Giovanni da Milano (Caversaccio 1325 ca. – 1370 ca.)
Madonna and Child with Saints
Tempera on wood
87 x 55 cm
Giovanni da Milano, active in Florence and Lombardy between 1346 and 1369, was a leading light of the school of Giotto. This small polyptych, dating from the earliest years of his career, is subdivided into seven panels. The central one is divided into two scenes: above, the Virgin with the Infant Jesus enthroned and surrounded by angels, and beneath the Lamentation over the Dead Christ. In the topmost row appear two additional Christological scenes, the Annunciation and Nativity, while in the bottom row, the Crucifixion appears together with the Lamentation. In the side panels of the middle row, Saint Nicholas can be identified on the left, holding up three golden balls and Saint Stephen (or Saint Lawrence, given the lack of precise attributes); on the right is Saint Eustace, distinguished by the deer, and Saint James with his pilgrim’s staff. Finally, in the lower right-hand panel, Saint Margaret appears with the dragon at her feet and Saint Catherine of Alexandria is identified by the spiked wheel of her martyrdom. Despite the gold ground, which continued to be widely used into the following century, the work is notable by its search for a real sense of space and intensity of expression in the figures, showing how central Giotto’s experience proved for the following generation of artists.