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Bartolomeo Montagna, 'The Virgin and Child', perhaps about 1504-6

Key facts
Full title The Virgin and Child
Artist Bartolomeo Montagna
Artist dates living 1459; died 1523
Date made perhaps about 1504-6
Medium and support Oil on canvas, transferred from wood
Dimensions 59 × 51 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1881
Inventory number NG1098
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
The Virgin and Child
Bartolomeo Montagna

The picture has been transferred from its original panel and placed onto a canvas, a process that has damaged the paint surface. Nevertheless, the composition, where the Virgin is placed behind a ledge and in front of a cloth, shows Montagna’s artistic debt to his teacher Giovanni Bellini. The sheen on the Virgin’s headdress as it drapes over her shoulder, catching the light, is also inspired by Bellini.

The Virgin is shown worshipping the Christ Child as he sleeps. Christ’s swaddling covers only half of his body and is intended to remind the viewer of a burial shroud; his pose – slumped against the marble wall, legs extended across the ledge – is supposed to recall his dead body in the tomb. The viewer is reminded that he is not an ordinary baby but the Son of God whose death, Christians believe, was for their salvation.

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