Estate of the Artist

Sergio Stella, nephew of the Artist, Glen Head, New York, until 1992

Carroll Family Collection, New York, on loan to the Snite Museum of Art, Notre Dame University, Indiana, 1992 – 2017

Exhibitions and literature

Rome, Galleria d’Arte Moderna, Il Mostra internazionale d’arte sacra, 1934, Sala N.40, catalogue No. 2

New York, Associated American Artists, Joseph Stella, 1941, No.23

New York, Master Institute of United Arts, Riverside Museum, First Annual Exhibition of the Federation of Modern Painters and Sculptors, 1941, No.130

Irma B. Jaffe, Joseph Stella’s Madonnas, Snyder Fine Art, New York, 1993, pp.5-16, illus.

Irma B. Jaffe, Joseph Stella: Madonnas and Related Work, American Art Review, Winter 1994, pp.154-173, illus.

Irma B. Jaffe, Joseph Stella’s Symbolism, San Francisco, Pomegranate Art Books, 1994, pp.XIV-XV, Plate 16

Barbara Haskell, Joseph Stella, New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, 1994, exhibition catalogue, p.150, Fig.178

As observed by Barbara Jaffe, “given the problem of religious imagery for an artist who wanted to be identified with modernism, Stella’s synthesis of the decorative in Oriental art, the iconic in archaic art and the representational in Southern Italian folk art was an extraordinarily effective solution for his Madonna paintings as is evident in The Virgin of the Rose and Lily….As in Piero della Francesca, but more archaized, three dimensional form is abstracted within closed contours in The Virgin of the Rose and Lily. Shown close up in the picture plane as a standing figure at three-quarters length, her hands crossed over her breast, the Virgin is turned slightly towards the left margin. The geometrized treatment of her haloed head, a perfect egg shape set on a long cylindrical neck, also reminds one of Piero, while the features call to mind Amedeo Modigliani’s female faces with arched eyebrows, the lines of which continue with no break to become the outline of the nose. The egg/oval motif is repeated in the veil, from the edge of which a narrow band of copper-colored hair is visible, and opened symbolically as the cape flows down both sides of her Brancusi-like figure. On the central axis of the Virgin, at the base of her neck, a wide-open rose, symbol of the Madonna, rhymes coloristically with the Virgin’s symbolically closed lips…An extraordinary interplay of curves relates the Madonna to the very large pure white lily, a widely recognized symbol of her chastity. In the right hand lower corner of the painting, a young woman represented bust length in profile kneels reverently, her hands clasped in prayer as she gazes up at the Virgin. Oversize fruits and flowers with birds perched on their stems frame the painting along the left and right sides. Behind the figure of the Virgin, the deep blue of the Bay of Naples stretches to Vesuvius.”

This Madonna is closely related to the smaller Virgin of 1922 in the collection of the Brooklyn Museum.

Joseph Stella (1877-1946)
The Virgin (The Virgin of the Rose and Lily), 1926

Oil on canvas
57 ½ x 44 ¾ in., 146.1 x 113.7 cm
Signed (l.r.): Giuseppe Joseph Stella
Inscribed (verso): The Virgin/Oil/by Joseph Stella
Inscribed (stretcher): Peinture par Joseph Stella no. 201 rue d’Alesia Paris