Madonna and Child on a Curved Throne
This panel is probably the oldest painting in the National Gallery in Washington; it is called the "Mellon Madonna" after its donor. The painting is the type of Madonna known as the Virgin Hodegetria (She who points the way), of which there are almost countless versions in Byzantine art. The original prototype was a miracle-working icon of the Virgin in Constantinople, and its prototype in turn traced its heritage to a portrait of the Virgin supposedly painted from life by St. Luke. Thus it was considered to be a true image, to be copied as precisely as possible, and, as such, it . . .
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Mary Elizabeth Podles is the retired curator of Renaissance and Baroque art at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. She and her husband Leon, a Touchstone senior editor, have six children and live in Baltimore, Maryland.
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