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Giorgio Schiavone, The Virgin and Child

Key facts
Full title The Virgin and Child
Artist Giorgio Schiavone
Artist dates 1436/7 - 1504
Date made about 1456-60
Medium and support Tempera on wood
Dimensions 55.9 × 41.3 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1874
Inventory number NG904
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
The Virgin and Child
Giorgio Schiavone

The Virgin and Christ Child are framed by a classical marble arch decorated with swags of fruit. Christ balances precariously on the sill, uncertain on his feet; his anxious mother clearly thinks he is about to fall off the edge. In a gesture familiar to all parents of toddlers, she holds her hand near enough to catch him if he stumbles, and he reaches out towards her to steady himself.

Christ holds a pear but is more interested in a bowl of cherries offered to him by a naked putto (young boy); look closely and you can see a translucent moth on top of them. Versions of the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet – Alpha and Omega – appear on either side of the arch. This is a title given to Christ in the Book of Revelation.

There are only a few paintings we can confidently attribute to Giorgio Schiavone – this is one of them.

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