MASTER of the Castello Nativity
(active 1445-1475 in Florence)
Madonna and Child with Two Angels (Madonna of Humility)1450-52
Tempera and gold on wood, 126 x 72 cm
Museo Nazionale di San Matteo, Pisa
Devotional images of the Madonna seated on the ground, in a position of humility, trace their origin to fourteenth-century Sienese painting. They continued to enjoy widespread popularity throughout Italy in the first half of the fifteenth century. In Florence notable examples were painted by Masaccio, Masolino and Filippo Lippi, but the largest and most important corpus is that of Fra Angelico (the earliest examples are in St. Petersburg, Pisa and Princeton).
That the Master of the Castello Nativity studied the work of Fra Angelico is clear not only from the general iconographic features of the painting but from certain motifs, such as the gold embellishment on the sleeve of the angel at the right. Yet, the primary stylistic debt is to Filippo Lippi. The broad-faced figure types and chubby baby belong to Lippi's repertory, as does the manner in which the drapery of the Virgin is conceived in broad, flat folds.