The National Gallery offers presentations on Monday lunchtimes, in the Gallery, in front of a painting. Today I ‘went with the flow’, didn’t think about whether I would enjoy the picture or not, and just turned up. Oh dear, I thought, yet another religious Renaissance painting! But I misjudged. The presentation was brilliant – enthusiastic and knowledgeable – and I enjoyed every minute.
I had never heard of Carlo Crivelli and would probably have walked straight past this picture. The presentation was about ‘reading’ a painting. Mass took a long time and the painting, which hung over the altar, gave the congregation symbols on which to meditate. For example: the apple represents the temptation in the Garden of Eden, and the cucumber is a symbol of Christ. The painting also had a political message: the town had been a free republic, but was forced to submit to Papal rule in 1482 – I believe the message at the base of the painting suggests the town was not happy. However, this was secondary to the message about the Virgin.
Ascoli Picena predated the Romans, but the arch in the background allludes to the Roman past.