Tuesday, January 6, 2015


In 1517 Andrea del Sarto painted the Madonna of the Harpies for a convent in Florence. The altarpiece was recognized as a masterpiece from the day it was uncovered, and is one of those rare works that has never fallen out of favor or fashion at any time in the past 500 years. The picture's popular name is said to be the result of confusion by Giorgio Vasari who wrote a famous early description. The Virgin stands on a white marble pedestal decorated at the corners by stylized angels sculpted in relief. Vasari interpreted these Christian angels as pagan Harpies or female demons. Like many of Vasari's other mistakes, this mistake took on a life of its own and became standard information. The title as the artist would have recognized it is Madonna and Child with St. Francis and St. John the Evangelist.