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The Virgin and Child with Two Angels
Follower of the Master of the Saint Ursula Legend (Bruges)
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The Virgin Mary is shown in close-up with the Christ Child cradled in one arm. She wears a purple dress, which now looks greyish, with turned back cuffs. Christ is balanced rather precariously on the shelf at the front, his limbs awkwardly splayed in a contorted pose, perhaps to display his genitals as a reminder of his humanity. He reaches out to grasp the carnations that his mother holds. Carnations – nagelbloem (‘nail-flowers’) in Dutch – were associated with the Crucifixion.

The composition is a distant echo of Dirk Bouts' The Virgin and Child, also in the National Gallery’s collection. The artist is unknown, but was probably working in or near Bruges around 1490. His figure types are similar to those of an artist known as the Master of the Saint Ursula Legend.

The paint surface is obscured by dirt and discoloured varnishes. A scratch through the Virgin’s mouth and losses in the eyes of the figures may be the result of deliberate damage.

Key facts
Artist Follower of the Master of the Saint Ursula Legend (Bruges)
Artist dates active last quarter of 15th century
Full title The Virgin and Child with Two Angels
Date made about 1490
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 47 x 34.5 cm
Acquisition credit Bought (Lewis Fund), 1918
Inventory number NG3379
Location in Gallery Room 63
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