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Cimabue, The Virgin and Child with Two Angels

Key facts
Full title The Virgin and Child with Two Angels
Artist Cimabue
Artist dates documented 1272; died 1302
Date made about 1280-5
Medium and support Egg tempera on wood
Dimensions 25.6 × 20.8 cm
Acquisition credit Accepted by HM Government in lieu of Inheritance Tax and allocated to the National Gallery, 2000
Inventory number NG6583
Location Gallery F
Collection Main Collection
The Virgin and Child with Two Angels

This is one of only two small-scale works by Cimabue, rediscovered in 2000. Soon after this, a link was made between it and a panel in the Frick Collection, New York which depicts the Flagellation. They were both probably part of a much larger panel painted with small images showing the events leading up to Christ’s death. A third panel from the same group, The Arrest of Christ, was discovered in a French private collection in 2019 and is now in the collection of the Musée du Louvre, Paris.

Two angels with long feathered wings present the Virgin and Child to the viewer. This scene references Christ’s suffering and death through the cloth on which the Virgin is seated. It resembles the kind placed upon an altar used for the Eucharist – the ritual at which Christians remember Christ’s death by drinking wine and eating bread together. This scene is based on a Byzantine model which Cimabue has altered: he has made the throne three-dimensional and included an affectionate gesture between mother and child. These adjustments catered to Western Christians for whom a personal relationship with God was key.

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