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Virgin and Child with kneeling members of the Guild of the Misericordia

  • Object:

    Relief

  • Place of origin:

    Venice (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1445 - 1450 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Buon, Bartolomeo (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Istrian stone, carved from six blocks

  • Museum number:

    25-1882

  • Gallery location:

    Medieval & Renaissance, Room 50a, The Paul and Jill Ruddock Gallery, case WN, shelf EXP []

The relief was carved by Bartolommeo Buon in about 1374-1467) for the tympanum (the space between the lintel and arch) over the principal doorway of the Scuola Vecchia di Santa Maria della Misericordia in Venice. It is described in this position by Sansovino. The sculpture was originally painted and slight traces of blue paint remain in the background. The Virgin once wore a high crown. The motif of the Christ Child in a mandorla on the Virgin's chest is of Byzantine origin and occurs on other works produced in Venice around this date. Some areas are made up in plaster, including the top of the arch above the Virgin's head. The Buon were the most important Venetian sculptors during the first half of the fifteenth century. Bartolommeo inherited the workshop on the death of his father, Giovanni, in about 1443. In 1612 the Scuola Vecchia della Misericordia was handed over to the Tessitori di Seta, and the relief was transferred, with other sculptures, to the Fabbrica Nuova della Misericordia, where it remained until the early nineteenth century.

The mandorla (from the Italian word for ‘almond’) was a type of halo that enclosed the entire body. It was usually used to depict moments that transcend time and space, such as Christ enthroned in Heaven in majesty. Here the mandorla forms a morse, or brooch, to clasp the Virgin’s cloak.

A Venetian ‘Scuola’, or confraternity, commissioned this sculpture to sit over the entrance to their meeting house. Members of the confraternity shelter under the Virgin’s cloak. Surrounding the Virgin are prophets seated in the Tree of Jesse. They hold scrolls announcing the Coming of Christ, who is shown as a baby on the Virgin’s breast. The pointed arch reflects the Gothic style of the original setting. Bartolomeo Buon was a member of the confraternity and one of the most important sculptors in Renaissance Venice.

Physical description

Arched relief in Istrian stone of the Virgin and Child with kneeling members of the Guild of the Misericordia. The Virgin, represented standing in full face, wears an ample mantle fastened on her breast by an almond-shaped medallion (mandorla) with a naked figure of the Christ Child blessing. She holds her mantle open with both hands; its extremities are supported by standing angels to right and left. Beneath the cloak are nine kneeling members of the Guild of Santa Maria della Misericordia in attitudes of prayer, four on the right and five on the left. In the branches of the fig tree which forms the background are six busts of kings and prophets holding scrolls.

Place of Origin

Venice (made)

Date

ca. 1445 - 1450 (made)

Artist/maker

Buon, Bartolomeo (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Istrian stone, carved from six blocks

Dimensions

Height: 251.5 cm, Width: 208.3 cm, Depth: 50 cm, Weight: 6932 kg

Object history note

The relief was carved for the tympanum (the space between the lintel and arch) over the principal doorway of the Scuola Vecchia di Santa Maria della Misericordia in Venice. The sculpture was originally painted and slight traces of blue paint remain in the background. The Virgin once wore a high crown. The motif of the Christ Child in a mandorla on the Virgin's chest is of Byzantine origin and occurs on other works produced in Venice around this date. Some areas are made up in plaster, including the top of the arch above the Virgin's head. The Buon were the most important Venetian sculptors during the first half of the fifteenth century. Bartolommeo inherited the workshop on the death of his father, Giovanni, in about 1443.

Descriptive line

Relief, Istrian Stone, of the Virgin and Child with kneeling members of the Guild of the Misericordia, by Bartolomeo Buon, Italy (Venice), ca. 1445-50

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Robinson, J. C., Letter of 24 October, 1883, The Times
Fiocco, G., "I Lamberti a Venezia: III, Imitatori e seguaci," Dedalo,viii, 1927-28
Fiocco, G., Rivista d'arte, xii, 1930, p. 155
Maclagan, E. and Longhurst, M., Catalogue of Italian Sculpture, London: Victoria and Albert, 1932, p. 100
Planiscig, L., "Die Bildhauer Venedigs in der ersten Hälfte des Quattrocento," Jahrbuch der Kunsthistorischen Sammlungen in Wien, iv, 1930, pp. 108-110
Seymour, C., Sculpture in Italy 1400-1500 (The Pelican History of Art), Harmondsworth, 1966, p. 103
Pope-Hennessy, J. assisted by Lightbrown, R., Catalogue of Italian Sculpture in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1964, cat. 369
Wolters, W., La scultura veneziana gotica (1300-1460), Venice: Alfieri, 1976, cat. 250, pp. 290-291, fig. 831
Schulz, A., The Sculpture of Giovanni and Bartolomeo Bon and their Workshop, Philadelphia: Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, 1978, pp. 12-25, figs. 10-20
Schulz, A. , "Revising the History of Venetian Renaissance Sculpture: Niccolò and Pietro Lamberti," in Saggi e Memorie di Storia dell'Arte, 15, 1986, p. 12, n. 9
Williamson, P. (ed.) European Sculpture at the Victoria and Albert Museum,, London, 1996, pp. 74-75
Grevembroch in Monumenta Veneta ex antiques ruderibus Templorum, aliarumque Aedium Vetustate collapsarum collecta studio et cura Petri Gradonici Jacobi Sen: F. Anno MDCCLIV, MS in Biblioteca Correr, Venice, pars secunda, c. 43
Raggio, Olga, 'Catalogue of Italian Sculpture in the Victoria and Albert Museum', Art Bulletin vol.L, 1968, pp. 99
Sansovino, Francesco. Venetia citta nobilissima e singolare. Venice, 1663, pp. 285-6
Lorenzetti. Venezia e il su estuario. Venice, 1926, pp. 392-3
Venezia e le sue lagune. ii, pt. 2, Venice, 1847, pp. 287-8
Moschini. Nuova guida per Venezia. Venice, 1828, pp. 130
Il forestiere istruito nelle cose più pregevoli e curiose antiche e moderne della Città di Venezia. Venice, 1819, p. 322
La Venezia. 09/04/1882
Fiocco, Rivista d'Arte. XII, 1930, p. 155, fig. 6
Fiocco, G, 'I Lamberti a Venezia-iii, imitatori e seguaci', in Dedalo. VIII, 1927-8, fig, pp. 441-2
Perdrizet, La Vierge de Misercorde. 1908, p. 86, no. 38
Molmenti. Storia di Venezia nella Vita Privata. I, 1905, pp. 192-4
La scuola grande di San Marco. 1929, p. 24
Paoletti, E Il fiore di Venezia. iii, Venice, 1840, pp. 18-20
Paoletti, L'architecttura e la scultura….in Venezia. 1893, pp. 55-6, pl. viii, fig 2
Kraus, Geschicte der christliche Kunst. 1891, II, pt I, fig. 268
Cicognara, L. Storia della scultura dal suo Risorgimento in Italia fino al secolo di Canova. II, p. 171, pl. 39
List of Objects in the Art Division, South Kensington Museum acquired during the Year 1882. London, 1883, pp. 3
Plate 1, pp. 16, 18-21
Motture, P., Jones, E. and Zikos, D., ed. by, Carvings, Casts and Collectors: The Art of Renaissance Sculpture, London, 2013

Materials

Istrian stone

Subjects depicted

Angels; Mandorlas; Guilds; Trees, Fig; Robes; Scrolls (information artifacts); Prophets; Kings

Categories

Sculpture; Religion; Architecture

Collection

Sculpture Collection

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