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The Virgin and Child in a Mandorla with Cherubim
Italian, Umbrian or Roman
/

The Virgin Mary tenderly supports the infant Christ in her arms. Gilded backgrounds like this derived from icon paintings produced in the Byzantine (Eastern Christian) Empire. By the time the picture was made, they had largely been replaced in Italian painting by landscape or architectural backdrops. Christ’s blessing gesture, a sign of his divine authority, is also derived from Byzantine art.

These elements might be deliberate references to a particular icon thought to have been painted by the Gospel writer Saint Luke, which was in the church of Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome. It was thought to have miraculous powers, making it very popular to copy: each version was thought to multiply the power of the original. Here the artist has altered the image by framing the figures in a mandorla (an almond-shaped enclosure).

This work is one of many versions of a design that has sometimes been associated with the Umbrian artist Perugino.

Key facts
Artist Italian, Umbrian or Roman
Full title The Virgin and Child in a Mandorla with Cherubim
Date made about 1480-1500
Medium and support Tempera on wood
Dimensions 46 x 32 cm
Acquisition credit Presented by Queen Victoria at the Prince Consort's wish, 1863
Inventory number NG702
Location in Gallery Not on display
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