Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index

  • Title: Madonna of Mercy with Foundlings
  • Creator: Domenico de Michelino, painter
  • Description:

    This work, produced by Florentine painter Domenico de Michelino (1417-91), was commissioned by the city of Florence and its silk guild for the Ospedale degli Innocenti, a charitable institution providing shelter to orphans and foundling children. The Madonna degli Innocenti follows an archetypal model of the Madonna of Mercy which was a popular subject for Italian artists throughout the 15th century. Under the green cloak draped over her outstretched arms, the children of the hospital seek protection from this devotional figure of charity. These supplicants are divided into three age groups distinguished by their dress and size. The youngest, at the lowest level are swaddled tightly in white cloth. The intermediate group are dressed in short, white tunics, their hands resting on the shoulders of the youngest boys. One child grasps Mary's dress and looks upwards towards her face. The eldest children indicated by their black garb clasp their hands in prayer, with most looking upwards.

    All are clothed in decent garments, not rags, and appear well-nourished. These children, while ostensibly without parents, live comfortably at the Hospital thanks to the intercession and protection of the Mother of Mercy. Behind them is the loggia (portico?) of the hospital whose architecture consists of an arcade of rounded arches and empty roundels on either side of her head. A halo also surrounds Mary’s head.

  • Source: Wikimedia Commons
  • Rights: Public domain
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  • Geographic Area: Italy
  • Century: 15
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