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The Virgin and Child with Saints
Probably by Giovanni Battista Cima da Conegliano
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The Virgin Mary sits between two male saints, the naked Christ Child on her knee. The young man holding a book is probably Saint John the Evangelist, author of one of the four Gospels: he was conventionally shown as fair haired and beardless. The old man with the white beard and bishop’s crosier is Saint Nicholas of Bari, a fourth-century bishop and the original Father Christmas. Christ grasps one of three gold balls, Nicholas’s traditional emblem which he holds in his hand.

Pictures like this, showing the Virgin and Child with saints, are known as sacra conversazione (‘holy conversation’) and were very widespread in north Italian painting. Although it has been damaged and retouched, the picture might be an original by Cima da Conegliano, probably painted towards the end of his life.

Key facts
Artist Probably by Giovanni Battista Cima da Conegliano
Artist dates about 1459/60 - about 1517/18
Full title The Virgin and Child with Saint John the Evangelist(?) and Saint Nicholas
Date made about 1513-18
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 50.8 x 70.5 cm
Acquisition credit Layard Bequest, 1916
Inventory number NG3113
Location in Gallery Not on display
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