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Beauregard Madonna, c. 1455

Attributed to Desiderio da Settignano

Italian, 1429-1464
White Carrara marble
20 x 16 in. (50.8 x 40.6 cm)
The Norton Simon Foundation
F.1965.1.108.S
© 2012 The Norton Simon Foundation

On view

Born and trained in Settignano, a village of stonecutters in Tuscany, Desiderio was one of the most talented marble sculptors at work in Florence during the Renaissance. A virtuoso carver, he captured the transitory nuances of expression, achieving a balance between substance and spirit. Here, the Virgin embraces and presents the Christ Child, who stands in contrapposto, clutching his swaddling cloth in both hands, a gesture that conveys both visual and emotional meaning. It adds movement to the composition and it reminds us of Christ’s sacrifice with reference to his burial shroud. Desiderio carved the figures in low relief, paying great attention to the tangible details of texture and weight. The description of the Virgin’s dress and veil, and the soft, pudgy flesh of the Infant, appear to transcend the hardness of the medium.

Half-length images of the Madonna and Child, whether painted or carved, adorned domestic interiors, especially the private chapels of wealthy and aristocratic families. As objects of devotion and prayer, they were believed to have power as intermediaries to their divine counterparts. This relief is named after its first documented owner, Joseph Henri, Marquis Costa de Beauregard, Chambery (1752–1824), a French writer and diplomat who served under the House of Savoy in Turin.

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