The glory was originally a sort of nimbus of a larger order, surrounding the entire figure, instead of merely the head. It was oval in shape, like the almond or mandorla.
Madonna della stella
A single star gleams above her brow, from whichis derived the title of the picture. She holds her child fondly, and he, with responsive affection, nestles against his mother, pressing his little face into her neck. Faithful to the standards of his predecessors, and untouched by the new spirit of naturalism all about him, the monk painter preserves, in his conception, the most sacred traditions of past ages, and yet unites with them an element of love and tenderness which appeals strongly to every human heart.
It is but a step from this earlier form of the Madonna in Gloria to the more modern style of the Madonna in the Sky, where the field of vision is enlarged, and we see the Virgin and child raised above the surface of the earth. In some pictures, her elevation is very slight. There is a curious composition, by Andrea del Sarto (Berlin Gallery), where we are puzzled to know if the Madonna is enthroned or enskied. A flight of steps in the centre leads up as if to a throne, but above these the Virgin sits in a niche, on a bank of clouds.
Madonna and Child with St. Sebastian
In other pictures the dividing line between earth and heaven is much more strongly marked. We have a landscape below, then a stratum of intervening air, and, in the upper sky, the Madonna with her child. The lower part of the picture is occupied by a company of saints, to whom the heavenly vision is vouchsafed; or, in rare cases, by cherubs.