(b. ca. 1399, Siena, d. 1482, Siena)

Madonna of Humility

c. 1435
Tempera on panel, 62 x 48 cm
Pinacoteca Nazionale, Siena

The Virgin is painted in a surprisingly thick impasto. She has small features under a tall brow and turban. She is at play with her child on the flowering summit of a little hill, seated on a brocade cushion and enclosed within a tightly packed orchard, bursting with fruit. The theme of the Virgin in the Garden is given a new dimension by the cosmic panorama that rears up behind as a tilted plane. Paths and boundaries are mapped out by microscopic trees and tiny white-dotted stones, painted with a miniaturist's precision. From the right, a river curves through the checkered fields, past the dark rock that guards the steep-walled city, and down into the lake. Variations of this chessboard panorama recur throughout Giovanni di Paolo's long career.