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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
© 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 of the Florentine 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 clutches 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’s low relief carving conveys texture and weight: the Virgin’s dress and the soft, pudgy flesh of the Infant appear to transcend the hardness of the medium.

Half-length images of the Madonna and Child 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.

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