Tommaso del Mazza, Italian, fl. c.1370-c.1420
Title: The Virgin and Child with Saints and Donors
Date: c.1400
Medium: Tempera and gold leaf on poplar panel
111 x 153 cm
Credit Line: Presented, Sir Alfred Chester Beatty, 1951
Object Number: NGI.1201
DescriptionThis altarpiece, with painted frame, centres on the Virgin and Child, behind whom two angels hold a canopy. On the pinnacles above, Christ is shown giving a blessing
between the angel Gabriel and Virgin, who form a single narrative of the Annunciation.

In accord with the hieratic representation in Late Gothic art, the Virgin and Child are the largest figures, here shown seated the ground, rather than on the usual throne, prefiguring the Virgin of Humility. The infant Christ holds a goldfinch, a symbol of the Crucifixion. Under plain drapery, their chemises are ornately patterned, with the addition of punched gold decoration, a finish also applied to the gold background of the painting. Two male donors are presented by saints; on the right, clearly St Lucy holding a lantern and St Bernard in Cistercian robes. On the left, the cross and scroll could refer to any number of saints; there are traces of an inscription below that might have identified them.
The artist, identified by a group of anonymous works, is now thought to be Tommaso del Mazza. He is first identified in the studio of Andrea Orcagna and followed his use of rich colours and ornate gold backgrounds.

Label TextIn Christian art, saints are usually easily identifiable by their attributes. In this case Saint Lucy, standing on the right, is recognisable because she holds an oil lamp, while Saint Bernard kneels beside her wearing the robes of the Cistercian order. The identities of the two saints in the left panel remain a mystery. The small figures are portraits of donors, individuals who commissioned the altarpiece as a votive offering to God. They are depicted comparatively small, while the Virgin and Christ Child, the most important figures, are large. Tommaso del Mazza painted in a stylised late-Gothic manner using brilliant colours.