Madonna of Humility

Madonna of Humility

late 1370s

Tempera and gold on wood panel

Framed: 91.5 x 70 x 4 cm (36 x 27 9/16 x 1 9/16 in.); Unframed: 79.6 x 54.6 cm (31 5/16 x 21 1/2 in.)

Gift of Dr. Rudolf J. Heinemann 1963.500


The Madonna is shown seated on the ground as she nurses the infant Christ in a style of depiction called the "Madonna (or Virgin) of Humility." Humility was a virtue extolled by Saint Francis of Assisi, and this style of image was a product of Franciscan piety, first developed by them for contemplation. The word humility is from the Latin humus, meaning earth or ground. By showing Mary seated on the ground or on a cushion, the artist emphasized the Virgin’s simplicity and humanity. The divine nature of the subject is made clear by the inscription (in Latin): Holy Mary, the milk of God. This indicates that the Virgin alone of all of humankind could bear and nurture the son of God.

See also
MED - Medieval Art
Medieval Art
Type of artwork: 

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