MARY A MASTERPIECE – ‘Madonna del Prato’ by Giovanni Bellini, National Gallery, London; 1505

Only she who raised Christ can raise a Christian’ – Venerable Fulton Sheen

Giovanni Bellini is one of the greatest, most influential Old Masters of Renaissanceart. He was born in Venice, Italy in 1430 into a family of successful painters – his father was Jacopo Bellini, his brother was Gentile Bellini and his brother-in-law was Andrea Mantegna.

Since the start of his career, Giovanni’s paintings were primarily based on religious subjects.  He nurtured a
affinity for the compositions of the ‘Madonna and Child’, revolutionizing the image in the process. These devotional paintings were reproduced in innumerable variations by other great artists of the Renaissance including Raphael.

One such renowned masterpiece is the ‘Madonna del Prato’ or ‘Madonna of the Meadows’. Originally painted in 1505 using oil and egg tempera, in 1949 this painting was transferred to canvas, with damage in places. The painting is now on display in the National Gallery, London.

At first glance, we are captivated by the inexpressive yet serene image of the Blessed Mother. She is seated on the ground in a grassy meadow, her mantle merges with the earth. The iconography is reminiscent of the traditional Marian invocation, the Virgin of Humility. Cloaked in flowing blue and red, the Blessed Mother adores the sleeping Christ Child, her fingertips pressed together in prayer.

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