Madonna of the Pear
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
Inscription in the top right, monogrammed and dated 1512 Lindenwood, 49 x 37 cm Vienna, Kunsthistorischcs Museum 1512
Its provenance is probably the same as that for the Madonna Nursing, preserved in the same museum. A refined variety of details encircle the delicate face of the Virgin: the curls, the veil, and the ribbon across the forehead. The drawing of the eyes and eyebrows is sharp, and the red lips are well defined. Bowing her head tenderly toward her child and bestowing on him an extremely sweet smile, she presents him to the spectator. He lies on a sky-blue cloth, under which she hides her hands so as not to touch him, as one would not touch a precious jewel.
There has always been much discussion about the difference between the deli-cateness of Maria's face and the robust plasticity of the Herculean body of the child, likewise, about the differences in the pictorial technique adopted for each one: a much more physical depiction of the child than the mother. Much has been said about the marked torsion in the body of the little boy, which is splendid both in terms of formal and chromatic considerations. Other similar examples exist in Durer's paintings and drawings. But no one, until now, has tried to resolve the meaning of the painting, or the presence of the cut pear ostentatiously presented by the child. His limpid and open gaze knowingly peers into the far distance. The pear as an attribute of Christ and Maria is not rare in Venetian painting of the Renaissance, and it appears in all Italian painting; following an interpretation of Bernardo di Chiaravalle of the Cantico dei Cantici, the sweetness of the taste symbolizes the sweetness of mouth and heart, which are, according to Saint Bonaventure, the gifts of the wise (Levi d'Ancona, The Garden of the Renaissance, 1977). Even Durer depicted it (1509) in the middle of other fruits in a basket at Maria's feet, in the drawing of the Holy Family under the Loggia (W 466). The unusual fact in this painting is that the pear in the child's hand is cut and bitten into. However, wisdom and sweetness are certainly the principal themes of this delightful small devotional image.
Description from History of Art
This depiction of the Madonna differs from others in the long series painted by Dürer in the marked difference between Mary's head and the infant Jesus, both in terms of composition and artistic execution. The Madonna's gently smiling countenance derives from Dutch tradition. In contrast, the child's posture twisted in the body's axis can be traced back to the Italian Early Renaissance. The child's powerful physicality, achieved by Dürer by means of soft, finely spread shadows, is Italian in origin.
Description from Kunsthistorisches Museum
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