Sunday, December 29, 2019

Bartolo's Nativity

"Madonna and Child With Saints Jerome and Mary Magdalen" hangs in a quiet gallery at the Metropolitan Museum. I try to take myself back 500 years, to the workshop of Matteo di Giovanni di Bartolo. Who posed for Mary? Does the painting really look like her? The saints are lost in contemplation, but Mary looks directly at me with a mother's protectiveness, tinged with some vague understanding of what is to come. Whose baby sat for Jesus? A relative or friend? Unlike many conventionalized religious images, this little Jesus has a distinct visage. Did these people go back some time to see the portraits of themselves? What did they think? Lives pass but art remains.