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Bartolomeo Montagna, The Virgin and Child

Key facts
Full title The Virgin and Child
Artist Bartolomeo Montagna
Artist dates living 1459; died 1523
Date made probably about 1485-7
Medium and support Tempera with oil on wood
Dimensions 64.8 × 54.6 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1869
Inventory number NG802
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
The Virgin and Child
Bartolomeo Montagna

We know little about Montagna’s training but it is possible that he spent some time in Giovanni Bellini’s workshop in Venice. This composition, in which the holy figures are shown in half-length often set against a landscape background and usually behind a marble ledge, was pioneered by the Venetian master.

Christ sits on a Bible, perhaps a reference to the Christian belief that he was the fulfillment of the prophecies of the Old Testament. Mother and child each hold a cherry, a fruit which symbolised paradise – a reminder that Christ was the son of God and the gateway to heaven.

The simple but striking forms – for example, the broad triangle of the blue mantle and the way in which the anatomy is constructed from firmly outlined bold shapes – were perhaps inspired by Antonello da Messina, who was in Venice from 1475.

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