Alessandro Vitali
Madonna and Child with St. Cassian and an Angel

First quarter of the 17th century
Oil on canvas, 84.6 x 57.1 in. (215 x 145 cm.)
Originally in the Church of St. Cassian, Castelcavallino di Urbino

This appears to be a modification of Virgin of the Pillar iconography, with the Madonna and Child in Heaven observing Jesus' sufferings at the pillar.

They are in turn observed by St. John Cassian on the left, with his crozier and a maquette that is a fair representation of the little Romanesque Church of St. Cassian in Castelcavallino di Urbino. Cassian has a crozier because he founded a number of abbeys and was a major theoretician of the monastic movement in the 4th and 5th centuries. He left a number of influential writings, but he has never been the subject of hagiography and gets not even a page in the 63-volume Acta Sanctorum.

John Cassian's image can be distinguished from that of St. Cassian of Verdun, who will have both a crozier and a mitre. Two other saints of the same name were martyred during the persecutions of Diocletian: Cassian of Imola and Cassian of Tangier. The south aisle at St. Mark's, Venice, has a mosaic portrait of one of them in Byzantine style, holding a hand cross to indicate martyrdom and dressed as a courtier with a white beard.

In a witty detail on the right, the donor puts his hands together as if in prayer and engages the viewer's eye while an angel, perhaps his guardian, tries to divert his attention to what is above.

Feast days: John Cassian, July 23; Cassian of Autun, August 5; Cassian of Imola, August 13; Cassian of Tangier, December 3.

View this image in full resolution.
Also see this image of the Virgin of the Pillar.

Photographed in Urbino by Richard Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.