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Davide Ghirlandaio, The Virgin and Child with Saint John

Key facts
Full title The Virgin and Child with Saint John
Artist Davide Ghirlandaio
Artist dates 1452 - 1525
Date made probably about 1490-1500
Medium and support Tempera on wood
Dimensions 78.8 × 46.5 cm
Acquisition credit Salting Bequest, 1910
Inventory number NG2502
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
The Virgin and Child with Saint John
Davide Ghirlandaio

The relatively small size of this arch-shaped picture suggests it was made as a focus for private devotion in the home. The Virgin steadies the infant Christ as he stands and makes a blessing gesture towards his cousin, Saint John the Baptist. John’s recognition of Christ’s divine authority in his devoted gaze was a reminder that, as a young man, John lived in the wilderness and preached about Christ.

The buildings in the right background are based on notable monuments in Rome and include the Pantheon, the Colosseum, the Arch of Constantine, the Castel Sant'Angelo, Old Saint Peter’s and the Vatican. The picture was clearly made after 1482 when Davide was working with his brothers on the frescoes in the Sistine chapel, in the Vatican, alongside Botticelli.

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