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Master of the Clarisse (possibly Rinaldo da Siena), 'The Virgin and Child', about 1265-8

Key facts
Full title The Virgin and Child
Artist Master of the Clarisse (possibly Rinaldo da Siena)
Artist dates documented 1274 - 1281
Date made about 1265-8
Medium and support Egg tempera on poplar
Dimensions 31.4 × 19.5 cm
Acquisition credit Acquired with the assistance of the Art Fund (with a contribution from the Wolfson Foundation), 1998
Inventory number NG6571
Location Gallery F
Collection Main Collection
The Virgin and Child
Master of the Clarisse (possibly Rinaldo da Siena)

This small painting is one of the earliest in the National Gallery’s collection. It was probably made in Siena – it shares many features with Sienese painting of the period – but its combination of images is rare. It is possible that it’s based on a Byzantine (Eastern Christian) painting.

The Virgin and Child are shown in a tender pose that was popular in Byzantine icon painting. The other images narrate humanity’s salvation through the birth and death of Christ. So, just above the central image, we see the Angel Gabriel announcing to the Virgin Mary that she will give birth to the Son of God. Above this is a scene of Christ’s Crucifixion.

In the spaces on either side of this arched image are the believers (on the left) ascending to heaven and the damned (on the right) who, cowering, cannot enter heaven.

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