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Andrea del Sarto, The Madonna and Child, Saint Elizabeth and the Baptist

Key facts
Full title The Madonna and Child with Saint Elizabeth and Saint John the Baptist
Artist Andrea del Sarto
Artist dates 1486 - 1530
Date made about 1513
Medium and support Oil on wood
Dimensions 106 × 81.3 cm
Acquisition credit Holwell Carr Bequest, 1831
Inventory number NG17
Location Room 9
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
The Madonna and Child, Saint Elizabeth and the Baptist
Andrea del Sarto

The Virgin Mary is seated with her cousin Saint Elizabeth and their sons in a rocky landscape. The infant Christ reclines on his mother’s lap, resting against her arm and laughing mischievously. This is a reduced version of the ‘Tallard Madonna’ (State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg) signed by Andrea del Sarto, which shows the Madonna and Child with Saints Elizabeth, John the Baptist and Catherine in a lively scene conversing with one another. Saint Catherine is missing from the National Gallery version and there are also a few other small differences.

This type of picture in which the Virgin is surrounded by saints is known as a sacra conversazione (‘holy conversation’). The gestures and interconnected glances suggest a psychological exchange.

The infant John the Baptist’s reed cross and scroll inscribed ‘Ecce Agnus Dei’ (‘Behold the Lamb of God’) lie at his feet, reminding the viewer of Christ’s future crucifixion and sacrifice for humanity.

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