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The Madonna of the Passion (Carlo Crivelli, 1460, tempera on panel)

The Madonna of the Passion (Carlo Crivelli, 1460, tempera on panel)

Just in time for the holidays, here’s another “Madonna and Child” painting by Carlos Crivelli, the enigmatic Quattrocento master.  Ferrebeekeeper has already featured two posts about Crivelli including a short biography (which includes just about everything we know about him) and an exquisite painting of Mary Magdalene.  Today we present another Crivelli tempera masterpiece from 1460 which shows Mary holding a pensive baby Jesus as creepy little foreshadowing figures gather round.   Although Mary is not without a certain supercilious beauty, the two central figures are not nearly as fine as in other Crivelli masterpieces.  Standing on his little black velvet pillow like a demagogue orator, Jesus looks downright horrifying (and he also seems suitably appalled at knowing his own fate). The great strength of the painting lies in the supporting cast of corpulent androgynous children brandishing accoutrements of the crucifixion.  The little beings to the right solemnly proffer a crown of thorns and a cross to infant Jesus.  On the left, one child (wearing tiger skin grieves!) holds a fistful of crucifixion nails while his naked playmate grasps a classical column with spidery hands.  Behind him are children with a lance, a bucket of vinegar, and a ladder.  The little lanceman on the left is staring up at an allegorical rooster standing atop capitol.  In the background, on the right, the death of Christ takes place on a distant hill, while at the top, beyond a garland of peaches, pears, cherries, and songbirds, a final pair of putti play divine music on the harp and lute. The suffusion of tiny black pits or holes in the composition was probably not intended by Crivelli (although he did have a fascination with nail wounds), but it adds an extra dimension of entropy, torment, and decay to an already vexing painting.  Once again Crivelli deftly takes traditional religious elements of the passion and arranges them into an allegory which seems to subtly elude the comprehension of the viewer.  Is that Peter’s rooster or is it some lost symbol of 15th century Italy?  Are the childish beings with the implements of Christ’s death a vision of the anguished Christ child, or are they meant to represent us, the viewer, tormentors and torturers of the world who, like ignorant children, don’t even understand what we are doing?

Wipp Ottenbach Coat Of Arms

Wipp Ottenbach Coat Of Arms

Roosters are well known for being vain, arrogant, aggressive, greedy, and loud. They are also famous for being brave and for leading their flocks. Those are also the universally acknowledged traits of noblemen–so it is unsurprising that the rooster/cock is a popular device on shields, coats of arms, and heraldic standards. Ancient vases indicate that the rooster was a device of nobles and warriors at least as far back as the classical Greek age. Here is a little gallery of rooster heraldry both historical and fantastical which I found on line (actually I slipped a few hens in to the mix to make it more fun). Enjoy the escutcheons and the poultry!

Official Coat of Arms of the Kurów Commune

Official Coat of Arms of the Kurów Commune

The Hahn Coat of Arms

The Hahn Coat of Arms

Coat of Arms of Štúrovo, Slovakia

Coat of Arms of Štúrovo, Slovakia

The Great mathematician Pierre Deligne was ennobled to viscount by the Belgian throne in 2006 and he chose this coat of arms

The Great mathematician Pierre Deligne was ennobled to viscount by the Belgian throne in 2006 and he chose this coat of arms

The Coat of Arms of Mosjöen, Norway

The Coat of Arms of Mosjöen, Norway

House Swyft of Cornfield (from George. R. R. Martin's vast fictional realm)

House Swyft of Cornfield (from George. R. R. Martin’s vast fictional realm)

A Replica of an Ancient Greek Hoplite Shield

A Replica of an Ancient Greek Hoplite Shield

A Viscount's Coronet (from a book binding)

A Viscount’s Coronet (from a book binding)

The Shield of Dorking in the Mole River Valley (with bonus swan)

The Shield of Dorking in the Mole River Valley (with bonus swan)

The Four-toed Chicken of Dorking's Judo Club

Also the Four-toed Chicken of Dorking’s Judo Club

A Fantasy Crest from California

A Fantasy Crest from California

The arms of George Alcock of Roxbury, Massachusetts (ca. 1630)

The arms of George Alcock of Roxbury, Massachusetts (ca. 1630)

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