SIGNORELLI, Luca
(b. ca. 1450, Cortona, d. 1523, Cortona)

Madonna and Child

c. 1490
Panel, 170 x 117,5 cm
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

The Virgin is portrayed sitting in a flowery meadow, against a background of young athletes (probaly to be interpreted as allegoric of ascetic virtues); towering above her are the monochrome figures of John the Baptist and two prophets. Vasari tells us that the painting was presented by Luca to Lorenzo the Magnificent and there can be no doubt that the learned symbolism and the allegorical references it contains would have been fully appreciated by the Medici Court, whose religious ideals in those years were founded on highly intellectual and philosophical studies, deeply imbued with Platonism and Classicism. Even the figurative references contained in this painting are extremely varied and sophisticated. There are references to Piero della Francesca's descendants of Adam (the young man in the background), to archeological elements, as well as tributes to Flemish painting (the monochromes in the upper part); and, above all, there is an explicit reference to Leonardo and his followers in the flowery meadow in the foreground, in the toned down colours, in the careful attention paid to chiaroscuro values.