from Byzantine, to Bouguereau



"LATE RENAISSANCE c1500, to c1900"


Among the most famous of the Madonna and Child representations is

Michelangelo's Madonna of Bruges, 1501-1504.

It is believed this work was originally intended for an altarpiece.

This was the only sculpture by Michelangelo to leave Italy during his lifetime,

being purchased by Giovanni and Alessandro Moscheroni (Mouscron) of Bruges.

Since the 16th century, the Madonna has twice left Bruges, both as as a result of war :

in 1794 to Paris after the French Revolutionary War; and at Christmastime during WWII,

to Germany, smuggled by German soldiers within mattresses.

After a year's relentless search, it was found in an Austrian salt mine,

thence returned to Bruges - by dedicated members of "The Monuments Men".



"If these things are lost or broken or destroyed,

we lose a valuable part of our knowledge about our forefathers.

No age lives entirely alone; every civilisation is formed not merely by its own achievements

but by what it has inherited from the past. If these things are destroyed,

we have lost a part of our past, and we shall be the poorer for it."

- Robert M. Edsel, author, "The Monuments Men"



The Late Renaissance is revered for its development in arts and sciences.

Certainly, some of history's most esteemed painters lived and worked during this period :

Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, Holbein, and Botticelli, to name just a few.

In 17th century, Rembrandt moved painting into the "Golden Age", and Baroque painting.

The skills and messages of these artists remain bewildering.



"Darmstadt Madonna"

Hans Holbein the Younger, 1526-1527, Basel

Holbein, the extraordinary painter of detail, depicts the Madonna,

now 'crowned', standing, holding the Christ Child, and cloaked in black'.


(Since 2012, at Johanniterhalle, Schwäbisch Hall, German)

The Madonna is also 'enthroned by the escallop shell' rather than the chair.

The shell itself becomes Her 'radiant halo'.

(She is sided by Basel Bürgermeister Jakob Meyer zum Hasen,

who actively opposed the 'Protestant Reformation',

his first wife, who had died earlier, his current wife, and his daughter).

This painting is the 'antithesis' of Holbein's later

"Portrait of Henry VIII"*,

commissioned to depict 'power and aggressive masculinity'.

(Walter Art Gallery, Liverpool, England)

The shell, by contrast, represented 'femininity, the womb and divine space'.

Also encasing Michelangelo's "Madonna of Bruges",

the shell was a symbol of the 'new Venus' (Mary),

now empowered and supported from 'above' (spiritual)

rather than from 'below (nature),

as in Botticelli's "Birth of Venus".**


(Ufizzi Gallery, Florence, Italy)

The 'escallop shell motif' appears throughout the arts and in almost every culture.

And actually, the shell is said to have been the 'first spoon'!

Its use continues with great favor, and with a variety of applications...and 'meanings'!

Here are but a few interpretative "shell" examples from our collection :



Good George II Parcel Gilt Girandole Mirror, England, c1725

First Period Worcester Escallop Shell Sweetmeat Dish, "Primula", England, c1765

George II Large Silver Sauceboat, Shaw & Preist, 1757, crested stag's head attired

George II Cuban Mahogany Carved Side Chair, probably Irish, c1735

And of course, the "shell decoration" on one of the world's favorite table silver patterns :


A Quite Fine Pair of George IV Silver "Kings Hourglass" Chop / Asparagus Servers,

William Eaton, 1826-7, Very Heavy Gauge



Do notice as well that both the Madonna and Henry VIII

are depicted standing atop an intricately painted Oriental rug - then considered to embody

spiritual connotations - i.e. a relationship between heaven and earth :

Fine Antique Bidjar Sumak with Original Kilim Endings

Persia c 1900

Woven with horizontal alternating wide bands of 'cruciform' calyx medallions,

and narrow bands of flower calyxes (of 'crab form').

Even today, such rugs with hexagonal and cruciform motifs are often known as "Holbein rugs".

(A few interesting details about the 'cruciform' medallions appear

in the our first "2018 Christmas Part I" catalog)




In Old Italian, the name 'Ma Donna' meant 'My Lady'.

It was first attested in 1552 and its meaning was primarily 'woman' (Italian).

Its use in the sense of the Virgin Mary was attested much later, in 1844.

As well, Notre Dame means 'Our lady'.



Virgin and Child with the Milk Soup

Gerard David, c1515, Netherlandish, Oil on Oak Panel

David's Madonna, with thin 'ethereal veiling' rather than 'halo' or 'crown',

feeds the Christ Child with a wooden spoon in a humble setting

with a 'distant landscape' through the open window

(Aurora Trust, New York, NY, USA)

The Christ Child holds a branch of cherries,

the 'red sweet cherry' representing the 'Fruit of Paradise'.

Gerard David was the last of the true 'Netherlandish' painters,

whose goal it was to convey the experience of everyday life -

sometimes with astonishing detail.

These painters often included 'distant backgrounds', as the above window depicts.

Sweet cherry trees, indigenous to Europe, Asia and Northern Africa,

are also known as 'prunus' - that name historically permeating both Eastern and Western arts.

Below is a c1690 Japanese porcelain tankard, meticulously painted in Holland c1700,

with two partridge beneath both blooming and bearing 'prunus'.



Dutch-Decorated Japanese Pear Form Porcelain Tankard

Edo Period, c1680-1700

Painted with a 12th century Chinese design known as 'Quail and Millet',

later interpreted by Europeans as 'Two Quail', and 'Partridge'.

'The partridge' in Christian symbolism often refers to the 'Church', and 'Truth'.

'Grain' is used to suggest the 'human nature of Christ'.


Also note in David's painting, the flower-filled Ming blue & white jar with loop handle.

At this time, blue & white Chinese porcelain was being imported into Europe

from far-away mysterious lands - and imbued with further mysterious properties.


Kangxi Silver-Mounted Mustard Pot,

China , c1690, the Mounts 19th C., Dutch

A similar loop handled blue & white vessel, but 170 years later,

also featuring a lady and male child.

The lady - 'Long Eliza' - appears in alternating panels with vases of flowers.

On the cover appears a long-sleeved 'Dancing Boy' -'Zotje'.


The spoon-fed meal is a variation of the Virgin nursing the Child,

a metaphor of believers being nourished by the mother Church and by Christ.


Above is a c1620 wooden spoon we sold last year,

of the same form as the"Milk Spoon" in David's painting.

This spoon is either Swiss or German in origin, dating about 100 years later than David's painting.

The terminal apostle with nimbus (halo) is St. Paul.


Until c1700, a spoon was a very personal belonging,

most being given a single spoon at birth, which - even if nobility -

was carried on the person when traveling.

Each spoon remains a very personal diary of its owner.


James I Silver Apostle Spoon, James the Less London, 1609

Rare George I Silver Mustard Spoon, c1720

Late 17th Century Silver-Gilt Trefid Sweetmeat Spoon, Augsburg, c1690-95

17th Century Style Dutch 'Traveling' Fork-Cum-Spoon, with Terminal Pick (19th Century)

Matched Set of Three Trefids, Francis Acrhbold, John Cory, London 1692-99

(Click each spoon image or title for linked page)



Virgin with Child and the Cat

Rembrandt van Rijn, Leiden / Amsterdam, Netherlands, 1654 :

In the 1600s, depictions of the Madonna and Child were

portrayed in a far more domestic and intimate nature.

No one could execute this better than Rembrandt,

with his energetic line and great passion for observation.

This image may seem rather unimposing; however is extremely rich in story-telling.

Note first that the Madonna's placement has moved from the 'elevated'

(as the Holbein above) to a lower and more 'earthly' humanistic nature.


(Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, Amsterdam)

As well, Rembrandt's Madonna is no longer 'enthroned' by either chair or shell.

A medieval Savonarola chair of enthronement rests empty, 'behind' Her.

Neither is She 'crowned' or with golden 'halo' - but 'fine radiating lines' only.

She is seated on the floor in quite humble dress and surroundings, caressing Her Child.

A small open chest is beside Her.

A 'cat' plays with Her dress hem.

And a 'snake' slithers away from beneath Her feet - defeated.

Joseph looks in from the window behind.

It's a scene that might occur in any home (with hopeful exception of the snake).


The 'cat' is a most interesting symbol, having divergent - even opposite - meanings.

The cat alludes to the 'Church' and' Truth' -- as well as 'deceit'.

It also represents the 'night', the 'Limitless', and the 'yet Uncreated'.

In Durer's engraving "Adam and Eve", a cat appears at Eve's heel -

symbolizing 'lust'.


(The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City )

Cats are occasionally found in medieval "Assumption" paintings.

Although sacred to the Eqyptians and Orientals,

they do not appear (in Western art) with their current sentimentality until the 19th century.


The 'snake' as well harks back to the Garden of Eden.

Like the cat, the snake symbolizes both 'evil' and 'seduction',

as well as 'healing' - recall the two serpents of the physician's staff.

'Mary' - also named the 'New Eve' - was the 'conqueror of dragons',

and shown crushing a snake underfoot.



Rare George II Silver Picture-Back Mustard Spoon

showing the Goddess Diana (a Greek predecessor of Madonna)

with a 'radiant halo', the allusion to the halo being preferable

after the mid-16th century Council of Trent.

The 'oval windowpane' in Rembrandt's engraving (above) provides the completion of the allusion.


Louis XV / XVI Provincial Silver Tastevin

Third Quarter 18th Century, Crowned A.P Thrice (Antoine II Parrel)

with folded rim and half fluted sides, the rim scratch engraved I . GREGOIRE (Gregory),

having a twisted double-headed snake handle -

appearing on many French tastevins, apparently as a nod to the Greek god of wine, Dionysus

(just in case you have wondered)!

As well, it seems snakes benefit vineyards by keeping down destructive rodents.



Charles I Diminutive Oak 'Boarded Chest'

England, circa 1630-40

The small '6- board' chest (possibly a child's chest) is carved with

two fleur de lis (Purity) quatrefoils, each appearing as a 'saltire' (St. Andrews Cross),

siding a lockplate and frilly leafed palmette,

the symbolism of the palm including triumph over sin and death.

(The saffron colored silk is early 19th century Italian).

The boarded chest, along with the paneled coffer,

were the all-important 'storage furniture' of the day.

This small chest is just a few years earlier than the chest in Rembrandt's 1654 engraving.


During the 17th & 18th centuries religious paintings began

to assume - by request of the Church - a more complex nature :

extensive scenes, often with high emotion and drama,

swirling movement and cherubs, color, and strong chiaroscuro -

'all intended to overwhelm the worshipper' with awe.

And with curves on steroids, they did - and still do.

However the earlier arresting intimacy and reverence seems lost to the new grandeur -

as the objectives were more akin to Holbein's "Portrait of Henry VIII"

(as mentioned above).*



(Santa Maria del Suffragio, Rome)

Virgin and Child with Angels and Saints

Felice Torelli, Completed c1700

Oil on Canvas (Late Baroque)

employing the new bold undulating C- and S-scrolls

now filled with overwhelming power and energy;

depicting the Madonna giving the rosary to St Dominic.

The Dominican monk to the left is the late Pope Pius V.


These strong rhythms also transferred to the more secular

'Cabinetmaking' & 'Decorative Arts' :


Whilst the "devotional paintings" might have lost a certain something to excessive curves,

these same curves transformed the 18th century into a "golden age" for cabinetmaking.

The C- and S- curves gave a previously unequalled grace, elegance,

and sculptural quality to furniture and the decorative arts -

in particular to the Late Baroque period, c1700-1740.


'Late Baroque' is by far my favorite period for British furniture and accessories,

particularly regarding chairs and chests :


George I Carved Walnut Open Armchair

England, c1720, Original Surface

Note the vast difference between this form, and the earlier medieval style

folding Savonarola chair depicted in the Rembrandt's "Virgin with Child & the Cat".

Graceful undulating C- and S-scrolls now dominate the crestrail and splat.

The shapely 'cabriole legs', appearing British furniture only c1700,

are also carved with C-scroll returns,

and arched and acanthus carved knees



The proportions are also perfection!


As well, the 'cabinetmaker's chest' becomes a work of art.

Previously storage furniture had been the paneled coffer and '6-board chest',

as the small 1630-40 chest pictured in Rembrandt's engraving.


The 'late Baroque' bachelor's chest of drawers below

is an example of this remarkable transformation -


George I Walnut & Walnut Veneered Bachelor's Chest, c1715-20

retaining the original high feet, and drop handles on petal mounts,

the top conveniently falling forward to provide a large surface

for grooming and cleaning of clothing.

Bachelor's chests are so desired that many are fabricated by altering ordinary chests.

Note the restrained C-curve to the grain on the chest top.




As the 17th and 18th centuries saw cabinet-making become a major arts form,

(I have long referred to fine furniture as '3-dimensional art with a purpose')

similarly it saw landscapes and portraiture gain favor over religious paintings.

Royalty, aristocracy and middle class patrons began to prefer secular art,

enabling the sculptor and painter to make a living without Church patronage.

And this freedom created an entirely new 'language' and 'purpose' in painting -

including subject matter, concept and execution - all of which continue to change today.


An exception to this new "language" and style was 19th century French painter,

William-Adolphe Bouguereau,

who continued to embrace Italian Renaissance and classical traditions,

painting in the earlier classical manner,

even during the rapidly developing Impressionist Period.

This pre-occupation makes Bouguereau's 1899

'Virgin of the Lilies' all the more arresting,

as he combined many earlier styles of ornament and symbolism,

in a 'contemporary' manner, also with empowering 'restraint'.


(Private Collection)

The Virgin of the Lilies (La Vierge au Lys)

William-Adolphe Bouguereau, France, 1899

With full realism, and both solidity and fragility, this representation

(to me) marks a triumphant climax to 1500 years of devotional painting.

Bouguereau's flesh tones always glow as the most fragile transparent porcelain -

herein the light appearing to radiate from within both Mother and Child.

This radiance is contrasted with solidity and strength of the simple 'black gown' -

the attire of every 19th century European female devotee, and signifying the trials of life.


In this painting, Bouguereau combines many archetypes of the earlier icons :

- the Byzantine gold halo;

- enthronement (majestic marble chair);

- the garden (floral background);

- and lilies, (as Botticelli's 'Madonna of the Lilies').

- The Child again is held high but now with out-stretched arms and palms,

giving forth to all.


In 1900, when asked whom they thought would be remembered as the

19th century's greatest painter,

both Degas and Monet replied :

"William Bouguereau".


"Luxembourg Gardens, Paris, France"

Frederick Carl Smith American (California / Washington DC) 1868-1955

Oil on panel

Executed with the painterly brushstrokes for which he was known,

c1895, during his time spent studying in Paris with Bouguereau,

just shortly before the above "Virgin of the Lilies" was executed.

Although this painting measures only 9.25" wide, it illustrates 17 (or more)

colorfully dressed people, each depicted with the quick turn of a brush.

A partial detail is shown above.



"We must guard jealously all we have inherited from a long past,

all we are capable of creating in a trying present,

and all we are determined to preserve in a foreseeable future."

- Robert Edsel




Now For a "TIMELY" Seasonal Toast :

Here's To The 'Present'... To The 'Future' ... and To Our 'Very Long Past'!

And To Everyone -- Everywhere,

'A VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS'... May Your 'Merry' Long Last!


Millicent Creech

Anna Bearman

Camille Fleischauer

Keith Rainer


(Please click the above 'stock images or titles' for more information and images,

including the "three glasses" immediately above.)





"The Earlier Periods, to c1000 AD" :


"The Late Middle Ages, 1000-1500 AD" :

and :

(Rucellai Madonna, Duccio, 1285)

The Evolution in Iconography from the Mother & Child

to the Madonna & Child in Fine Art

(from c 37,000 BCE - the 20th century)

compiled by Anna J. Bearman




Legend & Notes - 'Christmas 2018, The Renaissance c1500, to c1900" :


"Madonna of Bruges", Michelangelo.1501-1504,

Church of Our Lady, Bruges, Belgium


"Darmstadt Madonna", Hans Holbein the Younger, 1526-1527,

Since 2012, at Johanniterhalle, Schwäbisch Hall, Germany


*Hans Holbein, "Portrait of Henry VIII" :

This portrait is part of a mural destroyed by fire in the 17th century. Several copies of the section

showing Henry VIII survive, of which this is probably the best.

"The portrait shows Henry in a strong and authoritative pose, his barrel-chested figure,

feet planted firmly apart, glaring with a bullying authority."

Walter Art Gallery, Liverpool, England


** Sandro Botticelli, "Birth of Venus", Ufizzi Gallery, Florence, Italy.

Depicts the goddess Venus, having emerged from the sea as a fully grown woman,

arriving at the sea-shore. It is thought to be based in part on the Venus de' Medici,

an ancient Greek marble sculpture of Aphrodite.

It is also said that the muse for many of Botticelli's works,

including his 'Madonna' paintings & 'Birth of Venus',

was Simonetta Cattaneo - a neighbor and 'icon of beauty in Florence at that time".

Botticelli requested to buried 'at Simonetta's feet' in Church of All Saints,

where their tombs rest there side by side.


"Virgin and Child with the Milk Soup", Gerard David, c1515, Netherlandish, oil on oak,

Aurora Trust, New York, NY, USA


"The Virgin and Child with the Cat", Rembrandt van Rijn, 1654. B., Holl 63; H. 275; BB 54-C

Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, Amsterdam


"Adam and Eve" Albrecht Dürer, :

1504, Nuremberg, Germany, engraving,

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City


"Virgin and Child with Angels and Saints", Felice Torelli

c1700, Santa Maria del Suffragio, Rome


"The Virgin of the Lilies", William-Adolphe Bouguereau,

France, 1899, Private Collection

An Exhibition of William-Adolphe Bouguereau

comprising approximately 50 masterful paintings :

co-organized by Milwaukee Art Museum & Memphis Brooks Museum of Art,

will open at the Milwaukee Art Museum, February 2019, Memphis Brooks Museum of Art in June 2019,

and San Diego Museum of Art in November 2019.


Inventory Photography : Millicent F. Creech


Above Masterwork Sculpture, Paintings & Enraving Licensed by Creative Commons



Please click the above images or titles for more information and images.


901-761-1163 (gallery) / 901-827-4668 (cell)




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Christmas 2018 : From Byzantine to Bouguereau, Part III, Renaissance, to c1900 


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