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The Virgin and Child

c. 1455-1460
Desiderio da Settignano (Italian (active Florence), 1429/32–1464)

This relief sculpture is a masterpiece of marble carving and a reflection of the inventive exploration of sculptural techniques that is synonymous with artists working in Florence in the 1400s. One of the innovations developed by the great sculptor Donatello (1386–1466) in the 1420s was rilievo schiacciato (flattened relief), a form of carving that employs line and moderate variations of surface depth to achieve refined effects. In this relief, Desiderio da Settignano transforms a familiar Renaissance religious subject of the Virgin with the infant Jesus into an image of atmospheric, unearthly delicacy.

The engaging expressions of the Virgin and Child offer a tender intimacy in an otherwise ethereal scene. Acquired as part of the important collection of the French antiquarian Edmond Foulc, this remarkable masterpiece was realized through a near-miraculous manipulation of the marble’s shallow surface.

Object Details

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