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Abbott Handerson Thayer
Virgin Enthroned
1891
oil
72 5/8 x 52 1/2 in.
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of John Gellatly



Thayer's children—Mary in the center, Gerald and Gladys at her sides—served as models for this reinterpretation of a Renaissance Madonna. Critics hailed it as a masterpiece of religious painting. Although it appears to be painted casually, the faces are carefully described. When asked about his idealized figures, Thayer said, “Few people understand what they should mean by idealization. What makes a work of art [is] this mark of sacrificing the realness of certain details to that of the loved one's. It goes far to describe art to say it is a record of worship, alias love.”