(b. ca. 1290, Siena, d. 1348, Siena)

Madonna and Child

Tempera on panel, 85 x 57 cm
Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan

Ambrogio Lorenzetti discarded Giotto's rigorous construction and incisive modeling in favour of open spaces, broadly articulated volumes, fluid composition and a colour range with many gradations. Contrary to Giotto's practice, he introduced subtle psychological effects. Note, in this painting, the intensity with which the mother and child look each other. The Virgin holds the Child with such delicacy that from a realistic point of view the support would be inadequate; the Child appears weightless. A lively detail is seen in the feet, escaping from the swaddling, which are not represented realistically but in terms of the linear cadences of the draperies.

Probably intended for private devotion, this panel is an example of highly refined taste and skillful technique. On the gold ground the two large halos are indicated by a fine, incised line; the rectangularity of the panel is modified by the braided arch motif and by the flowers in the upper corners. The two figures are related to each other in a system of undulating rhythms and spiral movements. They widen or narrow with slow waverings in depth. Not a wrinkle mars the compact ivory of the faces and the Virgin's long, seemingly boneless hands.