• Virgin and Child with the Infant St. John the Baptist, St. Francis, and Three Angels
  • c. 1510
  • Circle of Fra Bartolommeo (probably Mariotto Albertinelli)
  • Italian (Florentine School)
  • early 16th century
  • oil and tempera/oil emulsion on round wood panel (tondo)
  • CMA 1954.30

The unusual, round shape of this painting, called a Tondo, is probably derived from the desco da parto. This was a circular or polygonal painted tray made to celebrate the birth of a child and was presented to the mother with gifts of sweetmeats and fruit. It developed as an independent form in Florence in the first half of the 15th century and was produced primarily for domestic settings. The harmonious and well-balanced composition of this painting exemplifies the High Renaissance classicism practiced by Fra Bartolommeo and his friend and assistant, Mariotto Albertinelli. St. Francis kneels at the left while St. John the Baptist – identified by his reed cross and bowl of water – presents Christ with half of a pomegranate. The pomegranate, with its numerous seeds contained in a protective case, symbolizes the Church and its flock. Its ancient association with Proserpine, who returned every spring to rejuvenate the earth, symbolizes the resurrection of Christ. The goldfinch, symbol of man’s soul and Christ’s passion, represents the salvation of man.

On View!