Carlo Crivelli

Early Italian Painter

Carlo Crivelli

Venetian (active 1457-1493) 

“Madonna and Child”

by Fern Rusk Shapley Washington D. C. National Gallery of Art  (1960)

Ariana Richards’ maternal grandmother, born Alma Giovanna Crivelli, would have been given one of Carlo Crivelli’s original paintings held in keeping by the Crivelli family for Crivelli daughters had she married in Italy. Because she married William Otto Garrison in 1943 during WWII in Ross, California, she was not able to receive her inheritance. Shortly thereafter, the Nazis confiscated the paintings of the Old Masters, the Crivelli paintings among them.

This piece, “Madonna and Child”, resides at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.  The following description of the painting was published in 1960.

Crivelli’s Madonna is reminiscent of the Hodegetria type (wherein the Virgin is represented as “She who points the Way,” as the Madonna’s left hand points towards the Child Jesus, Saviour of Mankind.)  The Virgin’s gestures of affection in this painting are those of the Glykophilousa, “She who is sweetly loving.” The Child is still very solemn, and He makes the sign of blessing. But He clings to His mother with His left arm, and she presses her face against His. The graceful, curving lines. inherited from the Gothic style, are appropriate for expressing this tender relationship. Suitable also are the detail which relate the holy figures to our familiar world. The cherry dropped casually on the parapet and the apples and pears hung on the wall suggest—quite apart from the Christian symbolism—a healthy attention to daily needs. The red silk cloth spread on the parapet reminds us of the tidiness and comfort of home. 

All these accessories serve a decorative purpose also. As we like to arrange fruits in baskets and bowls, so Renaissance artists bound them together in festoons and garlands. Crivelli displays these against a traditional gold background, which harmonizes with the rich brocades of jewelry in which he decks his figures. Even the hair of the Virgin is made to look like strands of gold, and the smooth flesh seems as firm as marble. Here, as frequently in Northern painting, technical excellence, in itself, affords much pleasure. We delight in the simulation of jewel, luxuriant brocade, and watered silk, in the masterly drawing of the clean-cut contour lines throughout.