During the Middle Ages and Renaissance many artists used the image of the Madonna holding the Christ Child as the focal point of their paintings; it is believed that over 500 of them depict the child Jesus accompanied by the Goldfinch.
There are many fables as to why this should be, but Christian tradition tells us that at the Crucifixion, the little bird flew down and tried to remove a thorn from Jesus’s head and in so doing, was splashed with Christ’s blood. Whether or not he succeeded in removing the thorn we shall never know, but it is believed that in honour of this act of kindness and love, the bird’s cheeks have for evermore been marked in red.
If you are interested in learning more about the Goldfinch then follow this link to the RSPB website.
All images for this post are from WikiCommons (PD).