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Probably by Vincenzo Catena, The Madonna and Child with the Infant Saint John

Key facts
Full title The Madonna and Child with the Infant Saint John the Baptist
Artist Probably by Vincenzo Catena
Artist dates active 1506 - 1531
Date made about 1506-15
Medium and support Oil on wood
Dimensions 72.4 × 57.2 cm
Acquisition credit Presented by Alfred A. de Pass, 1920
Inventory number NG3540
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
The Madonna and Child with the Infant Saint John
Probably by Vincenzo Catena

The Virgin looks away as the infant Christ leans forward to touch his cousin Saint John the Baptist under the chin. The presence of the infant Saint John suggests the influence of Florentine art, as he is rare in Venetian art before this date. There are several versions of this design which may date from around 1506, when Catena was in partnership with Giorgione.

An X-ray image of a painting believed to be a self portrait by Giorgione in the Herzog Anton Ulrich Museum, Braunschweig, has revealed another earlier picture beneath the paint layers. It is a Virgin and Child similar in design to the National Gallery’s painting, which also includes the Christ Child’s very unusual pose and gesture. It may be that Christ’s pose was Giorgione’s idea.

The painting is very damaged, particularly down the centre of the panel. The Virgin’s blue mantle, which is painted over red underpaint, and Saint John the Baptist’s green tunic are the only parts still in reasonably good condition.

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