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The Virgin and Child with Saints
Italian, Venetian
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In this enormous picture, the doge – the elected head of the Venetian Republic – kneels before the Virgin and Child, asking for her support for the Venetian state. This is painting at its most official: the doge holds a banner showing the lion of Saint Mark, the symbol of Venice, and wears ceremonial dress. He is Doge Giovanni Mocenigo (1478–85). The family’s coat of arms is visible on the tails of the banner and on the front of the altar.

Traditionally each doge commissioned a painting of himself with the Virgin Mary and saints, to be placed in the Senate or Doge’s Palace, in thanks for achieving his office. Here he might also be asking for aid against the plague: Saint Christopher, who stands behind the Virgin, was sometimes invoked against this disease and the vase on the altar perhaps contains medicine.

Key facts
Artist Italian, Venetian
Full title The Virgin and Child with Saints Christopher and John the Baptist, and Doge Giovanni Mocenigo
Date made 1478-85
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 184.2 x 295.9 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1865
Inventory number NG750
Location in Gallery Not on display
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