(b. ca. 1485, San Giovanni Bianco, d. ca. 1547, Venezia)
Oil on canvas, 168 x 164 cm
Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica, Rome
The complex and unusual iconography of the "Sewing Madonna" includes the maternal symbolism conveyed by the quail and the rose tree behind the Virgin. Cariani used the same symbols in his Saint Gottard altarpiece to allude to the divine motherhood of the Madonna and to her virginity. The iconography of the National Gallery picture also includes symbols of fertility such as the rabbit and the cedar tree behind St Elizabeth, references to human motherhood. The most peculiar characteristic of the painting is, however, the human, everyday atmosphere of the scene: this quality is what places the painting in direct rapport with the style of the contemporary Lombard school. Also evident is the influence of Palma il Vecchio in the background landscape, which is distinctly separate from the scene in the foreground.
Art historians have assigned the painting to Cariani's second Venetian period, between 1524 and 1530.