The Madonna In Art by Estelle M. Hurll - THE PASTORAL MADONNA. Part 5

La Vierge et l’Enfant avec Sainte Catherine dit “la vierge au lapin”, Titien (1485_88-1576), Paris, musée du Louvre.

The subject of the Santa Conversazione should not be left without a brief reference to other Venetians, who added to the popularity of this charming style of picture. Berenson mentions seven by Palma's pupil, Bonifazio Veronese, and one by his friend, Lorenzo Lotto. Cima, Cariani, Paris Bordone, and last, but not least, the great Titian,[3] lent their gifts to the subject, so that we have abundant evidence of the Venetian love of natural scenery.

It remains to consider one more form of the pastoral Madonna, that which represents the Virgin and child in "a garden inclosed," in allusion to the symbolism of Solomon's Song (4:12). The subject is found among the woodcuts of Albert Dürer, but I have never seen it in any German painting.

[3] See particularly Titian's works in the Louvre, of which the Vierge au Lapin is an especially charming pastoral.

In Italian art there are two famous pictures of this class: by Francia, in the Munich Gallery, and by Filippino Lippi (or so attributed), in the Pitti, at Florence. In both the motif is the same: in the foreground, a square inclosure surrounded by a rose-hedge, with a hilly landscape in the distance; the Virgin kneeling before her child in the centre. Filippino Lippi's is one of those pictures whose beauty attracts crowds of admirers to the canvas. Copyists are kept busy, repeating the composition for eager purchasers, and it has made its way all over the world. The circle of graceful angels who, with the boy St. John, join the mother in adoring the Christ-child, is one of the chief attractions of the picture. It is a pretty conceit that one of these angels showers rose leaves upon the babe.

The pastoral Madonna is the sort of picture which can never be outgrown. The charm of nature is as perennial as is the beauty of motherhood, and the two are always in harmony. Here, then, is a proper subject for modern Madonna art, a field which has scarcely been opened by the artists of our own day. Such pastoral Madonnas as have been painted within recent years are all more or less artificial in conception. Compared with the idyllic charm of the sixteenth century pictures, they seem like pretty scenes in a well-mounted opera. We are looking for better things.