Madonna del Parto  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

The Madonna del Parto is a fresco painting by the Italian Renaissance master Piero della Francesca, finished around 1460. It is housed in the Museo della Madonna del Parto of Monterchi, Tuscany, Italy.

Piero della Francesca finished it in seven days of work, using first-rate colors, including a large extent of blu oltremare obtained by lapis lazuli imported from Afghanistan by the Republic of Venice.

The fresco was once located in Santa Maria di Momentana (once Santa Maria in Silvis), an old country church in the hilltown of Monterchi. The edifice was destroyed in 1785 by an earthquake and the work was detached and placed over the high altar of the new cemetery chapel and in 1992 it was moved to the Museo della Madonna del Parto in Monterchi. The work was attributed to Piero della Francesca only in 1889. Its dating has been the subject of debate, ranging from 1450 to 1475. The 16th century artist and writer Giorgio Vasari wrote that it was completed in 1459, when Piero della Francesca was in Sansepolcro for his mother's death.

The fresco also plays an important role in Richard Hayer's novel Visus, in Andrei Tarkovsky's film Nostalghia, and in the poem "San Sepolcro" by Jorie Graham.


The portrayal of a pregnant Madonna was a theme depicted sometimes in the early 14th century Tuscany (examples include Taddeo Gaddi, Bernardo Daddi and Nardo di Cione). The Madonna is portrayed standing, alone, with a closed book on her belly, an allusion to the embodied Word.

Piero della Francesca's Madonna has neither books nor royal attributes as in the medieval predecessors of the picture. She is portrayed with a hand against her side to support her prominent belly. At her side are two angels, who are keeping open a pavilion decorated with pomegranates, a symbol of Christ's passion. The upper part of the painting is lost. The two angels are specular, as they were realized by the artist with the same holed fresco cartoons.

The theological symbolism behind the representation is rather complex. Maurizio Calvesi has suggested that the tent would be a representation of the Ark of the Covenant. Maria would be thus the new Ark of Alliance in her role as mother of Jesus. For other scholars the tent is a symbol of the Catholic Church and the Madonna would symbolize the tabernacle, as she is portrayed containing Jesus' body.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Madonna del Parto" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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