"The Madonna and Child", depicting the Virgin Mary holding the baby Jesus.

Brief IdentificationEdit

The Madonna and Child is a painting by the Sienese painter Duccio di Buoninsegna , created in 1290 in Siena, Italy.  It passed through a number of owners, before first being brought to the public eye for the first time at a landmark art exhibition of Sienese art in 1904, and was in the possession of Count Gregori Stroganoff . [1]  It depicts the Madonna cradling the baby Jesus in her arms, and thus the painting isof a religious nature.  It is thought to be a devotional image , due to the candle burns that are clearly visible on the bottom portion of the frame, as well as the presence of the Madonna. [1]  

It currently resides in the Museum of Art Metropolitan Museum of Art , and was purchased in 2004. [1]

Technical EvaluationEdit

The painting is part of the tradition of Sienese painting started by Duccio di Buoninsegna, and is a rather small image, only 11x8.25 inches including the frame.  This lends it what Curator of European art at the Metropolitan Museum, Keith Christiansen, deems to be an air of intimacy, as he says, " this small picture there is an intimacy in the relation of mother to child that is quite different than what one finds in the artist's public altarpieces, and the face of the Virgin is touched by a haunting melancholy even more poignant that what I remembered from his larger, public paintings". [2]  The image is remarkably well preserved, and even retains the frame in its original condition.  The blues in the painting are created by the use of azurite , a common techinque for artists of the time. [2]  The work was purchased in 2004 for a sum of fourty-five million dollars, making it the most expensive purchase the Metropolitan Museum of Art has ever made.  They have opted to call it the Stroganoff Madonna , after the Russian expatriate and Italian art collector who owned the painting for some time and died in 1910. [3]  It then went into the hands of Joseph Stoclet , a Belgian industrialist, who died in 1949 and left his collection to various heirs. [3]  The sellers of the painting are anonymous, and the sale of the painting itself was overseen by Christie's in London, England . [3]

Among the more curious features of the painting is the parapet in the foreground, which has attracted the attention of numerous art historians.  The Metropolitan Museum of Art, which currently displays the painting, says of it, 'The parapet displays an obvious interest in pictorial space as a means of relating to the fiction, sacred realm of the painting to the wrold of the viewer/worshipper and elicitting from him or her and empathetic response". [1] Among other interesting aspects of this particular painting are the emphasis the painting places on the touch of the child to the Virgin's veil, and how the child's foot makes contact with her wrist, meant to convey an air of sacred reality. [1]

Local Historical ContextEdit

Siena , in the High Middle Ages, was a city known for the quality of its artists.  It produced such a number of great and influential works of art in the Gothic Period from approximately the 12th to 15th century that it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  They describe it as the embodiment of a medieval city that rivals Florence in its urban planning, and as place that produced the works of Duccio, the Lorenzetti brothers, and Simone Martini , whose influences shaped not only Italian art, but Western art as a body. [4]  

The city of Siena was ruled over by a group of nine magistrates called the Nove, who were drawn from a restricted oligarchy. [5]  Previously, Italy had been ruled first by the Byzantines in the early medieval period, until 1071, when it is overtaken by the Normans. [6]  By 1080, the northern cities of Italy asserted their independence from the Germanic powers which had been controlling them, and form their own communes. [6]  After being ravaged by Norman Conquests of Robert Guiscard in 1084, Rome experienced an artistic revival between the 12th and 13th centuries, a major aspect of which was the restoration of churches, which inspired many other Italian communes to build their own massive cathedrals and stunning architecture. [6]  However, by 1154, Roger II of the Normans had conquered and unified southern Italy, Sicily, Malta, and Northern Africa to form the first Norman Kingdom of Sicily. [6]  In the same time, the German Hohenstaufen were threatend by the development of northern Italian communes, and attempted to reassert his imperial power over the cities, until the empire effectively collapsed in 1250. [6].

In the Gothic Period, artists were often commissioned by local governments to create pieces, especially altarpieces and frescoes, and these artists included Giotto di Bondone and Duccio di Buoninsegna, both of which are highly regarded innovators in Western Art. [6]  

World Historical ContextEdit

The creator of the Madonna and Child, Duccio di Buoninsegna, was a part of the Sienese tradition of painting, and along with Simone Martini and the Lorenzetti brothers, was largely considered the father of Sienese painting.  Along with Giotto di Bondone, he is considered by some to be the father of Western Art. [5]  His work, including this particular image, shows a heavy influence by Byzantine art , yet also demonstrate a devotion to space and human emotion, which were not present in the same way in the Byzantine style. [5]  The Byzantine influence doubtlessly arose from the five centuries of political authority the empire had over Italy prior to 1071. [6]  The Byzantine elements of the piece include the austerious amount of gold visible in the painting and its emphasis on the sacred.  The piece itself is representative of a shift in Western art towards a more human tilt, and it combines the emotive elements of Rennaissance art with the sacred emphasis of Medieval art. [1] 

Among the curious features of the painting is the proposed influence of French Ivories on the painting, the evidence for which is the grasp of the child on the mother's veil and the way the veil hangs freely. [1]  It also features the first of what Christiansen calls an "illusionistic parapet" in European art, which serves as a portal into the world of the artist from our own, a technique heavily utilized by later Rennaissance depictions of the Madonna. [3]



Christiansen, Keith. "Madonna and Child." The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 2012.  Acessed November 13, 2016.

Christiansen, Keith. "Foreword." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, New Series, 66, no. 1 (2008): 3-5.

Vogel, Carol. "The Met Makes Its Biggest Purchase Ever." The New York Times. November 10, 2004.  Accessed November 13, 2016.

"Historic Centre of Siena." Accessed November 14, 2016.

Christiansen, Keith. "Sienese Painting." Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.  October, 2004.  Accessed November 12, 2016.

"Italian Peninsula, 1000-1400 A.D." In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. October, 2001.  Accessed November 14, 2015.