(b. ca. 1370, Fabriano Marche, d. 1427, Roma)

Quaratesi Polyptych: Virgin and Child

Egg tempera on poplar, 140 x 83 cm
National Gallery, London

The central panel of the Quaratesi altarpiece shows the Virgin and Child. This panel is flanked by four saints each on a separate gabled panel (now in the Uffizi, Florence). Christ with his foreshortened halo leans out of the little roundel in the gable above the Virgin. All elements were further harmonised through subtle adjustments of composition and colour. Gentile's sumptuous decorative effects can now best be appreciated in the gold brocade, for the once-brilliant cloth of honour behind the Virgin and Child, painted translucent red over silver leaf and green over gold, has darkened and blotched with age.

Despite its regal magnificence, the central group retains a graceful intimacy. The Virgin, an ideal beauty of her day with fair hair, broad forehead and rosebud mouth, looks out gravely as the Christ Child smiles contentedly, showing his tiny milk teeth. Keeping firm hold of his mother's cloak, he turns from her to the adoring angel, with a daisy - symbol of his innocence, picked in Heaven, the garden of eternal spring - held daintily between his pudgy finger and thumb.