Object Image

La Madonna della Rondine (The Madonna of the Swallow)

This large panel comes from an altarpiece painted in 1491 by Carlo Crivelli. It was made for the Ottoni family chapel in the Franciscan church at Matelica, in the Italian Marches.

The Virgin, to whom the chapel was dedicated, appears crowned as the Queen of Heaven, with the Christ Child on her knee. The saints on either side of her reflect the concerns of the patrons, one a churchman, the other a soldier: Saint Jerome was the patron of scholars and theologians, while Sebastian was the patron of soldiers. The swallow of the title, a symbol of Christ's Resurrection, perches above Mary's head.

This large altarpiece was painted by Carlo Crivelli in 1491 for a family chapel in the Franciscan church in Matelica, a small town in the Italian Marches. The Ottoni were the local ruling family - you can see their coat of arms placed conspicuously on the bottom edge of the main panel.

The location heavily influenced the altarpiece's design. The Ottoni chapel was tall and needed a tall altarpiece: including the frame and predella (the bottom tier) the painting is approximately 2.5 metres high. There was a large window on the back wall of the chapel - which was unusual - so the altar and altarpiece had to be on the side walls. This painting was on the left wall; the light in it comes from the upper right, mimicking the actual light in the chapel.

Credit: Bought, 1862

after 1490
Egg and oil on poplar
150.5 x 107.3cm
Image and text © The National Gallery, London, 2024

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