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The Virgin and Child with an Angel
Pietro Perugino
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In this painting Perugino has stressed the humility of the Virgin Mary, positioning her directly in a grassy meadow as she kneels before the infant Christ, a chubby baby. He is supported by an angel who looks towards Mary, sharing in her knowledge of his divinity.

This was the central panel of the lower tier of an altarpiece made for the Duke of Milan (the two flanking panels are also in the National Gallery’s collection). It shows off the artist’s skill at painting in oil, blending colours to create subtle transitions between tones – particularly effective for painting the Virgin’s complexion, which is made up of many different shades of peach, cream and pink.

The hovering winged angels at the top of the image were not part of the original design, and it’s possible that they were added at the request of the patron.

Key facts
Artist Pietro Perugino
Artist dates living 1469; died 1523
Full title The Virgin and Child with an Angel
Group Three Panels from an Altarpiece, Certosa
Date made about 1496-1500
Medium and support Oil with some egg tempera on poplar
Dimensions 114 x 63.5 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1856
Inventory number NG288.1
Location in Gallery Room 61
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Three Panels from an Altarpiece, Certosa

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Perugino painted this altarpiece for the Duke of Milan, Ludovico Sforza. It stood in the side chapel dedicated to the Archangel Michael in the Carthusian monastery (also known as a charterhouse or certosa) in Pavia, a town outside Milan. The Duke was captured by invading French forces in 1499, and the altarpiece was completed in the early sixteenth century by two other painters: Fra Bartolommeo and Mariotto Albertinelli.

Our panels formed the lower tier of two in this large-scale construction. The upper tier showed the Annunciation: the Archangel Gabriel, on one panel, giving the Virgin Mary, on another panel, the news that she would conceive the son of God. Between these panels was an image of God in glory, which is still in the church.

The painting shows Perugino’s skill in working with oil paint. Because oil paint dries slowly, it is possible to blend different tones together to create subtle transitions, particularly evident here in the figures' flesh – their cheeks, for example, have a rosy blush.

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