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A woman holds a seated child. They are painted in a striking, highly lined style.

A light-skinned woman faces the viewer. In her left arm is a light-skinned, seated child who embraces her shoulder. The woman holds her left hand to her chest. She wears a white head covering with a small star-like design in the middle. The painting technique is very graphic and stylized. The mother and child’s facial features have thick, dark shading and patterns of parallel lines. The folds of the woman’s clothing are rendered in thick lines of blue with gold highlights. The two figures are surrounded by a metallic gold background. Faint textured halos appear above each figure’s head.

Gallery Text

The Italian city of Pisa, an important port, had commercial and cultural ties to Byzantium. Especially after the fall of Constantinople in 1204, painting there was strongly influenced by icons coming from the East. This painting is based on Byzantine icons of the Eleusa or “maternal” Virgin, a portrait of the Virgin and Child believed to have been painted by Saint Luke. Images from the East were accorded a special status as having an aura of authenticity and authority. Through the thirteenth century, European artists reproduced these images, borrowing both their style and iconography, and were seen as working in the “maniera greca” — the Greek or Byzantine mode of painting. Made by a painter associated with a similar image from the church of Saints Cosmos and Damian in Pisa, this painting adds a Tuscan-style arch to the rectangular panel commonly used in the East, yet depicts a half-length Virgin whose garments are highlighted with the gold lines (chrysography) typical of Byzantine paintings.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Master of the Saints Cosmos and Damian Madonna, Italian (active c. 1260 - c. 1285)
The Virgin and Child
Other Titles
Alternate Title: Madonna and Child
Work Type
Creation Place: Europe, Italy, Tuscany, Pisa
Persistent Link


Level 2, Room 2500, European Art, 13th–16th century, Art and Image in Europe
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Physical Descriptions

Tempera on panel
64.5 × 44.2 × 3.5 cm (25 3/8 × 17 3/8 × 1 3/8 in.)


Recorded Ownership History
Professor E. Paoletti, sold; to Fogg Art Museum, 1926

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Friends of the Fogg Art Museum Fund
Accession Year
Object Number
European and American Art

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Publication History

  • Curt H. Weigelt, Uber Die "Mutterliche" Madonna In Der Italienischen Malerei Des 13 Jahrhunderts, Art Studies: An extra number of The American Journal of Archaeology, Oxford University Press (UK) (London, 1928), pp. 195-221, repr. as fig. 5 and 6 (detail)
  • George L. Stout, "A Puzzling Piece of Gold Leaf Tooling", Fogg Art Museum Notes, Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, June 1929), Vol. 2, No. 4, pp. 140-152, pp. 142, 144-146, repr. as fig. 3, 4, and 5 (details)
  • Fogg Art Museum Handbook, Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1931), p. 32, repr.
  • Curt H. Weigelt, The Halo Technic of the Italian Primitives, International Studio (July 1931), Vol. XCIX, pp. 38-41, pp. 39-40, repr. p. 39 as fig. 3 (detail)
  • Raimond Van Marle, Le Scuole della Pittura Italiana, Martinus Nijhoff (The Hague, 1932), p. 392
  • Evelyn Sandberg Vavalà, L'Iconografia della Madonna con Bambino, Stab. D'Arti Grafiche S. Bernardino (Siena, 1934), p. 63, no. 183
  • Fogg Art Museum Handbook, Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1936), p. 56, repr.
  • Trends in European Painting From the XIIIth to the XXth Century; Under the Joint Auspices of The University of Toronto and The Art Gallery of Toronto October 15th, to November 15th, 1937, exh. cat., Art Gallery of Toronto (Toronto, 1937), p. 1, repr.
  • Walters Art Gallery, Early Christian and Byzantine Art, exh. cat., The Trustees of the Walters Art Gallery (Baltimore, MD, 1947), cat. no. 677, pl. XC
  • Edward B. Garrison, Italian Romanesque Panel Painting: An Illustrated Index, Leo S. Olschki (Florence, 1949), p. 77, no. 170, repr.
  • Dorothy C. Shorr, The Christ Child in Devotional Images in Italy During the XIV Century, George Wittenborn, Inc. (New York, 1954), p. 45, repr.
  • Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri, Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA, 1972), p. 236 [13th century Pisa]
  • Luiz C. Marques, La Peinture du Duecento en Italie Centrale, Picard (Paris, 1987), repr. as fig. 58 on p.53
  • Edgar Peters Bowron, European Paintings Before 1900 in the Fogg Art Museum: A Summary Catalogue including Paintings in the Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 1990), pp. 119, 279, repr. b/w cat. no. 472
  • Carol Heffernan, "Praying before the Image of Mary: Chaucer's Prioress's Tale, VII 502-12", The Chaucer Review (2004), vol. 39, no. 1, pp. 103-116, p. 106; repr. as fig. 1, p. 107
  • Mariagiulia Burresi and Antonino Caleca, Cimabue a Pisa: la pittura pisana del Duecento da Giunta a Giotto, exh. cat., Pacini Editore (Pisa, Italy, 2005), p. 82; repr. in b/w p. 78
  • Jilleen Nadolny, All That's Burnished isn't Bole. Reflections on Medieval Water Gilding, Part 1: Early Medieval to 1300, Medieval Painting in Northern Europe: Techniques, Analysis, Art History (2006), pp. 148-162, p. 148
  • Dillian Gordon, The Italian Paintings Before 1400, exh. cat., National Gallery Publications Ltd. and Yale University Press (London, 2011), pp. 352, 412-413, repr. as fig. 5 on 413

Exhibition History

  • Early Christian and Byzantine Art, Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, 04/24/1947 - 07/01/1947
  • 32Q: 2500 Renaissance, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

Subjects and Contexts

  • Google Art Project

Related Works

Verification Level

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