Madonna del Rifugio (Virgin and Child Enthroned with Saints Onuphrius, Anthony Abbot, Mary Magdalene, and Francis)
Workshop of Andrea della Robbia
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The altarpiece is known as the Madonna del Rifugio because of the words in the predella, a portion of an ancient prayer to the Virgin that describes the protection, or refuge, Christians seek in the holy mother of God. The imagery itself, however, is relatively standard, with the main panel depicting the Virgin and Child enthroned between saints - in this case, Onuphrius, Anthony Abbot, Mary Magdalene, and Francis - and two angels holding a crown above the Virgin's head. Similar altarpieces, with two or four different saints chosen to suit the patron's desires or intended location, can be found in Radicofani, Camaldoli, Seville, and elsewhere. This altarpiece was originally made for the hospice of Saint Onuphrius in Vallesanta and was moved in 1874 to its current location in the main church of La Verna. The mediocre modeling and lack of crisp definition indicate that this is a workshop production, probably dating from the second decade of the sixteenth century, as Andrea della Robbia was nearing the end of his career. A comparison of this altarpiece with Andrea's early masterpieces - his Annunciation and Incarnation, both in the same church - makes evident how widely the style and handling of Della Robbia sculpture could vary. Photograph(s) licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.