Giovanni d'Alemagna and Antonio Vivarini - inv. 1570
The Virgin holds the standing Child on her knee as she sits on a marble throne that stands the full height of the panel. It is surrounded by a meadow of flowers, an allusion to the hortus conclusus, the enclosed garden symbolising of virginal purity, which would have spread to the adjacent panels. Monumental and imposing, this painting was most probably the centrand panel of a larger work with a Saint Louis of Toulouse now at Louvre a Saint Ambrose and a Saint Nicholas now in Venice (Seminario Patriarcale).
With Jacopo Bellini, Antonio Vivarini led a renewal in Venetian painting during the mid-15th century and, combining tradition and innovation, produced a large number of polyptychs which were exported along the entire Adriatic coast. The head of a family workshop, Antonio worked for many years with his brother-in-law, of German origin, called Giovanni d’Alemagna. In 1447 the two artists moved to Padua, where they came into contact with the new Renaissance works by Squarcione and above all by Donatello.
Datable to 1449-1450, this painting falls into this period in Padua and is one of their best collaborative achievements. Elements of late Gothic taste exist harmoniously alongside an already Renaissance layout in this very high quality work. The throne, for example, lightened by Gothic openings, is solidly architectural. Thanks to the play of shadow, the body of Jesus is portrayed in a decidedly sculptural way, almost as though it was taken from the antique, a debt to Donatello’s works in Padua, while the faces of the angels have a roundness and softness that recall Jacopo Bellini.