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Antonio de Solario, 'The Virgin and Child with Saint John', perhaps about 1500-10

Key facts
Full title The Virgin and Child with Saint John
Artist Antonio de Solario
Artist dates probably active 1502 - 1518
Date made perhaps about 1500-10
Medium and support Oil on canvas, transferred from wood
Dimensions 36.5 × 29.8 cm
Inscription summary Signed; Inscribed
Acquisition credit Salting Bequest, 1910
Inventory number NG2503
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
The Virgin and Child with Saint John
Antonio de Solario

Solario most probably trained as a painter in Venice, where he would have been aware of the works of Giovanni Bellini, the city’s most highly regarded painter. This picture shows the influence of Bellini’s images of the Virgin and Child that were made for private worship. The holy figures stand before a vast landscape with mountains, the most distant of which are clothed in haze, and the view is partially obscured by a hanging – all features that are found in Bellini’s paintings.

Christ stands on the stone parapet which separates us from the Virgin and Saint John the Baptist, Christ’s cousin. Even though he is an infant here, John is shown wearing the camel-skin tunic and holding the reed cross that refer to his time in the desert, when he prophesied about Christ’s ministry. Still children, the two boys play with a bird, which Christ holds on a string as John presents it with a dragonfly to eat.

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