Manchester Madonna

Manchester Madonna
Artist Michelangelo
Year c. 1497
Medium Tempera on panel
Location National Gallery of London, UK
Dimensions 41 in × 30 in
105 cm × 76 cm

The Madonna and child painting commonly referred to as the Manchester Madonna by Michelangelo with St. John and the Angels is a very simple but an elaborate incomplete painting of the Holy family. The painting shows the virgin mother exposing a single breast in what appears to be her preparing to nurse the Christ child or having already done so. The virgin mother holds a book in her right hand away from the child as he reaches for it. The book is most likely foretelling her son’s forth coming sacrifice.

The virgin Mother gazes at two angles standing just behind her left shoulder as they apparently read from a scroll. The scroll is most likely the ‘lamb of God.’ The painting portrays the return of the divine family from Egypt and shows the visit of the Virgin Mary and her son with his cousin St. John the Baptist.

A pair of angels to her right are illuminated with only green pigments which is the base color for flesh tone. Her robe in black also indicates an unfinished work as it lacks the blue pigments common for the Virgin’s robe color. The background too is devoid of livid color. This lack of color in several areas of the painting is what probably attributed too much confusion and doubt of scholars as to who the artist was that created the painting.

This unfinished work of art is now believed to have been created in Rome during c. 1497 by Michelangelo even though in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries this was doubted. Perhaps because the panel painting lacked the rich colors typical of Michelangelo’s works it was confusing to credit the artist until much later.

Michelangelo was one of the greatest artists of the Renaissance era. His paintings were very vividly drawn with bright colors. His subjects, in many paintings appeared alive and in a few instances their eyes appeared to be looking back at you. It was Michelangelo’s colorful and detailed works that frequently moved viewers to tears. In the Manchester Madonna, these graphic and vivid colors are absent for the most, spurring speculation as to who the actual artist might have been.

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