Art Analysis: Madonna and Child Enthroned by Lippo Vianni

Introduction

            Gothic Art refers to a combination of painting, sculpture, architecture and music that was unique for the central Europe region and popular in the Middle Ages’ period. Initially, it was developed from the Romanesque art which gave it a significant influence over the centuries especially between the mid-12th century and 15th century.

            Being a focal point, the Child and Madonna topic has always been in the western art’s history for a long time. The topic has always represented stylistic originality from the late 13th to 14th century. It reflects the religious concept that has always evolved with time. Madonna and the Child art remains the icons that are vital for both the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. They permeate Christian art which cannot possibly be exceeded by any other art. Among the painters who came up with Madonna and the Child paintings at the Gothic and Renaissance period alongside the Lippo Vanni include Giatto and Cimabue. The art that is depicted in the sculpture and paintings form has much differences and resemblance with the one that Lippo Vanni came up with as it will be discussed in this essay.

Vanni’s “Madonna and Child Enthroned” (1343)

The current location of Lippo Vanni’s “Madonna and Child Enthroned” is the Lower Art Museum at the University of Miami. Wood tempera was used in the creation of this painting. Vanni presented intense colors and lines’ clarity. He used the basic color tones that include black, orange and red to depict the Angevin family members of the 14th century. These were Queen Elizabeth and Prince Andreas who are depicted as they kneel at the feet of the Virgin. On the Virgin’s right hand, St. Elizabeth is also depicted. St. Dominic stands on the other side of the virgin. People know this piece for its title, “Madonna and Child Enthroned with Donors and Saints Dominic and Elizabeth of Hungary, c.1343”.  

Vanni’s piece differs from the other pieces discussed in this essay because it does not depict angels. It depicts two saints only while comparing a few people. The division of the painting presents three archways. Each saint has a lateral arch. Virgin Mary holds Baby Jesus while sharing with the royal family’s members. The artist uses the female saint as a symbol of religion’s universality. This presents religion as being all-inclusive regardless of one’s gender. The artist includes the royal family’s members as they kneel before Virgin’s throne as she holds Baby Jesus as an indication of religion’s superiority. It shows that not person is greater or superior to God. The scale used by the artist to represent the royal family’s members emphasizes this. Their scale is smaller than the one used for Virgin Mary, the saints and Baby Jesus.

Vanni used symmetry in the painting to depict the Virgin Mary’s Majestic nature. She sits at the center while the saints surround her. Just like the essay has discussed, lively and warm colors were used to paint this piece. Heavenly light is not visible in the piece which is usually used to depict the aspect of holy nature. The piece has a mild lighting within its lateral arches which the saints use. The throne uses a brighter lighting that is different from the gold color that is used in the background. This gives the picture a reality aspect while making the Virgin Mary’s image and the baby unique. St. Dominic has a monk cloak while Elizabeth has a housewife’s cloak. This also gives the picture a realistic aspect. The royal clothing that is worn by the royal family’s members as they kneel at Virgin Mary’s feet also emphasizes reality. The appearance and outlook of the Virgin Mary seems demure just like in the other pieces that depict her as a quiet, demure and holy person.

Cimabue “Madonna Enthroned” (1275)

The Giovanni Cimabue’s Madonna and Child Enthroned is an older painting when compared to the “Madonna and Child Enthroned with Donors and Saints Dominic and Elizabeth of Hungary, c.1343. It was produced in 13th century. This piece shows Madonna Enthroned, eight angels and a child. Usually, the pattern of this painting is commonly called Maesta since it depicts the Paradise’s queen as the Virgin. There are four figures from the bible below the angels and the virgin. These are the symbols of Christ kingdom’s foundation. They are prophet Jeremiah and Isaiah under the lateral archways as well as Abraham and King David who appears directly beneath the throne’s chair.

This piece demonstrated more sensibility with some level of reality. Maesta is a composition that is symmetrical and quite dense. It has an imposing Virgin figure. She uses a gesture that is hardly child-like to bless the Child. Nevertheless, the figures have been brought out by the artist in a subtle and gentle manner. They have also been given a human sense. This picture has a drapery that articulately fit the body figures’ movement. For example, this can be seen on the angels’ cloaks which have protruding knees. The piece has a clearly delicate palette and shaded tones which can be seen from the angels’ wings. Real solidarity as well as unmatched visual presence has been assumed by the articulate shades.   

This piece depicts similarity to Madonna by Cimabue at Louvre as well as Duccio’s Ruccelai Madonna. It also shows a sizeable Byzantine tradition’s influence. While trying to enhance space depth, unprecedented tension in the profiles emerges. To achieve this depth, the image depicts figures’ overlay and a structure that is seen at the throne’s bottom behind the figures of the prophets. The structure of the throne assumes a scheme that is somehow robust. This creates a three-dimensional effect. The piece has edges that seem to hold and compress the bodies. The figures’ intense vitality can also be felt. Vitality and dramatic force are characteristics of Cimabue’s works. This piece is currently located at The Bridgeman Art Library which is situated in Italy. Initially, the painting was displayed at the higher alter of Santa Trinita Church in Florida.

Giatto’s Gothic “Madonna Enthroned” (1300)

This painting by the Italian, Giatto di Bondone is also called The Ognissanti Madonna. A common belief is that it was made around 1310 during the 14th century. Currently, the painting is situated at Uffizi Gallery which is located in Florence. The picture uses panel tempera as its medium which is different from that of Vanni’s painting which uses wood tempera. This piece depicts enthroned virgin who holds Baby Christ. Adoring angels and saints surround her. Nevertheless, the only similarity between this piece and the other Maesta is the Orgnissanti theme.

Supporting figures such as the angels and saints have been arranged in one group on the throne’s sides. They appear to stand naturally just like human beings. The piece obscures the faces of some saints and angels completely or partially which would have normally been the case if the scene is viewed from an interior position. The piece uses the Madonna figure as a way of deviating from the usual medieval means of painting. This is because instead of painting them as light, figures that are almost weightless or angels are depicted as big, commanding and towering over the other figures in this painting. The figure looks almost intimidating because significant pride replaces the traditional modest appearance. Contrary, the virgin holds the child’s leg in a tenderly manner as a protectiveness gesture.

Giatto uses the colors carefully by choosing bright and lively colors which are different from the largely used gold color for the religious paintings of his predecessors. Although gold is used in bathing, this painting in the ethereal light, this piece has a pure reality reminder. The angels’ robes have lovely reds and greens coloring as well as real sculpture and movement which are contrary to the robes that were done previously since they were colorless and formless. The angels have wings which seem to be a reflection of heavenly light.

The amazing combination of orange, gold and red shine brings this out because it serves as a perfect match for the throne. In this piece, the throne has red and green geometric shapes which match the angels’ robes articulately. The clothing of Madonna uses stark-black color. This contrasts her regal and holy status directly. Light and almost completely pink tunic adorns the infant Jesus. This suggests innocence and sweetness.

Light has been used in Ognissanti by Giotto which is not the case with the others which use heavenly light as a way of depicting the picture’s holiness. The light from above is used in this picture which is a form of celestial light that brings a feeling of brightness and joy in the surrounding. Reality is created within the environment by this light. The artist has paid attention to the little details. This has brought the subjects and scenes to live. For instance, the shade beneath Madonna’s breast proofs the impact of creativity in the use of light.