Triptych: The Madonna of Humility (centre); The Nativity (left); The Crucifixion (right); The Annunciation (top left and right)
Francescuccio Ghissi (fl.1359-1374)
The small scale of this triptych, relating episodes in the life of the Virgin Mary, tells us that it was designed for private devotion. The momentous events of the Annunciation, Nativity and Crucifixion are all included, yet the central panel, in which the Virgin nurses the Christ Child, presents her gentle humility as the primary focus of religious meditation. This divine quality, which was regarded as the root of all other virtues in Medieval theology, is conveyed by the way the she sits humbly on the ground. Heavenly glory is nonetheless also strongly conveyed by the richly-worked gold ground and her precious blue mantle which writhes with a complex dragon motif. It was conventional to depict the Virgin’s breast on the outside of her clothing.
Tempera painting on panel, The Madonna of Humility (centre); The Nativity (left); The Crucifixion (right); The Annunciation (top left and right) by Francescuccio Ghissi (fl.1359-1374). Centre panel, the Madonna in a robe decorated in gold with dragon motifs is seated nursing the Christ Child who wears a red and gold robe, gold background. Right wing, Christ on the cross with the Virgin (left) and St John (right), in the pointed top the Virgin Annunciate. Left wing, the Chirst Child lying in the manger, the ox and ass at his head, the Madonna kneeling at the left, Joseph, in yellow and blue robe, seated, sleeping at the right; in the foreground a single kneeling shepherd with dogs and sheep; in the pointed top the archangel Gabriel of the Annunciation. In shadow box.
Previous history and date of acquisition by Mrs Greville unrecorded; The bequest of Margaret (Anderson) McEwan, The Hon. Mrs Ronald - later Dame Margaret - Henry Fulke Greville, DBE (1863-1942) from probate records linked with the donation of the property to the National Trust in 1943. This item found on the record for Polesden Lacey pictures, drawings etc., stored in the cellar, page 158.
Polesden Lacey, The McEwan Collection (National Trust)
Makers and roles
Francescuccio Ghissi (fl.1359-1374), artist
M. Meiss, Painting in Florence and Siena after the Black Death, 1951, pp. 132 ff.