DOMA Art Alliance Luncheon: An Overview on Dr. Robert Glass’s talk

Thoughts on DOMA’s Four Italian Renaissance Madonnas

Written by Emi Frame, DOMA Education Intern, Spring 2018

On March 14, 2018 the DOMA Art Alliance met for their monthly luncheon during which Ball State University assistant professor of art history, Dr. Robert Glass, shared his expertise on the four Italian Renaissance Madonna and Child paintings currently on display at the David Owsley Museum of Art. Dr. Glass’s talk provided unique information about the progression of Italian Renaissance art seen throughout the Madonna and Child paintings, the artist’s creative process, and the cultural significance of such works. Throughout his talk, Dr. Glass emphasized how each work related to the content in his classes and how being able to experience these works at the museum benefitted his students.

Dr. Glass began his talk by introducing how he teaches art historical analysis to his students at Ball State, which is also how he approached his analysis of the paintings discussed during the talk. This information has been published online at (Robert Glass SmartHistory Introduction to Art Historical Analysis). In this approach, an art work is looked at as first being a physical object, then as a visual experience, a cultural artifact, and finally the work is thought of critically.

The four Renaissance Madonnas, discussed from earliest to latest, were:


Taddeo fi Bartolo’s Madonna and Child dated about 1400 (fig. 1).


Lorenzo de Credi’s Madonna and Child dated 1494 (fig. 2).


Niccolo Rondinelli’s Madonna and Child dated about 1500 (fig.3).


The last was a recent addition to DOMA’s collection, a Netherlandish work, The Virgin and Child Crowned by Angels by an unknown master of the Magdalene legend dated 1505-10 (fig.4).

Dr. Glass utilized his process of art historical analysis to discuss these works while placing emphasis on the stylistic changes and artistic developments that can be seen in the works. Examples of such include the gold gilding featured in the Byzantine Madonna and Child by Bartolo (fig.1); Dr. Glass pointed out where evidence of this process can be seen within the work. Also, Lorenzo de Credi’s painting includes the depiction of a parapet (the low wall/ledge that the Christ child is standing on), which is characteristic of Venetian Renaissance painting. Another interesting detail that Dr. Glass pointed out in The Virgin and Child Crowned by Angels is the evidence of the artist’s underdrawing showing through the paint that is layered on top. Glass informed Alliance members of the importance of under drawing in Netherlandish Renaissance painting by referring to a website that has scanned and revealed the underdrawings within paintings of the famous Netherland painter Jan Van Eyck. This demonstration was interesting and really provided Alliance members with insight into the artistic process involved in the Madonna and Child paintings’ appearance.

Dr. Glass’s expertise on Italian Renaissance art shone through during his talk for the information he provided was in-depth and included more than what can be known about the works from their museum labels.

Sandra McAllister, DOMA Alliance President, says “I was very impressed with Dr. Glass and his extensive knowledge of the Renaissance Madonnas. What impressed me most was the evolution of the appearance of the four Madonnas. I felt they went from thin and almost severe to soft and angelic appearing.  I appreciated his expertise and hope to have him as a guest speaker again.”

DOMA’s Renaissance Madonna and Child paintings are important works of art history and having them in the collection truly benefits the education of students, especially those in art and art history. Dr. Glass’s talk articulated to the DOMA Art Alliance how seeing these works in person, rather than just on a screen, reveals so much more about the work, the artist, and Renaissance painting.

Dr. Glass joined the School of Art during the fall of 2016. He earned a BA in Urban Studies and a MA in Anthropology from Stanford University, as well as a second MA in Art History from Williams College and a Ph.D. from Princeton. Dr. Glass has been a Visiting Assistant Professor at Notre Dame and Oberlin College during 2011-2012. His scholarly work specializes in fifteenth-century Italy. He has published on Antonio di Pietro Averlino (also “Averulino”), known as Filatrete, was a Florentine Renaissance architect, sculptor, medallist, and architectural theorist. Glass also has work published in peer-reviewed journals such as The Medal (British Art Medal Society) and the Art Bulletin. Currently, Dr. Glass is working on completing a book manuscript on Filarete.