Madonna & Child

One of most enduring images in Western art—a constant for more than a thousand years—is that of Mary with the baby Jesus. In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries the cult of the Virgin saw Mary cast as the Queen of Heaven, the personification of the Church, the Bride of Christ. She is regal, seated formally upon a throne, worshipped as an intermediary through whom humans seek salvation.

During the Renaissance such hieratic images are replaced by less formal representations. Increasingly images of the Madonna and Child become convincing portrayals of a mother and her baby. The relationship between the two is emphasised by touch or tender glance. They are depicted in an architectural setting, often with a landscape beyond, sometimes accompanied by everyday objects. The Madonna and Child is the subject of small-scale works, for private devotion in the home or as portable altarpieces. The figures are placed in the front of the picture plane, physically closer to the viewer, to elicit a heightened emotional response.