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Masaccio, The Virgin and Child

Key facts
Full title The Virgin and Child
Artist Masaccio
Artist dates 1401 - 1428/9?
Date made 1426
Medium and support Egg tempera on wood
Dimensions 134.8 × 73.5 cm
Acquisition credit Bought with a contribution from the Art Fund, 1916
Inventory number NG3046
Location Gallery E
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
The Virgin and Child

This was the central panel of a large altarpiece made for the church of Santa Maria del Carmine in Pisa. The Virgin’s sturdy form, which looks similar to contemporary Florentine sculpture, casts a shadow against the carved throne. Christ’s body seems fleshy and three-dimensional; Masaccio has done this by showing how certain areas catch the light, painting them with a lighter tone. His ability to represent holy figures as though they were human was innovative and influential.

Masaccio also used the new technique of single-point perspective, which helped to make certain objects appear closer and others further away. This is clearest in the ‘V’ shape created by the angle of the angel’s lutes.

Christ is shown eating grapes. It’s a reminder of the wine of the Eucharist, which Christians drink in remembrance of the blood Christ shed at his crucifixion, a scene of which would have sat above this image.

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