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Lorenzo Lotto, The Virgin and Child with Saints

Key facts
Full title The Virgin and Child with Saints Jerome and Nicholas of Tolentino
Artist Lorenzo Lotto
Artist dates about 1480 - 1556/7
Date made 1522
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 91 × 75.4 cm
Inscription summary Signed; Dated
Acquisition credit Bequeathed by Martin Colnaghi, 1908
Inventory number NG2281
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
The Virgin and Child with Saints
Lorenzo Lotto

No other Renaissance painting of the Virgin and Child with saints shows the naked infant Christ sitting on a pillow on a coffin. This unique addition indicates Christ’s acceptance of and conquest over death. Meditation on Christ’s death encouraged understanding of his suffering for humanity’s redemption.

A tear falls from the elderly Saint Jerome’s eye as he clasps his hand to his chest and contemplates a figure of the crucified Christ. Saint Nicholas of Tolentino, wearing the black habit of the Augustinian Order, has a sacred radiance glowing on his chest and holds a lily.

There is another better-preserved and higher-quality version of this painting at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Lotto appears to have worked on both pictures at the same time, drawing and resolving the composition in the Boston version and then reproducing it on the National Gallery’s canvas. The pictures were probably painted towards the end of the period that Lotto spent mainly in Bergamo.

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