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Italian, North, The Madonna and Child with Saints

Key facts
Full title The Madonna and Child with Saint Nicholas of Tolentino and Saint Anthony of Padua
Artist Italian, North
Date made about 1515
Medium and support Oil on wood
Dimensions 44.9 × 63.2 cm
Acquisition credit Layard Bequest, 1916
Inventory number NG3094
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
The Madonna and Child with Saints
Italian, North

The Virgin Mary crosses her hands in adoration as she gazes down at the naked Christ Child who sleeps on a ledge or table in front of her. His sleep is intended to foreshadow his death. This type of composition with saints accompanying the Virgin in an informal grouping is known as a sacra conversazione or sacred conversation.

Saint Nicholas of Tolentino (who died in 1305 and was declared a saint in 1446) stands on the left of the picture wearing the black habit of an Augustinian friar. He holds a lily and a book, and his chest glows with a sacred radiance as he gazes at the Virgin. Saint Anthony of Padua (a preacher of the Franciscan Order who died in 1231, and was declared a saint 1232) touches his hands together in veneration.

This painting is probably by a Venetian artist and would have been used for private devotion at home. The horizontal format and colour palette of rose, green, white and deep blue are typical of early sixteenth-century Venetian painting.

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