Fra Lippo Lippi
Madonna and Child Enthroned with Two Angels

Circa 1440
Tempera and gold on wood, transferred from wood
Metropolitan Museum of Art, acquisition no. 49.7.9

The painting takes up the originally sculptural genre of the Throne of Wisdom, in which an enthroned Virgin Mary is herself the throne on which the infant Christ sits in his aspect as Wisdom, holding a book of scripture. The scroll on the left holds a phrase spoken by Wisdom in the Book of Sirach (Ecclesiasticus), 24:26 – venite ad me omnes qui concupiscitis me & a generation[ibus meis implemini], "Come over to me, all ye that desire me, and be filled with my fruits."

The child's deshabille, unusual in earlier examples of this genre, is probably due to the influence of contemporary Nativity images, in which Mary kneels before a naked Christ Child. (See this section of my discussion of Nativity iconography.)

As usual, Mary wears a blue mantle. The rose in her right hand is a one of her common symbols, but in this case it may refer to the rose image elsewhere in Sirach. At 24:18, Wisdom says, "I was exalted like a palm tree in Cades, and as a rose plant in Jericho." At 39:17 the man of wisdom says, "Hear me, ye divine offspring, and bud forth as the rose planted by the brooks of waters."

The "writing" in the book is faux lettering.

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More of Portraits of Mary

Photographed at the museum by Richard Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.