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Master of the Saint Bartholomew Altarpiece, The Virgin and Child with Musical Angels

Key facts
Full title The Virgin and Child with Musical Angels
Artist Master of the Saint Bartholomew Altarpiece
Artist dates active about 1470 to about 1510
Date made about 1485-1500
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 52 × 38 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1985
Inventory number NG6499
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
The Virgin and Child with Musical Angels
Master of the Saint Bartholomew Altarpiece

This painting of the Virgin Mary with the infant Christ was probably made for private devotion. Seated on a cushion, its thick tassels protruding from beneath the folds of her draperies, the Virgin is about to breastfeed her child. The flowers in the vase on the right are pinks, called Nelke (‘nailflowers’) in German, and refer to Christ’s crucifixion. The delicate columbine on the left – the long-stemmed plant with bell-shaped flowers – was associated with the Virgin Mary as well as the Holy Ghost, often depicted as a dove (columba means ‘dove’ in Latin).

Infrared photographs reveal a detailed underdrawing. The areas of shadow in the Virgin’s drapery and on the tiles are indicated with minute parallel strokes (called hatching), sometimes crossed over to make it appear even denser (cross-hatching). The precision and the lack of alterations in the underdrawing suggest it was copied from an existing model in the master’s workshop by one of his assistants.

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