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French or North Italian, The Visitation

Key facts
Full title The Visitation
Artist French or North Italian
Date made about 1630
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 113.6 × 218 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, using the Martin Colnaghi Fund, 1944
Inventory number NG5448
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
The Visitation
French or North Italian

The Virgin Mary, dressed in blue, visits her older cousin Elizabeth, who is pregnant with Saint John the Baptist. This episode is described in the New Testament and happens immediately after the angel visits Mary to announce her own miraculous conception of Jesus Christ.

In the Bible, the women rejoice at their pregnancies, but here they look serious and concerned. Joseph, Mary’s husband, is not included in biblical descriptions of the Visitation, but he often appears in paintings. Here he stands behind Mary. The elderly man descending the steps is Zacharias, Elizabeth’s husband.

This is probably the work of a north Italian artist or a French painter working in Italy. The artist adopted a classical painting style: the bodies are large and solid like antique sculpture. The architecture is simple with little detail apart from the door and an archway revealing a glimpse of the sky and landscape beyond.

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