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

Madonna and Child with the Pear

Oil on wood, 43 x 32 cm
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

In the beginning of the eighteenth century, this painting was in the guardaroba (cloakroom) of the Pitti Palace. From there, it moved to the Villa di Poggio a Caiano. It has been at the Uffizi since 1773.

This is one of Dürer's later works, and can therefore be placed at the end of the period in which the artist journeyed tirelessly from one end of Europe to the other in the incessant search for new stimuli and new knowledge. An obvious reflection of it is the remarkable change that is visible in the treatment of the forms, which in this painting are round and fully sixteenth century and arranged in the space of the composition with absolute confidence, and the complex play of complementary curves created by the movement of the arms and hands of the Child.

Dürer made the pear smaller as the painting process progressed. Despite its small scale, the Madonna is depicted in a half-bust; the child is seated, though it is unclear on what - maybe the mother's arm. The artist leaves that up to the spectator.

It is the last and most stylistically mature version of the Madonna's image painted by Dürer. The image of Munich from 1516, though not revealing any emotional rapport between the mother and child, like this one, is nevertheless fascinating for its iconic aspect; but the Florentine image lacks intimate and formal tension.

Here, too, the Madonna is frontally depicted, holding a pear in her left hand of which we see only the fingers. And here again, the long blond hair falls on her shoulders almost symmetrically to the right and left. The necklines of the white blouse and red dress are also nearly symmetrical, contrasting with her softly curved facial features. Her downward gaze shows meditation and pensiveness. Even the gaze of the clothed child is absorbed and immobile. The right hand holds on to the edge of the mother's cloak, and the left hand's fingers close around a nondescript flower. Evidently, this devotional image also was intended for meditation on the mother of God and on the Passion and Redemption of Christ, even if until now it has not been possible to discern any connection between the pear and the flower.