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Giovanni Martini da Udine, The Virgin and Child with Saints

Key facts
Full title The Virgin and Child with Saints George, James the Greater and a Donor
Artist Giovanni Martini da Udine
Artist dates about 1470-5; died 1535
Date made probably about 1500-25
Medium and support Oil on wood
Dimensions 247.7 × 144.8 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1867
Inventory number NG778
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
The Virgin and Child with Saints
Giovanni Martini da Udine

The Virgin Mary sits high on a throne of rough-hewn rock while two angels hover with the crown of heaven above her head. The infant Christ stands naked on her lap, dangling a pair of cherries, symbolic of the fruit of Paradise, from a thread.

Saint George is shown as a young knight on horseback. The severed head and dead body of the dragon he has just slain lie at his horse’s feet. Saint James the Greater holds his pilgrim staff and introduces the donor of the altarpiece to the Virgin and Child. The man, whose identity is unknown, kneels with his red cap in his hands. The artist has not flattered his client, recording the man’s stubbly double chin, his bald head and the wrinkles at the back of his neck.

Most of Giovanni Martini da Udine’s career was spent in Friuli, north of Venice, and he was particularly renowned as a sculptor of carved wooden altarpieces. This is one of his major surviving painted altarpieces.

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