(b. 1430/35, Venezia, d. 1495, Camerino)
Madonna and Child Enthroned with a Donor1470
Tempera on poplar panel, 125 x 51 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington
In this perfectly preserved altarpiece the artist's fascination with the use of chiaroscuro (modeling with light and shade) to create an illusion of space and tangible substance has created an overall impression of sculptured marble. Note the diminutive donor kneeling in the lower left corner and the crown which, in the order to heighten the illusion of form, has been partly modeled in low relief. The apple held by the Christ Child is a symbolic reference to Adam's fall.
Crivelli's painting originally constituted the central section of a polyptych in the parish church at Porto San Giorgio, near Fermi. The crisp, sculptural forms reflect Crivelli's probable training in the humanist centre of Padua. Yet the manner in which Crivelli's figures are modeled in light and shade also expresses a broader Renaissance concern with direct observation of nature.
Crivelli's very personal, almost metallic style must in large part be explained by the events of his life. He was born in Venice where the Gothic tradition lingered well into the fifteenth century. After spending some time in Padua, he settled in the Marches on the Adriatic, and there remained relatively unaffected by new trends.