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Overall: 198.1 x 165.1 cm (78 x 65 in.)
Gift of J. H. Wade 1921.1180.g
The Madonna sits upon a throne with the Christ Child standing on her knee. He is steadied by his mother, turning delicately to grasp the Virgin's robe for support. On the left is St. Francis, identified by his stigmata. On the right, St. Anthony Abbot is identified by his monk's robe and T-shaped walking stick. The brown robes of the saints, the purple of the Virgin's tunic (a shade characteristic of the artist), and the flesh tones of the figures contrast strongly against the bright blue background. In the semicircular sky behind the figures, three winged cherub heads emerge, representing a host of angels.
The inclusion of St. Francis in this altarpiece honors the saint, suggesting that the altarpiece may have been originally built into the wall of a Franciscan institution in Tuscany. Two shields bearing the Borgherini family crest appear in the lower portion of the altarpiece's border, further suggesting that the chapel for which this altarpiece was made was likely owned or endowed by the family.
Glazed terracotta is both durable and decorative and the gleaming white of this piece would have stood out in the darkness of a church. The medium was made popular by Renaissance artist Luca della Robbia and came into fashion as a substitute for expensive carved marble. A rounded arch frame embellished with fruit and flower garlands as well as egg-and-dart and cord moldings accompanied the work when it was acquired, but was later determined not to be original and removed. Buglioni's work bears the influence of the della Robbias, particularly in the simple color scheme. Buglioni likely worked in the studio of Luca's nephew, Andrea, where he would have learned the technique of glazing terracotta.
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