An Analysis of “Madonna of the Meadow” and “The Virgin and Child with St. Anne”

An Analysis of “Madonna of the Meadow” and “The Virgin and Child with St. Anne”

Images have come to be embraced by the society on a wider perspective. Their usage has become more prevalent in recent years compared to how it was some decades ago. Various technologies that have been embraced by the society have played a significant role in this realization. There is the expectation that the profound usage of images will continue to increase in scope in the coming years.

Images tend to play various roles and functions in the society. Some roles tend to be complex compared to others.  Some might be used to depict events, pass knowledge, or showcase some piece of history among others (Gombrich, 2009). When it comes to the historical aspect, images help in the preservation of memories of how certain things used to look like. People in the current generation did not exist during those periods but can identify themselves with certain histories. They have the ability to tell how certain prominent individuals, structures, empires used to look like due to the images presented about these things. It makes people feel like part of a lineage, which they will work towards preserving as a result. Having something in common helps build positive bonds that make the society a favorable place to be (Mukundan & Ramakrishnan, 1998). With regards to knowledge, images are usually used as a way of passing information. By observing a certain piece of image, people can deduce several things. Sometimes it becomes easier for people to understand certain things through the expression of images as opposed to words. This is due to the visual representation of the content involved.

The roles and functions of an image on most occasions are determined by the context within which the image was constructed.  An image developed in the context of history will end playing a different role compared to that developed in a business or science context.


The image above represents “Madonna of the Meadow” by Raphael. The image has been discussed and analyzed by several authors. The authors tend to have similar descriptions on some aspects while in others they tend to have differing views. Among the descriptions that seem to have a similar interpretation among several authors is the presentation of a triangle on the image envisaging Mary, John, and Jesus. Honour & Fleming (2005) assert that the pyramid formation is a representation of something strong. It resembles a bond that is not easy to break, and whose purpose must be fulfilled. Brown & Pagden (2006) on the other hand also describe the triangular arrangement as a representation of order and stability. It shows that the individuals involved are rooted and ready to actualize their desired purpose. Honour & Fleming (2005), Brown & Pagden (2006) and Mukundan & Ramakrishnan (1998) also analyze the presence of the cross as an indication of things to come. It is a way of John blessing Jesus and preparing him for the future that awaits him. Honour & Fleming (2005) postulate that the aspect of Mary being barefoot is an indication that she is stepping on a holy ground. He goes on to assert that the three red flowers on Mary’s left side are prevalent and connected to the people in the painting. He asserts that they represent the holy trinity. Mukundan & Ramakrishnan (1998) on the other hand, seems to have some contrasting analysis. He postulates that the image of Mary, John, and Jesus within the triangular geometry is the representation of the holy trinity. Mary’s clothes also act as a Christian symbolism. Color blue represents heaven while red represents the death of Jesus (Brown & Pagden, 2006). She engulfs the redemption that is going to be actualized as a result of the sacrifice that Jesus is going to undertake in order to restore the well-being of Christians until eternity. Mukundan & Ramakrishnan (1998) also describe the background of the city as an essence of tension that reminds the viewers of the possible dangers awaiting Jesus and John.

This image was developed in around 1506. The context of the image in the current period has no difference to how it was being perceived during its production period. This is because it acted as a Christian symbolism. It was a way of showcasing the emergence of Jesus on earth and his mission of saving Christians through his death and resurrection. Two people that played a vital role in this occurrence have been represented in the image. This is the same way that this image is viewed by Christians all over the world. However, there are differences surrounding the context of art between these two periods. The image was produced during the renaissance of art in Europe. The transition taking place at the time made this image stand out as one of a kind. It had an immense fascination on the eyes of the people that viewed it. However, the circumstances are quite different in the current period. The emergence of technology has resulted to people having the ability to view other breath-taking images making this one not to seem very impressive. Under this context, people tend to forget the period when the image was developed in order to realize how great it is.

The image shown above is a representation of “The Virgin and Child with St. Anne” by Leonardo da Vinci. It was developed during the renaissance period, hence has attracted opinions from different people. Different authors have discussed and analyzed the image based on varying perspectives. One common description among various authors is the triangular representation on the image. Surhone (2010) asserts that the triangle is used depict the family bond that exists between the three characters involved. Mary is held by her mother who intern aims at getting a grip on his son Jesus. Pye (2015) extends this analysis as an indication of the holy trinity. This is because the image depicts three characters that are related to each other, and they have a very strong bond (family) among them. Regardless of any occurrence, they would still remain to be a family due to the blood ties. The family aspect on the image is also elaborated through the displays of affection and tenderness portrayed in the image (Pye, 2015). Saint Anne shows a more sober attitude compared to Mary; who is engulfed by a rapture of motherly love. Mukundan & Ramakrishnan (1998) also describes the image as a Christian symbolism. It combines two canonic catholic themes. Among them is the meeting of generations; demonstrated by the child, mother and grandmother appearing together. The other one is manifested by the notion of passion and sacrifice. These aspects are attributed to Jesus due to the lamb that he is holding. The lamb represents an aspect of innocence. This aspect is memorialized by John the Baptist when he referred to Jesus as the “Lamb of God”. Surhone (2010) reiterates that the image exemplifies three pictorial techniques. They include aerial perspective, chiaroscuro and sfumato. Aerial perspective is demonstrated by showcasing distance by color and tone contrast. Chiaroscuro is demonstrated by use of dark and light to create modeling and relief effects. Sfumato on the other hand, helps in the defining of shapes using light and dark gradations. Mukundan & Ramakrishnan (1998), Surhone (2010) and Pye (2015) describe the aspect of Mary sitting on Anne’s laps in a similar way. They view it as an unusual aspect. It is not clear what Leonardo wanted to demonstrate.

The context of the image cannot be considered to be different in the current period compared to when it was developed. How people interpreted the image during its production period tends to remain constant. This is because the objective with which it was developed has not changed. It still depicts a similar aspect. What has changed may be are the criticisms revolving around the image. The image was developed during the renaissance period. This was revival of the art world. What this meant is that people saw the images as being spectacular since they had not seen such aspects in the past. The attribute limits acts of criticisms since there does not exist numerous images to compare with. This case is different in the current period. There is emergence of different types of images and technologies being used to develop these images. As result, a lot of criticism towards this image would exist in the current period.

Both images; “Madonna of the Meadow” and “The Virgin and Child with St. Anne” have some similar attributes. These attributes are helpful while discussing the images with regards to theories encompassing what an image is. To begin with, an image can be referred to as an external representation of a person (Gombrich, 2009). This aspect is evident in both images whereby there are objects being depicted. Users of the images tend to get more information regarding the images by observing the objects being displayed. An image is also expected to act as a metaphor or simile (Gombrich, 2009). The above images have actualized this aspect by acting as Christian symbolism. Different authors have discussed this aspect widely. The images have also demonstrated use of different techniques. This is expected of any image so that the users can be able to grasp what the artist involved was trying to elaborate. Among the techniques involved in the images above include aerial perspective, chiaroscuro and sfumato. The techniques help in demonstrating the tone and color among other things.



Mukundan, R., & Ramakrishnan, K., 1998. Moment functions in image analysis: Theory and applications. Singapore: World Scientific.

Gombrich, E., 2009. The uses of images: Studies in the social function of art and visual communication. London: Phaidon.

Brown, D., & Pagden, S., 2006. Bellini, Giorgione, Titian, and the Renaissance of Venetian painting. Washington: National Gallery of Art ;.

Honour, H., & Fleming, J., 2005. A world history of art (7th ed.). London: Laurence King.

Mukundan, R., & Ramakrishnan, K., 1998. Moment functions in image analysis: Theory and applications. Singapore: World Scientific.

Pye, C., 2015. The storm at sea: Political aesthetics in the time of Shakespeare. New York: 9780823265046.

Surhone, L., 2010. The Virgin and Child with St. Anne (Leonardo da Vinci): Anne Selbdritt, oil painting, Leonardo da Vinci, Saint Anne, Mary, Child Jesus, Santissima Annunziata Florence. Gran Bretagna: Betascript publishing.

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