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Italian, Florentine, 'The Virgin and Child with Saints', probably 1450-1500

Key facts
Full title The Virgin and Child with Saint John the Baptist and an Angel
Artist Italian, Florentine
Date made probably 1450-1500
Medium and support Tempera on wood
Dimensions 69.9 × 69.9 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1885
Inventory number NG1199
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
The Virgin and Child with Saints
Italian, Florentine

At the centre of this painting is the Virgin Mary, seated in a narrow space, a wall behind her and a ledge before her. She holds the infant Christ, who seems unsteady on his feet as he leans to the right. He makes direct eye contact with the viewer. The young Saint John the Baptist, identified by his camel-hair shirt, looks on in devotion, his crossed arms embracing a little reed cross. An angel approaches from the opposite side wearing a wreath of roses and holding a white lily, common symbols of the Virgin’s purity.

Special tools have been used to decorate the golden background and the figures’ haloes, probably to increase the effect of flickering candlelight by which the painting would sometimes have been seen. It is likely to have decorated the bedroom of its original owners, offering a visual aid for prayer. It still has its original frame, which is actually part of the wooden panel on which the picture is painted.

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