The Virgin and Child before a Firescreen

The Virgin is seated on a wooden bench in front of a large wicker firescreen, the shape of which suggests a halo, and appears to have been nursing the infant Christ. She is shown as the Queen of Heaven in her palace. Her richly ornamented dress, precious book, the cushions and the inlaid floor are all evocative of extraordinary splendour. By contrast, her child is shown naked, as if to emphasise his humanity.

The painting underwent a major restoration in the 19th century. A broad strip on the right and a narrow strip at the top were added. The cupboard on the right, on which a chalice is placed, is unlikely to be an accurate reflection of the original composition.

The view through the window is a feature of early Netherlandish painting. All its realistic details are not easily visible to the naked eye. They include a row of shops, horsemen, and men with a ladder fighting a fire.

Key facts

Artist dates
1378/9 - 1444
Full title
The Virgin and Child before a Firescreen
Date made
about 1440
Medium and support
Oil with egg tempera on oak with walnut additions
63.4 x 48.5 cm
Acquisition credit
Salting Bequest, 1910
Inventory number
Location in Gallery