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A joyful scene of the adoration of the Child (with saints: John the Baptist, Francis of Assisi, Joseph and Catherine of Alexandria) is a hidden allusion to Christ’s future fate. The Child’s deep sleep may be associated with the Redeemer’s martyr death through ancient references — Sleep (Hypnos) in the Greek mythology is the brother of Death (Thanatos).

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A joyful scene of the adoration of the Child (with saints: John the Baptist, Francis of Assisi, Joseph and Catherine of Alexandria) is a hidden allusion to Christ’s future fate. The Child’s deep sleep may be associated with the Redeemer’s martyr death through ancient references — Sleep (Hypnos) in the Greek mythology is the brother of Death (Thanatos).
The child’s arrangement on Mary’s knees resembles the arrangement of the dead body of Christ in Pietà representations, and Mary’s white veil on which the Child is lying may be an allusion to a shroud in which Christ was entombed. The motif of the sleeping Child, which appeared in Italian art at the turn of the 16th century, was particularly popular in Venice. This is one of Lotto’s earliest paintings.

Elaborated by Dorota Dec (The National Museum in Kraków), © all rights reserved

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Lorenzo Lotto and adversities

Adoration of the Child was shown in Kraków for the first time in 1882. Under the painting, there is a plate with the name of the author — Gaudenzio Ferrari. As it turned out later, the exhibition organised as part of a charity campaign by Katarzyna Potocka contributed not only to increasing the funds of the Charitable Association…

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Adoration of the Child was shown in Kraków for the first time in 1882. Under the painting, there is a plate with the name of the author — Gaudenzio Ferrari. As it turned out later, the exhibition organised as part of a charity campaign by Katarzyna Potocka contributed not only to increasing the funds of the Charitable Association…
Soon after, in the discussion of the works published in Czas (Time) daily, Marian Sokołowski — a prominent scholar and founder of the Department of the History of Art at the Jagiellonian University — identified the artist differently, pointing to Lorenzo Lotto.
The traces of his works date back to early 16th-century Italy when Lotto realised, among others, the commission for the polyptych for the main altar of Dominicans’ Church in Recanati. He made portraits and devotional paintings. In 1508, at the height of his career, he was given a very considerable commission to decorate a part of the apartments in the Vatican Palace. However, history played a trick on him. His work was not approved by the pope and in a few years’ time the same walls would be covered by frescoes created by Raphael Santi (history treated his work more favourably; his paintings are admired up to this day in the interior of the palace).
The peer of Raphael and Titian (at the side of whom Lotto sat in a guild for painters) would stay in their shadow till his very end. Their stars would shine brighter on the firmament and for several centuries they would effectively outshine the brightness of his genius.
Lotto died in 1556 or 1557.

Following traces — notes on everyday life

He left more than only scattered paintings. From 1540 he meticulously wrote a personal account book — the Libro di spese diverse. He probably did not expect that the notes, which were to put order into his household expenses, would become a guidebook for searchers and discoverers of his output.
Many researchers claim that his technique, based on expression and distorted proportions, was far ahead of his times. Lotto’s genius would be discovered only later. Over time the paintings created by him would start to return to him. The works were regained by Bernard Berenson (outstanding researcher of the Renaissance), who in 1901 added Adoration of the Child to Lotto’s monograph (Berenson placed Adoration… in the series of the master’s works although he was only acquainted with the photograph of the painting). It was previously regained by Professor Sokołowski.
The work, which has been part of the collection of the National Museum in Kraków since 1971, with the correct name of its author, still hides many secrets.
During conservation works it was discovered that the board on which Lotto painted his picture had been cropped by 2 cm. Was a valuable part of the work lost in this way? It is not clear who the mysterious figure of an old man is. Lorenzo Lotto still struggles with adversities. Will it be possible, after five centuries, to decode all the contexts?

Elaborated by Editorial team of Małopolska’s Virtual Museums,
Licencja Creative Commons

 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Poland License.

The text based on P. Drabarczyk, Klejnot cierpieniem podszyty [Suffering jewel], “Art&Biznes2011, issue 6.

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Who is adoring the Child Jesus?

The painting Adoration of the Child by Lorenzo Lotto presents a scene popular in the Renaissance, with the Mother of God and the Child on his knees and Saint John the Baptist, portrayed as a child, in the company of saints. This work — characterized by a deep passion symbolism — also has a political context, provided by the characters gathered on the painting.

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The painting Adoration of the Child by Lorenzo Lotto presents a scene popular in the Renaissance, with the Mother of God and the Child on his knees and Saint John the Baptist, portrayed as a child, in the company of saints. This work — characterized by a deep passion symbolism — also has a political context, provided by the characters gathered on the painting.
In the foreground, in a triangular composition, Mary appears with the Child. Baby Jesus sleeps on his mother’s lap, and his body slides and falls on them, almost like a dead figure. The scene, in this manner, refers to the presentation of Pieta. St. John the Baptist — visible on the left — also fits in with the composition. His meaningful gesture and mimicry, as well as the sad and compassionate look directed straight towards Maria’s face, is a harbinger of the Christ’s future passion.
In the left part of the painting, in the background, there is a figure of St. Francis with exposed wounds. The saint is steeped in prayer, as evidenced by the gesture of his hands and gently parted lips, quietly saying words. This character complements the passive meaning of the scene, because it evokes the saint’s participation in the passion by his stigmata. At the same time, the appearance of Saint Francis may be a sign of a special, private devotion to this saint by, for example, by the patron of the work.
The most enigmatic figure of all seems to be an old man, largely hidden, in the third plan. Only his head — covered with a cloak and his fingertips — is visible, suggesting a gesture of prayer. His appearance refers to the representation of a holy hermit, according to the iconography of Saint Jerome or Saint Anthony Abbot, with whom this figure was identified. There is also a strong hypothesis that identifies the old man with Saint Joseph. Hidden and distanced, Joseph emphasizes his role in the work of salvation, which was quiet but important. The separation of the three characters allows us to decode the Holy Family hidden in the image. At the same time, the contrast between those gathered — Baby Jesus, a young Maria, and the old man, Joseph — may be associated with an allegorical representation of the three stages of human life.
All the figures discussed above, gathered and facing each other, form a composition that can be enclosed in the figure of a circle. Undoubtedly, St. Catherine of Alexandria is noteworthy;  although she is in the third plan, she seems to have been distinguished. Her figure observes the scene slightly and insecurely, leaning out from behind Mary’s back. The saint was portrayed with attributes of her passion, which accounts for the wheel and the martyr’s palm. She is dressed in a rich, Renaissance dress, decorated with flowers, and is portrayed wearing a gold necklace. The dress of Saint Catherine is contemporary to the author of the painting and such contemporaneity proves this figure’s connection to the real world. The saint’s face has individual features (e.g. a double chin), which indicates the portrait features of the image. This is especially evident in comparison with Mary’s idealized physiognomy.
The saint is identified as Catherine Cornano (1454–1510), the last queen of Cyprus. Her sad fate adds a great deal of meaning to the work — mainly on the maternal level — because she had lost her child in its infancy and — just like Mary depicted on the painting — was aware of the future death of her son. 
When comparing the image of St. Catherine from Lotto’s painting with other portraits of Catherine Cornaro — for example from the works of Bellini or Titian — differences may be noticed, resulting from a tendency to idealization. In all of them, however, the same features characteristic for her have been preserved. Unlike other works, the physiognomic features of the queen of Cyprus in Adoration of the Child are not “beautified”, which may indicate a presentation of her true appearance, and, in consequence, a possible acquaintanceship between the painter and Catherine Cornaro.

Elaborated by Paulina Kluz (Editorial team of Małopolskas Virtual Museums),
Licencja Creative Commons

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Poland License.

Bibliography:
Józef Grabski, The Portrait of Caterina Cornaro in Lorenzo Lotto’s Adoration of the Christ Child in the National Museum in Cracow, „Artibus et Historiae”, 31 (2010), nr 61, pp. 191-208.

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Painting “Adoration of the Child” by Lorenzo Lotto

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Obraz „Adoracja Dzieciątka” Lorenza Lotto [audiodeskrypcja] Tells: Fundacja na Rzecz Rozwoju Audiodeskrypcji KATARYNKA
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Obraz „Adoracja Dzieciątka” Lorenza Lotto Tells: Piotr Krasny
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