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Giovanni Battista Cima da Conegliano, The Virgin and Child

Key facts
Full title The Virgin and Child
Artist Giovanni Battista Cima da Conegliano
Artist dates about 1459/60 - about 1517/18
Date made about 1505
Medium and support Oil and egg on poplar
Dimensions 53.3 × 43.8 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Bought, 1860
Inventory number NG634
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
The Virgin and Child
Giovanni Battista Cima da Conegliano

This was one of Cima da Conegliano’s most popular designs, and he and his workshop produced a number of versions of it. The Virgin Mary sits on a marble bench in front of a sunlit Italian landscape, her body forming a solid mass which we can almost feel pressing down on the cool stone. There is hardly a cloud in the sky and Mary gazes out with unruffled serenity.

Only the pose of the Christ Child disturbs the calm. He balances somewhat precariously on his mother’s lap, pulling away from her restraining fingers. He holds a small bird, a linnet, perhaps a symbolic allusion to the Passion (Christ’s torture and crucifixion).

The marble parapet along the front serves to push the Virgin and Child back, creating a feeling of three-dimensional space which is reinforced by the distant blue hills behind them. The clear light which infuses the whole painting and the rich colours are typical of Cima’s work.

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