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Hans Memling, The Virgin and Child with an Angel

Key facts
Full title The Virgin and Child with an Angel, Saint George and a Donor
Artist Hans Memling
Artist dates active 1465; died 1494
Date made about 1480
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 54.2 × 37.4 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1862
Inventory number NG686
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
The Virgin and Child with an Angel
Hans Memling

The Virgin Mary and Christ Child are enthroned beneath a canopy and before a cloth of honour of the kind displayed behind medieval kings and queens.The naked child is balanced on her knee and crumples the pages of an open book. The unidentified donor kneels on the right: he was presumably called George as Saint George stands behind him, the limp and lifeless body of the dragon that he killed is at his feet.

Memling ran a large workshop, and certain oddities in the composition – the way the Christ Child reaches out towards nothing, for example – might indicate that this is the work of an assistant. But technical analysis suggests an alternative explanation. The painting was done very quickly and there are many changes between the underdrawing and the final painted version, including the head of the donor. The picture may be attributed to Memling himself, perhaps working under unusual constraints, for a difficult and impatient client.

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