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The Virgin and Child
Carlo Crivelli
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The Virgin, crowned and richly dressed as Queen of Heaven, sits on a marble throne. She comes from a polyptych (a multi-panelled altarpiece) which Crivelli painted in 1476 for the high altar of the church of San Domenico, in Ascoli Piceno in the Italian Marche. A pink watered silk – a cloth of honour of the kind hung behind medieval rulers – hangs in soft folds behind her and creases across the edge of the marble shelf behind her head. In her long, tapering fingers she holds up a translucent cloth on which the Child is seated, as if revealing him to the friars seated in the church. The child himself has slumped forward on his mother’s knee in sleep, his chin resting on her hand, his tiny fingers grasping one of hers. San Domenico was only a small church, and Crivelli’s polyptych must have lit up the nave with a glittering, golden glow.

Key facts
Artist Carlo Crivelli
Artist dates about 1430/5 - about 1494
Full title The Virgin and Child
Group The Demidoff Altarpiece
Date made 1476
Medium and support Tempera on lime
Dimensions 148.6 x 63.5 cm
Inscription summary Signed; Dated
Acquisition credit Bought, 1868
Inventory number NG788.1
Location in Gallery Room 57
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The Demidoff Altarpiece

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Crivelli painted two altarpieces for the small church of San Domenico, in the town of Ascoli Piceno in the Italian Marche. Their history is complex and intertwined. A large, double-tiered polyptych (a multi-panelled altarpiece) sat on the high altar, while a smaller altarpiece was in a side chapel.

In the nineteenth century parts of both altarpieces were sold to a Russian prince, Anatole Demidoff, who mounted them in a grand frame to make a three-tiered altarpiece for the chapel of his villa in Florence. The whole complex is now known as the Demidoff Altarpiece.

The National Gallery bought the Demidoff Altarpiece in 1868, and in 1961 the panels from the smaller polyptych were removed. They are now displayed separately.

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