Giovanni di Paolo, Madonna and Child with Saints

Tempera on wood, gold ground
Metropolitan Museum of Art, bequest of Michael Friedsam, 32.100.76.

To emphasize his humanity and vulnerability, the Christ Child is naked and his genitals are exposed. This is common in 15th-century images.

The color of Mary's mantle, blue in the work of other artists and in di Paolo's narrative images, is here dark enough to pass for black, the color of the habit of the Augustinian order, as seen in the portraits of St. Augustine on the left and St. Nicholas of Tolentino on the right. Mary wears the same black in the di Paolo Madonnas at the Web Gallery of Art. Notes posted online by the Metropolitan Museum suggest that the altarpiece was painted for an Augustinian church.

On the left with St. Augustine is a female saint who is most likely his mother Monica. Augustine's black habit is under his elaborate cope, which with his mitre and crozier references his role as a bishop.

On the right, St. John the Baptist in his characteristic tunic of animal hair points to the Christ Child, a gesture common in his portraits. Left of John is St. Nicholas of Tolentino, identified by the sunburst with child's face and his Augustinian habit.

Read more about images of the Madonna and Child.
Read more about images of St. Monica, St. Augustine, St. John the Baptist, and St. Nicholas of Tolentino.
In 2021 a video discussion of this painting was online at the Metropolitan's web site.

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