Branchini Madonna

Giovanni di Paolo (Italian, 1403-1482)
Tempera and gold leaf on panel 
72 x 39 in. (182.9 x 99.1 cm) 
Credit Line:
The Norton Simon Foundation 
Accession Number:
© The Norton Simon Foundation 
On View

“Surrounded by multi-winged seraphim, the Virgin Mary is presented holding the infant Jesus who reaches tenderly for his mother and slightly touches her diaphanous veil. God the Father is also surrounded by a heavenly host above and gestures in both blessing and judgment. The dove representing the Holy Spirit radiates divine light. A variety of luminous effects were achieved with stamping and tooling gold, and as a result of the inclusion of glass gems set within Mary’s crown. Seen in candlelight, the whole ensemble would have been spectacularly spiritual. Attention to such natural details as the flowers strewn beneath Mary and the sumptuous fabrics contributes to the overall splendor and the theological message. Roses, carnations, marigolds and corn-flowers, for example, are symbols associated with the Holy Family and the Trinity and interestingly are also elements woven into the textiles. The painting is in a fine state of preservation. It is rare for a panel of this scale to have survived almost completely intact. The artist inscribed on the bottom of the frame in Latin “Giovanni of Siena son of Paolo painted [this in] 1427." Additional inscriptions include the opening lines of the Ave Maria and a poignant petition written within Mary’s halo: “I painted this for you. Virgin, Protect this man.”


Church of San Domenico, Siena, by 1427 (second altar on left of entrance);
Convent of San Domenico, Siena, Refectory, by 1649.
Galgano Saracini (d. 1824), Palazzo Saracini, Siena, by 1819, bequeathed to one of two sons;
Marcantonio Saracini (1805-1848) or Alessandro Giulio Saracini (1807-1877), by inheritance to;
Prince Chigi-Saracini, Siena, inventory no. 1263, sold c. 1922 to;
Robert von Hirsch (1883-1977), Frankfurt and Basel (sale, London, Sotheby’s, 21 June 1978, lot 103);
The Norton Simon Foundation.

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