Thursday, July 17, 2008

Madonna of the Meadow

Click here to view full-size image.

This is an exquisitely beautiful painting by Bellini, one of the great masters of Venetian light and colour.

We see Mary sitting in a field with baby Jesus asleep on her lap. She gazes reverently at his sleeping face. Her blue cloak has been arranged in such a way that it makes a large triangle, dominating the picture. It's a happy coincidence for me that the traditional colour of the Virgin Mary is blue - my favourite colour! Whenever we see Mary in a renaissance painting, she is usually wearing a cloak of stunning ultramarine blue. Ultramarine was also one of the most expensive pigments to obtain, so if you see a painting with a lot of blue in it, chances are it was painted for a wealthy patron.

The other aspect of this painting that I love is the beautiful landscape in the background, which appears to have been painted very realistically - even the clouds have been very convincingly done. We see cattle and someone who appears to be a cattle-herd lazing about on the ground, craggy blue peaks in the distance, a city and - my favourite - a castle.

A very lovely picture by a man who, like Titian (or more recently, Renoir) was blessed with the ability to make colours sing.

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