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Dirk Bouts, The Virgin and Child

Key facts
Full title The Virgin and Child
Artist Dirk Bouts
Artist dates 1400? - 1475
Date made about 1465
Medium and support Oil with egg tempera on oak
Dimensions 37.1 × 27.6 cm
Acquisition credit Salting Bequest, 1910
Inventory number NG2595
Location Room 27
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
The Virgin and Child
Dirk Bouts

The Virgin and Christ Child are seen as if at an open window, with the infant perched on the sill. Mary gazes lovingly at her son and offers him her breast; images of the Virgin breastfeeding emphasised Christ’s humanity and vulnerability.

Small religious panels like this were used as an aid to private prayer in people’s homes. Images of the Virgin and Child reminded medieval viewers of the Virgin’s role as mother of God, and also of the Incarnation, by which God became fully human.

Although they are biblical figures the Virgin and Child are shown in a fifteenth-century room, as if they have entered our world. The white cloth around the Child may have continued over the original frame, which is now missing, strengthening the illusion.

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