Mary sits on an elaborately decorated throne, her lap creating a throne for her son Jesus. The rigid frontality of their poses and the linear quality of their forms are typical of mid-thirteenth century Italian art, which was heavily indebted to Byzantine models. Such abstraction makes clear that the painting is merely an image of holy persons, meant to direct prayer and meditation but not to be worshiped in and of itself as an idol. Margaritone used hierarchy of scale to differentiate the relative importance of Mary and Jesus and the small figures who stand to either side (though without any use of linear perspective, they appear to float in space). These figures have been identified as St. Benedict, who appears at the upper right wearing his black monastic robes and holding a copy of his Rule for Monasteries. Proceeding clockwise are Saints Flora and Lucilla, whose presence along side Benedict have led scholars to postulate that the painting came from the Benedictine monastery of Saints Flora and Lucilla near the city walls of Arezzo.
Not much is known of Margaritone, but his signature at the bottom of the painting (which reads, Margaritone of Arezzo made me) assures his authorship of the picture. Unusual for the thirteenth century, Margaritone signed most of his pictures. He also earned a biography in Giorgio Vasari’s Lives of the Artists, not surprising given the fact that both author and painter were both Aretine.
Margaritone d’Arezzo, Madonna and Child Enthroned, c. 1270, tempera on panel. National Gallery of Art, Washington, Samuel H. Kress Collection, 1952.5.12