Two Donors in Adoration before the Madonna and Child and St. Michael

oil painting of male and female adoring Madonna, Child, and St. Michael

Giovanni Battista Moroni
Two Donors in Adoration before the Madonna and Child and St. Michael, ca. 1557–60
Oil on canvas
35 1/4 x 38 1/2 in. (89.5 x 97.8 cm)
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond; Adolph D. and Wilkins C. Williams Fund (62.20)
© Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond / Katherine Wetzel

 
This sacred portrait features background figures of the Madonna and Child modeled on those in an altarpiece by Moroni’s teacher, Moretto da Brescia, in the Church of Sant’Eufemia, Verona, while the unidentified couple appears to have been studied from life. The prayer book on the ledge suggests their devotional practice. Moroni’s sacred portraits have been associated with the contemplative prayer popularized by St. Ignatius of Loyola’s Exercitia Spiritualia, in which devotees are instructed to imagine sacred scenes as they pray. The painting may present the sitters with the object of their contemplation visualized in paint, specifically, as instructed on the first day of the second week of the Spiritual Exercises program, “our Lady and the angel saluting her,” that is, the Virgin with Archangel Michael, whose scales symbolize the judgment of souls and sin.