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Bernardino Luini, The Virgin and Child with Saint John

Key facts
Full title The Virgin and Child with Saint John
Artist Bernardino Luini
Artist dates about 1480 - 1532
Date made probably late 1510s
Medium and support Oil on poplar
Dimensions 88.3 × 66 cm
Acquisition credit Mond Bequest, 1924
Inventory number NG3935
Location Gallery B
Collection Main Collection
The Virgin and Child with Saint John
Bernardino Luini

The Virgin Mary sits in the shelter of a rocky grotto, with the infants Christ and John the Baptist beside her. This is an early work by the Milanese painter Luini, He was deeply influenced by Leonardo, who was working in Milan from about 1482 to 1499. The figure of the Virgin and the infant Baptist as well as the rocky backdrop seem to be derived, although inverted and with variations, from Leonardo’s Virgin of the Rocks, also in the National Gallery’s collection (another version is in the Louvre, Paris).

The plants growing in the foreground, painted in botanical detail, are native to northern Italy and probably all have a symbolic Christian significance – lupin, dandelion, columbine, wheat and violet. It is possible that The Virgin of the Rocks was being completed in Leonardo’s studio in Milan between 1506 and 1508, when Luini may have seen it. However it is unlikely that Luini’s own painting is of such an early date.

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