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Possibly by Antonello da Messina, The Virgin and Child

Key facts
Full title The Virgin and Child
Artist Possibly by Antonello da Messina
Artist dates active 1456; died 1479
Date made about 1460-9
Medium and support Oil on wood
Dimensions 43.2 × 34.3 cm
Acquisition credit Salting Bequest, 1910
Inventory number NG2618
Location Gallery C
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
The Virgin and Child
Possibly by Antonello da Messina

The Virgin Mary glances down at her baby son, Christ, who clutches a pomegranate in his tiny fist. The fruit, with its blood-red juice, was a reminder of the torture and death he would face at the Crucifixion.

Mary was also known as the Queen of Heaven, and her coronation by Christ was a popular subject in Renaissance painting. Here, two tiny hovering angels place a solid gold crown encrusted with pearls and gemstones upon her head. The crown’s magnificence matches that of her brocade gown, jewelled cloak and translucent veil.

The excess of decorative detail reflects paintings by fifteenth-century Netherlandish artists who relished depicting a variety of textures and finishes accurately, something enabled through their great skill at painting using oil. Our painting is certainly by an artist hoping to evoke the style of his Northern European counterparts.

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