Madonna and Child

Artist: Berlinghiero (Italian, Lucca, active by 1228–died by 1236)

Medium: Tempera on wood, gold ground

Dimensions: Overall 31 5/8 x 21 1/8 in. (80.3 x 53.7 cm); painted surface 30 x 19 1/2 in. (76.2 x 49.5 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: Gift of Irma N. Straus, 1960

Accession Number: 60.173


Of exceptional beauty and importance, this painting may date to the 1230s and is one of only two works that can be confidently assigned to Berlinghiero, the leading painter in Lucca. It follows the Byzantine type known as the Hodegetria ("She who shows the way"), familiar from icons that arrived in Italy following the fall of Constantinople in 1204. The Madonna points to Jesus as the way to salvation; dressed like an ancient philosopher, he holds a scroll. One scholar has noted: "Berlinghiero’s work operates with nuances . . . These nuances include the proportions of the figures, the interplay of their bodies and halos, and the language of gestures, with their gentle flow and their subtle meaning on both human and theological levels."