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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 x 58.4 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Mond Bequest, 1924
Inventory number NG3913
Location Gallery A: Paintings 1250-1600
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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