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The Virgin and Child
Benvenuto di Giovanni
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This graceful Virgin Mary seems to embody both motherly love and maternal sorrow. Her beautiful hands hold the Christ Child almost tentatively, as if to prevent him floating away. She gazes sadly at her son, and he too looks out with wary, hooded eyes, as if aware of his future.

Mary’s halo is inscribed with Latin words that mean ‘Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you’ – the angel Gabriel’s greeting at the Annunciation (Luke 1: 28). The child seems weightless, just one foot resting on a gilded cushion. Delicate gold rays emanate from his head but he clasps his mother’s hand with tiny fingers and embraces her with human affection.

Benvenuto has replaced the traditional gold background with a flowery landscape, but he was also more interested in an ideal of feminine beauty than in anatomical accuracy. He has kept the flowing contours of earlier Sienese painting: the unbroken curve of the Virgin’s cloak around her head is derived from Sano di Pietro (1405–1481) and his predecessors.

Key facts
Artist Benvenuto di Giovanni
Artist dates 1436 - after 1509/17
Full title The Virgin and Child
Date made about 1474-5
Medium and support Tempera on wood
Dimensions 52.1 x 34.3 cm
Acquisition credit Salting Bequest, 1910
Inventory number NG2482
Location in Gallery Gallery A: Paintings 1250-1600
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