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Francesco Francia and workshop, 'The Virgin and Child with Two Saints', about 1500-5

Key facts
Full title The Virgin and Child with Two Saints
Artist Francesco Francia and workshop
Artist dates about 1447 - 1517
Date made about 1500-5
Medium and support Oil on wood, transferred from wood
Dimensions 78.1 × 62.2 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1860
Inventory number NG638
Location Gallery B
Collection Main Collection
The Virgin and Child with Two Saints
Francesco Francia and workshop

The Virgin holds the naked infant Christ who stands on a stone ledge and raises his hand in blessing. We do not know the identity of the saints behind them, but the older one may be Saint Jerome or Saint Anthony Abbot.

The holy characters are portrayed in the Italian countryside, making them appear humble, approachable and down to earth. Setting the Virgin and Child in a landscape was a recent innovation in Italian art, popularised by the Venetian painter Giovanni Bellini.

Francia used his central image of the Virgin and Child several times for other compositions, changing the saints that accompany them. The Madonna and Child with Saints Sebastian and Anthony Abbot (Alte Pinakothek, Munich) is almost identical to the National Gallery’s picture. A full-sized drawing, or cartoon, would have been used to trace and transfer the design. The degree of copying suggests that Francia’s assistants may have been involved in painting these pictures.

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