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Key facts
Full title The Virgin and Child with Saint John
Artist Associate of Pietro Perugino
Artist dates living 1469; died 1523
Date made about 1480 - 1500
Medium and support Tempera on poplar
Dimensions 68.5 x 44.5 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Bought, 1841
Inventory number NG181
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
The Virgin and Child with Saint John
Associate of Pietro Perugino
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The Virgin Mary gently supports the Christ Child as he plays with her hair. He casts a curious glance at his cousin, Saint John the Baptist, who is recognisable by the fine wooden cross tucked under his arm, a symbol of Christ’s crucifixion. The Virgin’s fair complexion and golden hair were considered ideals of female beauty in fifteenth-century Florence, where appearance and virtue were closely linked; as such, she is also meant to be seen as the height of virtue, and an example to all women.

This gentle image of maternal love was well-suited to worship in the home. Images like this were hugely popular, and Perugino and members of his workshop – who worked to his designs and in his style – would have produced numerous similar pictures to meet the demand. This one was probably painted by one of his close associates.

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