(b. 1486, Firenze, d. 1570, Venezia)

Madonna del Parto

Marble, over life-size
Sant'Agostino, Rome

In 1518 the limited opportunities available in Florence led Sansovino back to Rome, which he may have visited briefly in May 1516 to sign the contract for his most famous work of the period, the marble Martelli Virgin and Child, or Madonna del Parto (Sant'Agostino, Rome).

The marble Madonna del Parto, made for Giovan Francesco Martelli, is one of Sansovino's most popular sculptures and a rare example of a Renaissance work of art that became a cult image. It also marks a further stage in the evolution of his style in the direction of Michelangelo. The Virgin's full and rounded form and the emphatic gesture of her right arm recall such figures as the Delphic Sibyl on the Sistine Chapel ceiling, or the Moses (San Pietro in Vincoli, Rome); and at the same time the work conveys clearly the human tenderness between mother and child. In the posture of the Child there is an illusion of movement that is deeply Raphaelesque.

The figures are framed by an aedicula originally surmounted by frescoes of putti holding a baldacchino, executed by Polidoro da Caravaggio probably after a design by the sculptor.