42. [French or Flemish school]
Drawing, pen and black ink, gilt, watercolour, 49 x 37,5 cm, laid paper pasted on wooden board, (some minor foxing, tiny pieces of paint layer missing from Mary's blue drapery).
Stuck under sculpted gilt frame (some min. damages).
During the Counter-Reformation imagery of the Holy Virgin regained a tremendous popularity, with this type of a Madonna on a crescent moon as one of the most frequently-used types. It was a mode of representation which harked back to the late Gothic period, and the portrayal of the apocalyptic woman by St. John the Evangelist (Rev 12:1): "a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars". Yet, more striking than the hovering Virgin with eight cherubs, is perhaps the floral decoration surrounding the main subject. A wide and lush array of flowers from all seasons (roses, tulips, irises, peonies, etc.) occupies the decorative margin, echoing Medieval Flemish traditions of marginal decorations in illuminated manuscripts of the Ghent-Bruges school. Probably executed by a different hand, these flowers can compete with the best flower-still lives of Flemish and Dutch painting. The flowers also refer to a rich tradition linking the Holy Virgin with floral mystical imagery and symbolism.
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