Ridolfo Ghirlandaio (1483-1564), Madonna and Child, 16th century, oil on panel, 33 1/2 x 24 1/2 inches, Brigham Young University Museum of Art, gift of Hazel Anna Smith, 1974.
This featured work from the MOA’s collection of religious paintings reflects the influence of Florentine Renaissance painting of the previous century. This scene of Mary and the Christ Child likely graced the walls of a Florentine home centuries ago. Modestly sized devotional images were popular for private worship and to convey moral values, particularly to the women and children of a household. For this reason, such images were prevalent, celebrating Mary as the ideal model of divine nature and maternal devotion.
The haloed pair occupy a domestic interior where the everyday surroundings and gently modeled forms reflect the naturalism of Renaissance art and its celebration of humanity. A joyful leap propels Jesus into the embrace of his mother, where the lively toddler checks to see if we are still looking. His active gaze expresses the pride every baby has in his own agility, as well as deep affection for his Mother. By contrast, Mary’s eyes look inward—a common theme intended to suggest thoughtful pondering of her divine Child’s future.