DÜRER, Albrecht
(b. 1471, Nürnberg, d. 1528, Nürnberg)

The Madonna of the Carnation

Parchment on pine, 36 x 25 cm
Alte Pinakothek, Munich

In 1630, this panel was mentioned in the inventory of the possessions of the elector of Bavaria; it subsequently went to the episcopal palace of Freising, but it returned definitively to Munich in 1802. The main part of the space of the painting is occupied by the Virgin's head, encircled by a luminous halo against a dark green background.

The perfect regularity of her face as seen from the front leads one to think that, like the Self-Portrait with Fur Coat of 1500 of Munich, this has been "reconstructed" according to precise laws of proportion. The Madonna's gaze - her eyes reflecting, like her child's, the window beside them - is not turned toward the spectator, but is directed into the distance. Even the child has a fixed gaze and is busy with a pear in his little hands, while the Madonna gracefully holds a stem of a carnation, with fruit and flower, between her fingers.

Similar to the Madonna, who, for the rigid, formal composition of the head seems distant, almost rapt in an ideal world, so the child, with his wide-open eyes, who seems detached from his mother and the spectator. The small panel assumes the look of an icon, in which the carnation alludes to the Passion, and the pear that the child closes in his hands recalls - according to Saint Bonaventure - the sweetness of the wise of mouth and heart.