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Master of the Pala Sforzesca, 'The Virgin and Child with Four Saints and Twelve Devotees', probably about 1490-5

Key facts
Full title The Virgin and Child with Four Saints and Twelve Devotees
Artist Master of the Pala Sforzesca
Artist dates active about 1490 - about 1500
Date made probably about 1490-5
Medium and support Egg tempera on wood
Dimensions 55.7 × 48.8 cm
Acquisition credit Presented by Lady Margaret Watney in memory of her husband, Vernon J. Watney, 1929
Inventory number NG4444
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
The Virgin and Child with Four Saints and Twelve Devotees
Master of the Pala Sforzesca

In this miniaturised altarpiece, the Virgin Mary sits with an enormous Christ Child on a gilded throne. They are flanked by four saints, and in the foreground six men and six women kneel in prayer, the men on the Virgin’s right-hand – and more honourable – side. They are stylishly dressed in the fashions of the 1490s. They could perhaps be members of a single family, arranged behind a married couple who face each other, or possibly members of a confraternity (quasi-religious brotherhood).

We don‘t know who the artist was, although he was a follower of Leonardo da Vinci: Mary’s head here seems to be based on that in Leonardo’s ’The Virgin of the Rocks'. The extensive use of gold leaf is typical of the Lombard region. Much of the decorative effect is now lost, but various techniques were used to produce subtle variations in texture and surface.

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