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Giovanni Bellini, The Virgin and Child

Key facts
Full title The Virgin and Child
Artist Giovanni Bellini
Artist dates about 1435 - 1516
Date made probably 1480-1500
Medium and support Oil and tempera on wood
Dimensions 78.7 × 58.4 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Mond Bequest, 1924
Inventory number NG3913
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
The Virgin and Child
Giovanni Bellini

During the 1470s and 1480s Bellini produced a series of small-scale images of the Virgin and Child, destined for the homes of his Venetian patrons who used them as aids to private prayer.

The naked Christ lies on a marble parapet, probably intended to recall his dead body in the tomb – a reminder that, according to Christians, in adulthood he redeemed humanity through his death. This detail transforms the picture from a tender image of a mother and child to a religious one.

The painting is covered with an old varnish, probably dating from the nineteenth century, which has now discoloured, giving the whole picture a brown tone. Photomicrographs (very highly magnified images) show Bellini’s fingerprints in the Virgin’s cheek and Christ’s fingers – where he blotted areas of paint by hand, a technique he used in several other works.

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