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The Virgin and Child
Master of the Borgo Crucifix (Master of the Franciscan Crucifixes)
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In 1999 this panel was reunited with its pair, an image of Christ known as the Man of Sorrows. Together they formed a diptych, a painting made of two panels joined with a hinge.

The Virgin Mary gestures towards the Christ Child, bowing her head towards him. He looks up towards her and makes a blessing gesture with his right hand. The poses of the Virgin and Child belong to Byzantine (Eastern Christian) icon painting, specifically the Virgin Hodegetria (meaning, in Greek, the Virgin ’showing the way'). The image was believed to have miracle-working properties, partly because it was thought to be based on a painting of the Virgin and Child made by Saint Luke.

The image became popular in Italy, in particular in Pisa, in the thirteenth century – the painter of this panel, known as the Master of the Borgo Crucifix, was probably trained by the Pisan artist Giunta da Pisano.

Key facts
Artist Master of the Borgo Crucifix (Master of the Franciscan Crucifixes)
Artist dates active about 1250 - 1269
Full title The Virgin and Child
Group Umbrian Diptych
Date made about 1255-60
Medium and support Egg tempera on poplar
Dimensions 32.2 x 22.9 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1999
Inventory number NG6572
Location in Gallery Room 51
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Umbrian Diptych

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These panels once formed the left and right wing of a diptych, a painting made up of two parts joined by a central hinge. Holes on the left edge of the panel depicting the dead Christ match up with those at the right edge of the panel with the Virgin and Child; these once held hinges. Both panels have the same dimensions and the backgrounds are decorated with the same patterns and markings. The reverses are both painted to imitate red porphyry, a type of stone.

The images belong to the Byzantine (Eastern Christian) tradition. The diptych may have been made for a Franciscan friar – a member of the religious order which followed the teachings of Saint Francis and placed particular emphasis in their prayer upon Christ’s suffering. The Order’s presence in the eastern Mediterranean after the Fourth Crusade of 1204 (one of a series of medieval religious wars) meant that they would have been familiar with Byzantine imagery.

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