From Venice to the V&A

Scuola Vecchia de la Misericordia, Venice

There is a large, ugly area of plaster in the centre of the brick façade of the Scuola Vecchia de la Misericordia.

Until it was removed and sold, the building boasted one of the most beautiful bas-reliefs by the great Venetian sculptor, Bartolomeo Buon (1395-1471), who was also a member of the scuola.

The relief can now be found in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. 

In addition to members of the scuola, who shelter under the Virgin’s cloak, the relief depicts the Tree of Jesse. In its branches sit prophets holding scrolls which announce the Coming of Christ, who is shown as a baby in a mandorla on the Virgin’s breast. A mandorla (from the Italian word for almond) was a type of halo which enclosed the entire body and was normally used to depict moments that transcend time and space. Here it also acts as a morse (brooch), clasping together the Virgin’s mantle. 

Bas-relief of the Madonna della Misericordia by Bartolomeo Buon, c. 1445-50, Scuola Vecchia de la Misericordia, Venice