Until it was removed and sold, the Scuola Vecchia de la Misericordia boasted a beautiful bas-relief of the Madonna della Misericordia (Madonna of Mercy), the work of 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. All that is left on the scuola is a large and ugly patch of plaster above the main door.
In addition to the Virgin and Child and a group of confratelli (members of the scuola), 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 (a type of brooch), clasping together the Virgin’s mantle.
Images of the Madonna della Misericordia can be seen throughout Venice.
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My name is David Lown and I am an art historian from Cambridge, England.
Since 200I I have been living in Italy, where I run private tours of Florence, Rome &