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Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

“The Virgin and Child Enthroned, with Narrative Scenes” by Margarito d’Arezzo

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“The Virgin and Child Enthroned, with Narrative Scenes”
by Margarito d’Arezzo

“The Virgin and Child Enthroned, with Narrative Scenes” by Margarito d’Arezzo depicts the Virgin, wearing a Byzantine crown and seated on a lion-headed throne, while holding Christ who is sitting on her lap. The earliest representations of Mother and Child were developed in the Eastern Empire where Byzantine artist represented Mary with the royal crowns and the thrones of the Byzantine Empresses. Byzantine art played a long and critical role in Western Europe, especially when Byzantine territories included parts of Eastern Europe and much of Italy.

In the corners of the central scene are the symbols of the four Evangelists. The narrative scenes consist of eight smaller scenes on either side of the Virgin show episodes from the lives of saints.

Narrative Scenes

These narrative scenes are paintings depicting the following stories:

  • The Nativity scene;
  • Saint John in a cauldron of boiling oil;
  • Saint John resuscitating a woman;
  • Saint Benedict overcoming temptation;
  • Saint Catherine’s beheading and her body carried by angels;
  • Saint Nicholas warning the pilgrims;
  • Saint Nicholas saving three men from being decapitated; and
  • Saint Margaret in prison being swallowed by a dragon and her escape unhurt.

Virgin Mary

Images of the Virgin Mary are common in Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy and much rarer in Protestant art. Christianity has made more extensive use of images than related religions, in which figurative representations are forbidden, such as Islam and Judaism.

Mary, the mother of Jesus, was a 1st-century BC Jewish woman of Nazareth, and the mother of Jesus, according to the New Testament. The gospels of Matthew and Luke in the New Testament and the Quran describe Mary as a virgin. According to Christian teaching, she conceived Jesus while a virgin, through the Holy Spirit.

Byzantine Art

Byzantine art refers to the body of Christian Greek art of the Eastern Roman or Byzantine Empire. The empire emerged from Rome’s decline and lasted until the Fall of Constantinople in 1453.  Many Eastern Orthodox states preserved many aspects of the empire’s art for centuries afterwards.

Margarito d’Arezzo

Margarito or Margaritone d’Arezzo (fl. c. 1250–1290) was an Italian painter about whom little is known, and the only documentary record of his existence dates from 1262 when he lived in Arezzo, Italy. A fair number of his works are known to have survived and have been identified because most are signed, which was unusual for that age of art.

Reflections

  • How similar is this painting to the art you can find in today’s Greek Orthodox and Russian Orthodox church icons?
  • For the majority of people in the 13th century, who were illiterate what did paintings like this communicate?

Explore

The Virgin and Child Enthroned, with Narrative Scenes

  • Title:      The Virgin and Child Enthroned, with Narrative Scenes
  • Artist:    Margarito d’Arezzo
  • Date:      1264
  • Medium: Egg tempera on wood
  • Dimensions:  92.1 x 183.1 cm
  • Museum:    National Gallery, London

Margarito d’Arezzo

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“In trial or difficulty, I have recourse to Mother Mary.” 
 – Saint Therese of Lisieux

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Photo Credit 1) Margaritone d’Arezzo [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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