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Italian, Pisan, The Virgin and Child with Two Angels

Key facts
Full title The Virgin and Child with Two Angels
Artist Italian, Pisan
Date made early 1260s
Medium and support Egg tempera on poplar
Dimensions 36.5 × 26.5 cm
Inscription summary Inscribed
Acquisition credit Presented by W.B. Chamberlin, 1934
Inventory number NG4741
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
The Virgin and Child with Two Angels
Italian, Pisan

This small panel painting of the Virgin and Child was, until its theft in the 1970s, one of the earliest pictures in the National Gallery. Probably painted in Tuscany in the thirteenth century, it was inspired by Byzantine (Eastern Christian) painting.

The Virgin and Child are shown embracing affectionately, with Christ resting his forehead against his mother’s cheek. This was a very popular motif in Byzantine art, and Byzantine icons were probably widely available in Italy at this time. The faces are highly stylised and draperies are modelled with gold highlights. The letters on either side are Greek and stand for ‘Mother of God’.

The picture perhaps once formed part of a diptych – a painting made of two panels which folded together for storage or transportation – made for private devotion. This panel has a cross decorated with triangles and circles on the back, which would have been visible when the diptych was closed.

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