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Jan Provoost, The Virgin and Child in a Landscape

Key facts
Full title The Virgin and Child in a Landscape
Artist Jan Provoost
Artist dates living 1491; died 1529
Date made early 16th century
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 60.2 × 49.5 cm
Acquisition credit Presented by Queen Victoria at the Prince Consort's wish, 1863
Inventory number NG713
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
The Virgin and Child in a Landscape
Jan Provoost

The magnificently dressed Virgin Mary is seated in a garden, on a turf bench supported on planks of wood. The Christ Child is on her knee, playing with a whirligig. Pulling the string on the toy would make the part with sails fly upwards like a helicopter.

Such benches seem to have been common in small gardens or ‘paradises’ and were planted with low-growing, sweet-smelling flowers. Violets, strawberries, plantains, dandelions – two with ‘clock’ seed heads – and columbines grow on the bench and at her feet. The plants are quickly painted, so we can't identify every one.

The figures of the Virgin and Child paraphrase those in Virgin and Child with Saints Donatian and George and Canon Joris van der Paele by Jan van Eyck, dated 1436, then in the Collegiate Church of St Donatian in Bruges and now in the Groeningemuseum in the same city. The reference to the famous van Eyck would have been obvious to contemporaries.

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