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Giovanni Santi, The Virgin and Child

Key facts
Full title The Virgin and Child
Artist Giovanni Santi
Artist dates active 1469 - 1494
Date made perhaps about 1488
Medium and support Egg and oil on wood
Dimensions 68 × 49.8 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1865
Inventory number NG751
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
The Virgin and Child
Giovanni Santi

The Virgin bends over the sleeping Christ Child, the diagonal slope of her body paralleled by that of her son’s. Her lips are parted – perhaps she’s singing her child to sleep. Christ is balanced rather precariously on a red cushion on a parapet. His head rests in his mother’s hand and one arm hangs down limply. His sleep presages his death, and his coral necklace symbolises the blood he will shed during the Passion (his torture and crucifixion).

This is the finest among the surviving small-scale images of the Virgin and Child by Giovanni Santi, father of Raphael. Santi, like other Renaissance artists, often borrowed figures and motifs from other painters. The parapet, cloth of honour and the rich textiles, as well as the landscape with its clumps of spherical trees and distant blue mountains, are all typical of Netherlandish painting.

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