Madonna dell’Umiltà (1423-1424)

Masaccio (1401-1428)

Madonna dell’Umiltà (The Madonna of Humility)
Tempera on panel, 105.6 x 54.1 cm
National Gallery of ArtWashington

A woman holding a nude baby boy sits on a blue patterned pillow on the floor in front of a brick-red curtain held up by two angels in this vertical painting. The people all have pale, almost gold-colored skin with a green cast, though their cheeks are flushed with pale pink. The woman sits facing us and looks slightly off to our right. She has almond-shaped eyes, a straight nose, and her lips are closed. She wears a blue cloak with a white hood over a shell-pink dress. Her right arm, on our left, rests in her lap and she supports the baby with her other arm. The baby’s nude body is pudgy like a baby but his face and head are proportioned more like an adult. His body turns toward the woman and he reaches up to her neck, and he looks into the distance to our left. Both have flat, plate-like gold halos. The winged angels holding up the red curtain also have halos and they wear blue robes. The curtain falls in gentle folds behind the mother and child, and fabric of the same color underneath the blue pillow on which they sit suggests that the curtain extends onto the floor. A dove, also haloed, floats at the top center of the painting. The gold background around the curtain and behind the angels and dove is painted into an arch over the people, and the upper corners of the panel are dark. A Latin inscription is painted with capital gray letters against a white band along the bottom edge of the panel: “AVE: MARIA: GRATIA: PLENA: DO.” (NGA)