascimento. Milan, 1936, p. 392.
Pasquale Rotondi. Studi e ricerche intorno a Lorenzo e Jacopo Salimbeni da Sanseverino, Pietro da Montepulciano e Giacomo da Recanati. Fabriano, 1936, p. 113.
Harry B. Wehle. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Catalogue of Italian, Spanish, and Byzantine Paintings. New York, 1940, pp. 100–101, ill., identifies the monastery at Camaldoli as the provenance of the picture.
Gizella Firestone. "The Sleeping Christ-Child in Italian Renaissance Representations of the Madonna." Marsyas 2 (1942), pp. 48, 50, fig. 7, discusses the iconography of the veil and of the posture of the sleeping Child.
Irnerio Patrizi. "Un affresco di Pietro da Montepulciano." Paragone 5 (March 1954), pp. 26–29, p. 31 n. 12, fig. 27.
Josephine L. Allen and Elizabeth E. Gardner. A Concise Catalogue of the European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1954, pp. 77–78.
Fern Rusk Shapley. Paintings from the Samuel H. Kress Collection. Vol. 1, Italian Schools: XIII–XV Century. London, 1966, p. 79, under no. K59.
Millard Meiss. "Sleep in Venice: Ancient Myths and Renaissance Proclivities." Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 110 (October 1966), p. 360 n. 93.
Giuseppe Marchini. "Lorenzo Salimbeni, 1406." Commentari 17 (October–December 1966), p. 287, assumes that it was made for the church at Camaldoli.
Brigitte Klesse. Seidenstoffe in der italienischen Malerei des 14. Jahrhunderts. Bern, 1967, p. 438, no. 447, p. 481, no. 517, reproduces the design of the textile upon which the Madonna sits and of her robe.
Bernard Berenson. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: Central Italian and North Italian Schools. London, 1968, vol. 1, p. 342; vol. 2, pl. 523.
Francesco Rossi. "Appunti sulla pittura gotica fra Ancona e Macerata." Bollettino d'arte 53 (October–December 1968), p. 200, notes the influence of Gothic Marchigian painters, particularly Lorenzo Salimbeni.
Ferdinando Bologna. I pittori alla corte Angioina di Napoli, 1266–1414. Rome, 1969, p. 348.
Alvar Gonzalez-Palacios. "Pittura nel maceratese dal Duecento al tardo Gotico." Arte illustrata 4 (November–December 1971), p. 71.
Elizabeth E. Gardner. "Dipinti rinascimentali del Metropolitan Museum nelle carte di G. B. Cavalcaselle." Saggi e memorie di storia dell'arte 8 (1972), pp. 70–71, figs. 9 (sketch), 10, publishes a sketch after the painting made by Cavalcaselle [see Ref. n.d.] when he saw the work at the monastery in Camaldoli in 1859–60; mentions that it is not known when the painting left the monastery.
Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri. Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections. Cambridge, Mass., 1972, pp. 165, 313, 605.
Francesco Abbate. Storia di Napoli. Vol. 4, La pittura in Campania prima di Colantonio. [Naples], , p. 498.
Dizionario enciclopedico Bolaffi dei pittori e degli incisori italiani. Vol. 9, Turin, 1975, p. 62, fig. 75.
Michel Laclotte and Elisabeth Mognetti. Peinture italienne. Paris, 1976, unpaginated, under no. 205.
Alberto Rossi. I Salimbeni. Milan, 1976, p. 212 n. 70, states that it was painted for the church at Camaldoli.
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. 65–66, pl. 33, find no evidence that the picture was actually made at the monastery where it was located during the nineteenth century; believe it is more likely that the painting was made for private devotional use; state that the composition is based on a fresco of 1416 by the Salimbeni brothers (Oratorio di San Giovanni, Urbino).
John Pope-Hennessy. "Roger Fry and The Metropolitan Museum of Art." Oxford, China, and Italy: Writings in Honour of Sir Harold Acton on his Eightieth Birthday. Ed. Edward Chaney and Neil Ritchie. London, 1984, p. 237.
Ferdinando Bologna. "Ancora sui marchigiani a Napoli agli inizi del XV secolo e due opere inedite del Maestro dei Penna." Paragone 36 (January–March–May 1985), pp. 84–86, 89 n. 9, p. 90 n. 13, believes this painting arrived at the Camaldoli monastery in 1420 and calls it an example of the strong influences existing between the Marchigian Pietro and the Neapolitan Maestro dei Penna.
Giuseppe Vitalini Sacconi. Macerata e il suo territorio: la pittura. Macerata, 1985, p. 58.
Andrea De Marchi. "Michele di Matteo a Venezia e l'eredità lagunare di Gentile da Fabriano." Prospettiva no. 51 (October 1987), p. 30, fig. 34 (detail), suggests that the figures incised on the gilt background derive directly from Gentile da Fabriano.
Andrea De Marchi. "Per un riesame della pittura tardogotica a Venezia: Nicolò di Pietro e il suo contesto adriatico." Bollettino d'arte 72 (July–October 1987), pp. 56, 65 n. 111, rejects Bologna's [see Ref. 1985] hypothesis of an artistic exchange between the Marches and Naples and links this painting to Gentile's return to the Marches in 1420.
Andrea De Marchi inLa pittura in Italia: il Quattrocento. revised and expanded ed. [Milan], 1987, vol. 2, pp. 738–39.
Gianpiero Donnini. "Gli affreschi in S. Nicolò di Osimo e qualche appunto su Pietro di Domenico da Montepulciano." Notizie da Palazzo Albani 16, no. 1 (1987), pp. 7–8, fig. 2, believes that it was made for the Camaldoli monastery.
Michel Laclotte and Elisabeth Mognetti. Avignon, musée du Petit Palais: Peinture italienne. 3rd ed. Paris, 1987, p. 189, under no. 205.
Pierluigi Leone de Castris. "Il 'Maestro dei Penna' uno e due ed altri problemi di pittura primo-quattrocentesca a Napoli." Scritti di storia dell'arte in onore di Raffaello Causa. Naples, 1988, p. 54.
Pietro Zampetti. Pittura nelle Marche. Vol. 1, Dalle origini al primo Rinascimento. Florence, 1988, p. 299 n. 4.
Timothy J. Newbery and Laurence B. Kanter inItalian Renaissance Frames. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1990, pp. 86–87, no. 61, ill. (color).
Andrea De Marchi. "Andrea de Aste e la pittura tra Genova e Napoli all'inizio del Quattrocento." Bollettino d'arte 76 (July–October 1991), p. 127 n. 17, states that it is not documented that this work was painted for the Camaldoli monastery or that it was executed in Naples; calls it a painting meant for private devotions, thus by definition portable.
Andrea De Marchi. Gentile da Fabriano: Un viaggio nella pittura italiana alla fine del gotico. Milan, 1992, pp. 30–31, 54, 90 n. 50, pp. 120, 131 n. 32, p. 211 n. 37, figs. 16 (detail), 65.
Fabiola Brugiamolini. "Il polittico datato 1418 nel Battistero di San Giovanni a Osimo e Pietro di Domenico da Montepulciano." Studi per Pietro Zampetti. Ed. Ranieri Varese. Ancona, 1993, p. 120, discusses the origins of the painter.
Katharine Baetjer. European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art by Artists Born Before 1865: A Summary Catalogue. New York, 1995, p. 119, ill. p. 120.
Enrica Neri Lusanna inThe Dictionary of Art. Ed. Jane Turner. Vol. 24, New York, 1996, p. 780.
Bonita Cleri. Antonio da Fabriano: eccentrico protagonista nel panorama artistico del Quattrocento marchigiano. Fabriano, 1997, p. 68.
Andrea De Marchi inFioritura tardogotica nelle Marche. Ed. Paolo Dal Poggetto. Exh. cat., Palazzo Ducale, Urbino. Milan, 1998, pp. 276–77, no. 107, ill. (color).
Mojmír S. Frinta. "Part I: Catalogue Raisonné of All Punch Shapes." Punched Decoration on Late Medieval Panel and Miniature Painting. Prague, 1998, p. 531, classifies a punch mark appearing in this painting.
Andrea De Marchi. "Pittori a Camerino nel Quattrocento: le ombre di Gentile e la luce di Piero." Pittori a Camerino nel Quattrocento. Ed. Andrea De Marchi. Jesi, Italy, 2002, p. 90 n. 57.
Carl Brandon Strehlke. Italian Paintings 1250–1450 in the John G. Johnson Collection and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Philadelphia, 2004, p. 357, fig. 66.1.
Michel Laclotte and Esther Moench. Peinture italienne: musée du Petit Palais Avignon. new ed. Paris, 2005, p. 177, under no. 230, question the date of 1420.
Matteo Mazzalupi inGentile da Fabriano and the Other Renaissance. Ed. Laura Laureati and Lorenza Mochi Onori. Exh. cat., Spedale di Santa Maria del Buon Gesù, Fabriano. Milan, 2006, pp. 110–11, 210, no. II.6, ill. (color) [Italian ed., "Gentile da Fabriano e l'altro Rinascimento"], as "Madonna of Humility and Angels"; suggests that it may have been taken to Naples from a Camaldolese hermitage in Ancona, where the artist's presence is recorded.
Andrea De Marchi inGentile da Fabriano and the Other Renaissance. Ed. Laura Laureati and Lorenza Mochi Onori. Exh. cat., Spedale di Santa Maria del Buon Gesù, Fabriano. Milan, 2006, pp. 95, 181 [Italian ed., "Gentile da Fabriano e l'altro Rinascimento"].
Matteo Mazzalupi inPittori ad Ancona nel Quattrocento. Ed. Andrea De Marchi and Matteo Mazzalupi. Milan, 2008, pp. 131–33, no. 10, ill. (color), remarks on the influence of Gentile da Fabriano and notes that the hermitage of Camaldoli in Naples was founded in 1585 by the congregation of Montecorona, itself constituted in 1523, and that the picture could have been brought there by hermits from Ancona; identifies the inscriptions with the beginning of the "Regina coeli", the antiphon "Ave virgo speciosa", and, probably, the antiphon "Veni sponsa Christi".
Mauro Minardi. Lorenzo e Jacopo Salimbeni: vicende e protagonisti della pittura tardogotica nelle Marche e in Umbria. Florence, 2008, p. 116 n. 43, p. 134.
Andrea De Marchi inEntre tradition et modernité: peinture italienne des XIVe et XVe siècles. Exh. cat., G. Sarti, Paris. London, 2008, pp. 146, 152.
Mauro Minardi inThe Alana Collection. Ed. Sonia Chiodo and Serena Padovani. Vol. 3, Italian Paintings from the 14th to 16th Century. Florence, 2014, pp. 239–40, 247 n. 14.
Caroline Elam. Roger Fry and Italian Art. London, 2019, p. 41, fig. 1.30 (color).
Exceptionally, the picture survives intact with its original engaged cassetta frame decorated with a continuous flower-and-tendril festoon pattern and the artist's signature. This sgraffito decoration, created by scratching the paint from the gilt surface, recalls the borders of contemporary illuminated manuscripts. The outermost border is regilt, but the red paint on the sides is original.
See also Newbery and Kanter 1990.
There is a close copy after this painting in the study collection of the Conservation Center of the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, New York (see note of 10/13/89 in archive file).
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