Zanobi Strozzi - inv. 4744
Zanobi Strozzi, Florentine aristocrat, was active both as a painter and as a miniaturist. Vasari remembers him as one of the first and most faithful followers of Fra Angelico and indeed he is documented several times in Angelico’s workshop, in the convent of San Domenico in Fiesole, during the 1430s.
The Virgin is sitting on a gold-embroidered red cushion, embellished with two tassels. She is wearing a red dress and blue cloak with green edging; a veil of a beautiful violet colour falls from her head with a star attached. This attribute derives from stella maris, the Latin translation of the Hebrew name for Mary, Miriam. In her right hand she holds a white lily, symbol of purity, while her left rests on the Child’s shoulder as he sits in her lap. Low down two musician angels are playing a viola da braccio and a portable organ, with absorbed melancholic expressions. A golden cloth hangs in the background, made with a gold leaf splendidly incised to imitate the softness and weft of the material.
The painting is in excellent condition and one of the best examples of the “paintings and panels” that Zanobi made “for the whole of Florence and the houses of its citizens”, as Giorgio Vasari writes. The Florentine painter’s best characteristics shine through in this work: an persistent taste for precious materials, like the cloth woven and embroidered in gold and the beautiful veined marble of the base; a palette that also includes acid colours, like yellow and violet, as well as strident colour contrasts, as between the violet of the veil and the blue of the Virgin’s cloak.