TIEPOLO, Giovanni Battista
(b. 1696, Venezia, d. 1770, Madrid)
Madonna of the Goldfinchc. 1760
Oil on canvas
National Gallery of Art, Washington
Eighteenth century Venetian painters tended to use high keyed, muted colors, possibly reflecting the current vogue for pastels.
According to legend, the goldfinch acquired the red spot on its brow when it removed a thorn from Christ's head during his ascent to Calvary, and was splashed with a drop of blood. Its inclusion in images of the Madonna and Child is, therefore, a symbol of Christ's future Passion. Furthermore, the goldfinch was a medieval symbol of protection against the plague.