Lorenzo Veneziano (active 1357-72)
Madonna and Child Enthroned with Two Donors

Tempera on wood, gold ground Metropolitan Museum of Art, Lehman Collection, 1975.1.78

In the midst of this serene portrait, the goldfinch perched on Mary's hand refers forward to the crown of thorns that the child will wear on the day of his crucifixion. Goldfinches were believed to nest in bushes of the type of thorn from which the torturers made a crown to mock Jesus. The red of the bird's cheek is echoed in the child's mantle, perhaps also a reference to the bloody day to come.

To make this play of red possible, the artist has substituted pink for the traditional red of Mary's robe, although he does keep the customary blue in the mantle. The crown is an unusual feature in Madonna portraits but not unprecedented.

Read more about images of the Madonna and Child.

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