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Andrea del Verrocchio, The Virgin and Child with Two Angels

The wall enclosing the Virgin and Child represents the 'hortus conclusus' or enclosed garden of the Old Testament (Song of Solomon 4:12), an image much favoured in litanies of the Virgin Mary.

This ambitious, if rather awkward, picture is related to an early composition by Botticelli (now in Naples). The motif of angels holding the Christ Child up to the Virgin ultimately derives from a famous work by Fra Filippo Lippi (in Florence). Another work in the National Gallery collection which derives from this prototype is by an imitator of Fra Filippo Lippi 'The Virgin and Child with an Angel'.

It is now suggested that this picture was painted by Andrea del Verrocchio at about the time he took up painting in addition to his activity as a sculptor. Several of the figures, as well as the palm tree growing behind the wall, recall details of his sculptures dated in the later 1460s. Botticelli was apparently active in Verrocchio’s workshop at that time.


 
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