Every work of art is a surprise. But even more so when dogs, cats, serpents, birds and monkeys make way for more unusual animals, such as toads, for instance. And if the artist places a toad on its back under the figure of Archangel Michael, the mystery increases along with the curiosity. So what does this animal represent? At the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana, the Madonna of the Towers, masterpiece by Bramantino, dating back to the start of the XVI Century, communicates, from the point of view of content, a clear position against the fear of heresy, the evident total defeat of evil through faith. The Virgin seated on a monumental marble throne, covered with a red drape, solemnly hands a palm to Saint Ambrose. The Saint is kneeling on the left, right in front of Archangel Michael who entrusts the effigy of the work’s patron to Baby Jesus who is seated on the lap of the Virgin, ready to receive it. In this symmetrical game of mirrors where the subjects correspond (the two angels are complementary as are the two towers behind them), the two symbols of evil are only glimpsed, placed at the bottom of the painting by the artist. The dead man at the foot of Ambrose is the great heresiarch Arius, symbol of Aryanism, ideally defeated by the faith of the Saint. The disturbing image of the toad placed by Bramantino below Michael represents wickedness defeated.
Samantha De Martin - © 2020 ARTE.it for Bulgari Hotel Milano