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Virgin and Child Enthroned and a Servite Friar, with Angels

Center panel and spandrels of an altarpiece

Pietro Lorenzetti, Italian (active Siena, Cortona, Assisi, Arezzo, and Florence), first documented 1306, last documented 1345

Made in Siena, Italy, Europe

c. 1319

Tempera and tooled gold on panel with vertical grain

50 1/4 × 27 5/8 inches (127.6 × 70.2 cm) Center panel: 48 1/2 × 27 5/8 inches (123.2 × 70.2 cm) Left side spandrel: 9 3/4 × 9 7/8 inches (24.8 × 25.1 cm) Right side spandrel: 9 1/2 × 10 1/4 inches (24.1 × 26 cm)

Curatorial Department:
European Painting

* Gallery 310, European Art 1100-1500, third floor

Accession Number:
Cat. 91;EW1985-21-1,2

Credit Line:
John G. Johnson Collection, 1917 (center panel); Purchased with the George W. Elkins Fund, the W. P. Wilstach Fund, and the J. Stogdell Stokes Fund, 1985 (spandrels)

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This work once formed the center section of a large altarpiece. The small man kneeling in prayer wears the robe and tonsured haircut of a monk or friar. His diminutive size, lack of a halo, and posture of reverence indicate that he is not a heavenly being. He is, in fact, the donor who commissioned this altarpiece, probably for the church of his own convent.

During recent conservation, fragments of the artist's signature were discovered at the bottom of the panel.

Additional information:
  • PublicationPhiladelphia Museum of Art Handbook (2014 Edition)

    Many fourteenth- and fifteenth-century Italian paintings in the John G. Johnson Collection (see Philadelphia Museum of Art, inv. 1336, cat. 563, cat. 1027) are fragments of altarpieces that were disassembled during and after the Napoleonic invasions of Italy, from the late eighteenth through the nineteenth century. Pietro Lorenzetti’s panel of the Virgin and Child was reunited with its spandrels, each showing an angel, only in 1985, and recently another section from the original multipaneled altarpiece has surfaced. Fragments of the artist’s signature, an uncommon feature on paintings from this time, are visible on the step on which an Augustinian friar kneels. His diminutive scale suggests he most likely was the person who commissioned the panel. Carl Brandon Strehlke, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook. Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2014, p. 88.

  • PublicationPhiladelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections

    Even though a regularized system of perspective had not yet been developed, early fourteenth-century Italian artists Pietro Lorenzetti searched for ways to suggest that a painting was a window onto another visible world in which the artist tried to control the perception of forms in space. These panels, which formed the center of a large altarpiece (whose other elements are now dispersed and lost), represent one of Lorenzetti's most successful and carefully calculated illusions of three-dimensionality. The angels in the spandrels rest their folded arms on the frame as if to mark a limit between their world and that of the viewer, while the Virgin and Child twist in opposite directions to draw attention to their positions within the painting's space. Subtle details, such as the fringe from the Virgin's mantle that falls over the front step, add to our awarenenss of depth. The kneeling figure is a monk or friar. As was then traditional, his diminutive dimensions identify him as a donor and underscore his devotion to the holy figures. It was probably he who commissioned the altarpiece for his church. Carl Brandon Strehlke, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections (1995), p. 162.

* Works in the collection are moved off view for many different reasons. Although gallery locations on the website are updated regularly, there is no guarantee that this object will be on display on the day of your visit.