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Piero di Cosimo, Italian
Madonna and Child Enthroned with Saints Peter, John the Baptist, Dominic, and Nicholas of Bari, c.1481–85
tempera and oil on panel
66 1/4 x 44 1/8 inches
Museum Purchase 1:1940

This large painting featuring the Virgin Mary, baby Jesus, and four saints was once in a private chapel belonging to the Pugliese (Pool-YAZE-ee) family. Their coat of arms is in the frame’s lower corners. In the large central painting, Mary and the baby are sitting on a raised throne as Saints Peter and John the Baptist introduce the other two holy figures, Saints Dominic and Nicholas of Bari (BAR-ee). We can recognize the figures by their clothes and the objects they hold: Peter has two keys; John the Baptist wears a brown animal skin; Nicholas of Bari, dressed in green and red, holds three gold balls; and a white lily appears above Dominic’s shoulder. The saints’ poses and gestures direct our eyes to Jesus, who raises his hand in a sign of blessing. Dominic, John, and Nicholas also appear in the three smaller paintings along the bottom which show scenes from their lives.

For younger students:
Is this painting symmetrical or asymmetrical? Why?
What do you imagine each of the characters is saying in this painting?

For older students:
Describe some examples of symmetry in the painting. Be sure to include the frame in your discussion. This painting is called a sacred conversation because the figures all communicate with each other in some way. Name some of the ways.

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