Mission Statement

This blog journals my quest of art, whether it is a piece of work that is inherent in nature or one created by artists known or unknown or that I created myself. During this search, I have come to appreciate the magnificence and generosity of God who in his infinite wisdom surrounded us with exquisiteness everyday...everywhere and inspired our human spirit to create beauty that feeds our bodies and souls. Come join me on my journey to find art through my travels and my own creative endeavors. Maraming salamat.

All rights to all posts and contents on this blog, including photos and artwork are reserved by jojo sabalvaro tan.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Gentile da Fabriano Madonna and Child

Madonna and Child alla Gentile da Fabriano
by jojo sabalvaro tan
Acrylics, gold leaf on 9" x 12" Fredrix Archival Watercolor Canvas Board

CB, one of my high school classmates, suggested that I paint a spiritual Madonna and Child for this year's Christmas card. When I think of spiritual, to me it evokes the Madonna and Child paintings produced by the Renaissance painters such as Boticelli, Da Vinci and Raphael, to name a few. I am an admirer of the work of the International Gothic style artist Gentile da Fabriano (c. 1370-1427) especially what I consider one of his masterpieces, his Adoration of the Magi.  I saw this piece for the first time when we visited the Ufizzi Museum in Florence and I was in awe. Even though the scene is familiar to every Catholic (it commemorates the time when the three Magi paid homage to the Baby Jesus), every time I observe this particular  painting I find something unexpected, exquisite and even funny.

Adorazione dei Magi (Gentile da Fabriano) - Wikipedia
Photo from Wikipedea - Adoration of the Magi by Gentile da Fabriano

A detail from Adoration of the Magi by Gentile da Fabriano. If you look closely at one of the magi, there's a man crouched by his feet adjusting his shoe ornaments. I found that very amusing.

So, for my spiritual Madonna, I decided to copy another one of my favorite paintings by Gentile da Fabriano called The Madonna of Humility.

The original Gentile da Fabriano The Madonna of Humility (painted around 1420-1423) featured in an Italian postage stamp released in 2006. The original painting is housed in the Museo nazionale di San Matteo, Pisa.

While the original was done in tempera, I abandoned my watercolors in lieu of acrylics since I felt acrylics mimicked tempera a little better. Similar to the original, I used a lot of gold in the painting - both gold leaf and iridescent acrylics. Someday, I hope to master the use of gold leaf.  Gold leafing techniques are taught  in iconography classes which I hope to be able to take in the near future. Iridescent metallic paints just do not capture the feeling of being totally immersed in spirituality that the Medieval and Renaissance folks experienced as they prayed in candlelit churches in front of paintings of Jesus, Mary and other Saints enhanced with the  luster of real gold.

For the surface, I used Fredrix Archival Watercolor Canvas Board to get a closer feel to the panel used in the original. My canvas board I'm sure is a lot more textured than the smooth gessoed panels used then. Making smooth gessoed panels for Icon painting is another one of the skills I would like to learn.

Here are some of my painting-in-progress photos:

After the initial tracing of the cartoon sketch, I started basecoating, Mary's Robe and the skin.

Continued basecoating the background (drapes and floor)

Painted Mary and Baby Jesus and added details to the floor

Added gold leaf and paint and shading and highlights

The completed painting, Madonna and Child alla Gentile da Fabriano, 2015
by jojo sabalvaro tan

In the interest of full disclosure, here is a photo of my work table as I was working on the project. Pretty messy, huh!

This was a challenging and intimidating project since I was attempting to copy directly from an old master. I knew the finished product can not be and will not be an exact replica of the original. But, I do feel that there's a lot of me  in the painting too. I think I can use this painting for our personal Christmas card especially since I am not making money out of it and it is my own painting albeit an adaptation  from an almost 600 year old original work. Can some legally minded friend or reader tell me if my assumption is right. Unless I am breaking any laws, this painting will definitely be a candidate for our 2015 Christmas card.

So now, there are three paintings to choose from. Let me know which one is your favorite by commenting as an anonymous guest below. So excited to see what you think.

Contemporary Madonna and Child (#1)

Kalinga Madonna and Child (#2)

Madonna and Child alla Gentile da Fabriano (#3)


  1. The second one but make the colors more vivid.
    The Kalinga one is good too.
    The first one - I don't like a Madonna not holding the child.

  2. Hi Jojo,

    I am interested in Kalinga Madonna and Child (#2). Could you possibly provide me with more information about this work?

    I would really appreciate it if you could drop me a line at mvmsws@gmail.com.

    Hope to hear from you soon!

    Thank you & warm regards,