Virgin of the Harpies, Andrea del Sarto

Virgin of the Harpies, Andrea del Sarto
Virgin of the Harpies, Andrea del Sarto

Sometimes a controversy is created around a work of art that makes it an enigmatic piece and makes it difficult to interpret, in this sense the work that we are analyzing today presents an artistic composition of great relevance, but its interpretation has not been the most successful over the centuries.

Andrea del Sarto (1486 – 1531) is considered one of the first painters of the Mannerist style, originally from Florence it seems that his foray into the world of art came from the hand of a little-known artist, Gian Barille, however, the young painter soon surpassed his teacher and the latter sent him recommended to Piero di Cosimo's workshop. Sarto's work has been described as unique even by the historians of his time, Vasari said that there was no fault in his production, however, the artist lacked sufficient genius to impose himself on his contemporaries. The truth is that in the works of Andrea del Sarto you can appreciate the sfumato of Leonardo combined with the colorism of Michelangelo and the sweetness of Raphael, all of this directed towards a mannerist style that is reflected in pieces such as the ones that we analyze below, the Virgin of the harpies.


This is an oil on canvas that the artist made for the nuns' convent of San Francisco de Macci and which is currently kept in the Uffizi Gallery. The work is well documented and inthe contract, signed in 1515, specified that it must be a canvas representing Mary enthroned and flanked by two angels. The piece was delayed in time and was not delivered until two years later, in 1517, in addition the composition of the canvas did not respect the original contract since more than an enthroned virgin the painter has represented the Ascension of Mary-or at least that is the hypothesis currently considered by specialists- flanked by Saint John the Evangelist and Saint Francis.

The Virgin is placed on a stone pedestal on the front of which appears the artist's signature as well as the hymn of the Assumption and on the sides of the pedestal the representation of some harpies -medieval monsters with the head of a woman and the body of a ave- that in they are actually a misinterpretation of the Apocalypse since some locusts should appear instead.

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