Madonna and Child Enthroned

Paolo di Giovanni Fei, Madonna and Child Enthroned, circa 1385–90. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

There is a lot going on here—the painting’s full name is Madonna and Child Enthroned with Saint John the Evangelist, Saint Peter, Saint Agnes, Saint Catherine of Alexandria, Saint Lucy, an Unidentified Female Saint, Saint Paul, and Saint John the Baptist, with Eve and the Serpent; the Annunciation.  Very few paintings survive that show Mary with Eve lying at her feet, and all were created in central Italy between about 1335 and 1445. This pairing of Mary and Eve reflects a central theme of the cult of Mary in the 14th century: that Mary was the new Eve, and Mary and Jesus represented the full circle of redemption in contrast to the fall of Adam and Eve.

Eve, at Mary’s feet, looks out at the viewer. She is identified by her banner and the nearby snake with a female head. Her provocative pose contrasts with Mary’s. However, the painting doesn't imply that Mary is triumphant or victorious over Eve. Rather, it shows that she and the Christ child are sympathetic to weaknesses of the flesh.

Paolo di Giovanni Fei, Madonna and Child Enthroned, circa 1385–90.

The angel Gabriel's announcement to Mary that she would become Jesus' mother. Celebrated as a Christian holiday, often around March 25.

A system of religious worship, or cultus (e.g., the Israelite cult). Also refers to adherents of that system.

A person deemed holy by a religious tradition, especially in Roman Catholicism.

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