Madonna and Child by Carlo Crivelli


Carlo Crivelli was an Italian Renaissance painter known for his conservative Late Gothic decorative style. Born in Venice, he spent his career in the Veneto and Ancona. His work is characterized by a remarkable precision of naturalistic detail, often inspired by contemporary Flemish painting. One of Crivelli’s notable works is “Madonna and Child,” dating to around 1480. The painting features excessive symbolic detail. For example, the apples and fly in the painting are symbols of sin and evil, while the cucumber and the goldfinch are symbols of redemption. Crivelli also introduces illusory elements that attempt to betray the imaginary space of the artwork by drawing attention to the fact that the work is merely a constructed image. 

Reflection Questions

  1. How does Crivelli’s use of naturalistic perspective and details contribute to the overall impact of “Madonna and Child”? How do these details interact with the more traditional elements of the painting?
  2. Consider the fly in the painting. Although produced in a highly naturalistic way, how does it challenge the naturalism of the entire work?
  3. In what ways does this painting engage with the topic of truth, error, and perception?

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