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'The Manchester Madonna'
Michelangelo
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This is probably the earliest of Michelangelo’s surviving panel paintings. It is unfinished – the black modelling of the Virgin Mary’s mantle has not yet received its final coats of blue, and the angels to the left have barely been begun. We don't know why the picture was never completed.

The Virgin is seated on a rock with the Christ Child and young John the Baptist at her knee. She is flanked by standing angels – the two on the left are only indicated by their drawn draperies and by the greenish underpainting traditionally used to balance the pinkish flesh tones that would be painted over them.

The infant Saint John the Baptist in his camel skin looks out beyond us, perhaps to suggest his role in preparing the way for Christ’s ministry. The manner in which the figures fill almost the entire panel is reminiscent of a marble relief and reflects Michelangelo’s training as a sculptor.

Key facts
Artist Michelangelo
Artist dates 1475 - 1564
Full title The Virgin and Child with Saint John and Angels ('The Manchester Madonna')
Date made about 1497, possibly as early as 1494
Medium and support Tempera on wood
Dimensions 104.5 x 77 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1870
Inventory number NG809
Location in Gallery Room 8
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