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Juan de Valdes Leal, 'The Immaculate Conception with Two Donors', probably 1661

Key facts
Full title The Immaculate Conception of the Virgin, with Two Donors
Artist Juan de Valdes Leal
Artist dates 1622 - 1690
Date made probably 1661
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 189.7 × 204.5 cm
Inscription summary Signed; Dated
Acquisition credit Bought, 1889
Inventory number NG1291
Location Room 30
Collection Main Collection
The Immaculate Conception with Two Donors
Juan de Valdes Leal

The Virgin Mary, crowned with 12 stars and standing on a crescent moon, is surrounded by flowers associated with her purity, a mirror and the crown denoting her position as Queen of Heaven.

The painting refers to the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception (the belief that the Virgin was conceived without sin). Much of the imagery associated with this belief was derived from the Old Testament Song of Solomon, once attributed to Solomon, the King of Israel, whose throne is probably to be identified with that at the top of the staircase to the left. Two life-size figures, the donors, appear in the lower corners – an old woman in mourning dress and a man, presumably her son.

Valdés Leal has used variations in light and tone to distinguish between the earthly and heavenly realms. We are led from the dark, solid forms of the donors in the foreground to the brighter image of the Virgin, and then to the ethereal figure of God.

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