MASTER of the Straus Madonna
(active 1385-1415 in Florence)
Madonna and Child1395-1400
Tempera and gold leaf on wood, 90 x 48 cm (without frame)
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
This fine depiction of the Virgin Mary and Christ Child was created by an anonymous painter distinguished for his traditional patterning of the gold ground, striking combinations of rich colours, and skill in rendering the diaphanous drapery. "Master of the Straus Madonna" is the pseudonym given to an unknown Italian artist who worked in Florence toward the beginning of the 15th century. Art historians use the designation "Master of" to label the creators of anonymous works for convenience in discussing them. "Straus" refers to Mr. and Mrs. Straus, who donated this painting to the Houston museum in 1944.
In this well preserved panel, the modeling of the Virgin and Child demonstrates the artist's awareness of early Renaissance developments in painting the human figure as a volume in space. The Christ Child holds a goldfinch - a common symbol of the Resurrection - and wears a coral pendant, a talisman believed since ancient times to protect against evil.