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Possibly by Sodoma, The Madonna and Child

Key facts
Full title The Madonna and Child
Artist Possibly by Sodoma
Artist dates 1477 - 1549
Date made probably about 1520-30
Medium and support Oil on wood
Dimensions 79.7 × 65.1 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1854
Inventory number NG246
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
The Madonna and Child
Possibly by Sodoma

In a remote landscape, the Virgin, who is dressed in modest robes, holds the infant Christ and offers him milk. The baby turns away from her breast and smiles at us.

Images of the Virgin breastfeeding, known as ‘Virgo Lactans’, became popular during the Middle Ages as part of the increasing devotion to the Virgin Mary. Her milk was regarded as a sign of her own devotion and sacrifice, symbolically connected to the blood of Christ. Paintings of the Virgin breastfeeding became particularly popular in Tuscany from the fourteenth century onwards. But after the Council of Trent, held between 1545 and 1563, nudity in religious art was discouraged and such images were less frequently commissioned.

The picture is badly disfigured by old varnish, which has darkened. We are not certain that it is by Sodoma but another version (Richter Collection, London), similar in design, is attributed to him.

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