sacra conversazione

(Italian: “holy conversation”). In Christian art of the Renaissance and later, a grouping of the Virgin Mary, the Christ Child and saints in a unified spatial setting. In the 15th century the saints are only rarely engaged in conversation (they are usually praying or reading). Often one saint looks out at the viewer and gestures towards the Virgin and Child, directing the our attention to them. In the 16th century interaction–if not actual conversation–among the figures is represented more often.

VenezianoDomenico Veneziano. The St. Lucy Altarpiece. Tempera on panel. Ca. 1445-1447. Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy.