Virgin and Child with Saint Andrew and Saint Peter [Cima da Conegliano]

Clayton Schuster

Sr. Contributor

Rivaat Zarlif


Here's eight pound, six ounce, newborn baby Jesus learning about shapes and colors.

Cima was a busy guy, so we'll forgive him for leaving this one unfinished. Depicting the Virgin Mary was his bread and butter, and this painting fits into a particular subgenre where a couple saints loiter around the Virgin and Christ like total jabronis. The blue splotch around Saint Peter's head (the one on the right) looks out of place because it's an aftermarket addition. It's not a terrible addition, but it sure ain't an upgrade. The painting's been around for almost 500 years, and there's no telling who decided to pick up where Cima left off.

The first known owners were the Collalto family, big shots in Treviso twenty miles down the road from Cima's hometown of Conegliano. The Collaltos were tough guys; warriors installed as the area's nobility to run things for the Italian kings way off on the other side of the boot. Until the Venetian Republic started rolling heavy, that is. The Republic brought an influx of cash and peace to the area and the Collalto clan became swords for sale to the highest bidder (first the Venetians, then the Austrians). Treviso remained a home base from which they got into the wine and art patronage games. Good times in the Veneto dried up by the 1800s, however. Folks all over were broke like a joke. Which is probably why the Collalto family sold Virgin with Child off to a family in Perugia before the painting made its way to Scotland and its current resting place in the National Gallery.

For 27 years Cima da Conegliano produced a Virgin Mary painting a year. This one he never finished, perhaps it was his final one. Now that I think about it, that’s really touching. But it’s hard to say with any certainty, the Scottish National Gallery says it was made in the 15th or 16th century. Basically, they have no clue.

I love unfinished art though. First, it’s an unexpected find in a museum, which is exciting. Second, the ‘black and white’ line drawn parts and the richly colored oil paint set each other off and look really good together. And third, we get to peek in on the artist as he’s working and making decisions about features, colors, and what not.

Cima, I think, was particularly adept at feet. But it is disconcerting to see that baby Jesus was really a girl.


Virgin and Child with Saint Andrew and Saint Peter [Cima da Conegliano] is mentioned on Sartle Blog -