Biagio d'Antonio - inv. 1578
Painted close-up in a three-quarter pose, the Virgin is seated against a wide-ranging landscape background full of light and dotted with vegetation. The naked Child is standing on his mother's knees and clasping her breast in his hands in a variant on the theme of the "Madonna del latte". An angel holds a bunch of white, red and pink roses in his gown and in a flower vase. These flowers are closely linked to the cult of the Virgin, called "mystic rose" and "rose without thorns" in an allusion to her immaculate nature. The white rose refers to Mary's virginity and to eternal love, but is also a symbol of death. The red rose symbolises the blood that Christ shed for the redemption of man and love that survives death. The pink rose represents serenity inspired by faith in the love of Christ and for the Virgin. The premonition of Christ's Passion is also suggested by the melancholy expression in the faces of the three characters.
Biagio d'Antonio, a Florentine painter active in Faenza from 1476 to 1504, painted this remarkably high-quality work at the beginning of the 1480s, as comparison with some female figures in the fresco of the Crossing of the Red Sea, painted by Biagio in the Sistine Chapel in 1482, confirms. The composition of the painting, with the Child standing next to the bust of his mother against a landscape background, together with its style, characterised by a delicate naturalism, show the influence of works by Andrea del Verrocchio. Biagio had assiduously attended his workshop during the 1470s.