It was in the Middle Ages that images of the Mother Mary, also known as Madonnas, began to pick up popularity. And specifically in Italy, in the process of panel painting.
The role of the Dominican
The Dominican and Franciscan Orders were among the first to give the go-ahead for such panels, and they were used everywhere from churches and monasteries to residential homes. Groups called confraternities met specifically to sing the Virgin Mary’s praises in chapels and were known to provide the funding for such panels.The panels themselves, as part of the construction of churches dedicated to the Mother Mary, could be costly affairs, as they often included real gold leaf. Some stone used in the construction, including the bright blue lapis lazuli, was brought all the way from Afghanistan.
In the late Middle Ages, the artist Duccio was responsible for creating some of the most famous Madonnas. One of the most famous ones is above the altar in the Cathedral of his hometown, Siena. This is known as the Maesta and is included as part of a massive work which depicts various prophets and saints.
The unique style of the Middle Ages
The Mother Mary can usually be distinguished in these Middle Ages works due to her depiction as a young mother. She is typically wearing a blue mantle or appears in murals and mosaics. There’s a great deal of attention paid to the emotion on the face of Mother Mary, while she is holding the Baby Jesus. Moreover, this is often depicted as an intimate moment, in which the compassion of the Mother Mary can be seen.