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Andrea Previtali, The Virgin and Child with a Shoot of Olive

Key facts
Full title The Virgin and Child with a Shoot of Olive
Artist Andrea Previtali
Artist dates about 1480 - 1528
Date made about 1515
Medium and support Oil on wood
Dimensions 50.2 × 66.5 cm
Acquisition credit Salting Bequest, 1910
Inventory number NG2500
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
The Virgin and Child with a Shoot of Olive
Andrea Previtali

The Virgin and Child sit on the edge of a wood between two sawn stumps of olive trees that resemble the arms of a throne. Shoots have grown from each stump and the Virgin bends the taller one towards Christ, who raises his hand as if to grasp it. The olive is symbolic of peace and its vigorous regrowth may suggest the Resurrection, when Christ rose from the dead. The Virgin and Child do not look at each other or the viewer but focus on the olive branch, as though accepting Christ’s fate to die for the salvation of humanity.

The harmonious link between the auburn hair of the Virgin and Child, the yellow lining of the Virgin’s cloak and the red of her tunic, as well as the way their brilliance is enhanced by the blues and greens, is characteristic of Previtali’s best work. So is the way that the pale blue hills and mountains appear to recede into the distance.

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