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Andrea Mantegna, The Virgin and Child with Saints

Key facts
Full title The Virgin and Child with the Magdalen and Saint John the Baptist
Artist Andrea Mantegna
Artist dates about 1431 - 1506
Date made about 1490-1505
Medium and support Egg tempera on canvas
Dimensions 139.1 × 116.8 cm
Inscription summary Signed; Inscribed
Acquisition credit Bought, 1855
Inventory number NG274
Location Room 10
Collection Main Collection
The Virgin and Child with Saints
Andrea Mantegna

The Christ Child stands on the Virgin Mary’s lap, making a gesture of blessing. She is seated under a red canopy, between John the Baptist and Mary Magdalene, who looks up towards heaven.

Mary Magdalene raises up a small pot, a reminder of the spices she used to anoint Christ’s body after his death. The Virgin’s solemn expression as she rests her head against that of her child is one of maternal tenderness, but also an indication of her grief to come. Along with John the Baptist’s cross and Mary Magdalene’s ointment, it is a reminder of the fate of the infant on her lap: his crucifixion and death.

We do not know which church this altarpiece was made for. It is painted on canvas, so Mantegna could have painted it in his studio in Mantua, rolled it up and sent it to wherever it was required.

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