Michelangelo’s Madonna of the Stairs (c.1491)

and the Medici Madonna (1521-34) too 

Michelangelo’s first truly mysterious work was made during his teenage years, the Madonna of the Stairs. Despite its small size, the young sculptor’s imagination was already working on a colossal scale.Yet even at first sight the scene looks strange, an immediate barrier to understanding that decades of scholarship has done little to dent. Why, for instance, does Christ have his back turned and why is he so muscled? What are the stairs for? Why is the nursing Virgin so impassive? The answers appear, and the incongruities resolve, only if one tries to think through Michelangelo’s mind.  

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