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Filippino Lippi, The Virgin and Child with Saint John

Key facts
Full title The Virgin and Child with Saint John
Artist Filippino Lippi
Artist dates about 1457 - 1504
Date made about 1480
Medium and support Tempera on poplar
Dimensions 59.1 × 43.8 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1894
Inventory number NG1412
Location Gallery D
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
The Virgin and Child with Saint John
Filippino Lippi

This painting is among the earliest known works by Filippino Lippi, probably made when he was still a member of the workshop of the Florentine painter Sandro Botticelli. It shows the Virgin Mary holding the infant Christ in her right arm. He plucks seeds from a pomegranate – the fruit was a symbol of the Passion (his torture and crucifixion).

Christ’s cousin, Saint John the Baptist, looks on in wonder, holding his reed cross and clutching at the folds of his red cloak. A book lies open on the marble sill in the foreground, its text illegible. The vase with flowers may allude to the Virgin, who was thought of as a vessel from which the Christ Child came. A mountainous landscape opens out behind the group, with a little city in the distance.

Small paintings of the Virgin and Child with the young Saint John the Baptist were an important source of income for artists in fifteenth-century Florence; they usually decorated the chambers of their owners.

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