Jacopo Bassano (Jacopo Da Ponte), Madonna and Child with Saints and Donors

Oil on canvas
Museo Civico, Bassano del Grappa, Italy

In the center St. Matthew introduces Matteo Soranzo to the Madonna, who responds with a raised hand. Soranzo was the Podestà (chief magistrate) of the city of Bassano and came from a prominent family of Venetian nobles.

Standing at St. Matthew's shoulder St. Francis of Assisi opens his Franciscan habit to reveal the stigmatum in his side. His hands also bear stigmata, wounds like those suffered by Christ which were given to Francis in a vision. Francis is the patron saint of Matteo Soranzo's brother Francesco, who stands at left and turns his attention to the viewer.

On the far right, St. Lucy offers the baby the palm branch symbol of her martyrdom. Her left hand holds a plate bearing her attribute, a pair of eyes. At her left sits her namesake, Matteo's daughter Lucia. The girl pets her dog and evinces even less interest in the goings-on than her uncle.

The baby is naked and his genitals are exposed. This was an innovation of the 15th century that continued into the 16th but gradually lost favor. Like the baby's pudginess and the thumb in his mouth, it emphasizes Christ's full humanity. On the other hand, his divinity is also expressed by the three beams of light emanating from his head and by the golden shine of his hair.

As usual, Mary wears a blue mantle over a red robe. The white veil also appears in some of Bassano's other paintings.

At Matteo Soranzo's back an angel points to a passage in a book whose running heads identify it as liber secu??. The last two or three letters are indistinct; the words could perhaps be liber seculi, "the book of the age."

The flowers behind the angel and in the girls's hand are lily of the valley, conventional symbols of the Virgin Mary. They can also symbolize humility, a virtue which would perhaps preclude populating a Madonna image with one's family members.1

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Photographed at the site by Richard Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.

1 Impelluso, 79. Sill, 52.