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Quinten Massys, 'The Virgin and Child with Saints Catherine and Barbara', probably about 1515-25

Key facts
Full title The Virgin and Child with Saints Catherine and Barbara
Artist Quinten Massys
Artist dates 1465/6 - 1530
Date made probably about 1515-25
Medium and support Glue on linen
Dimensions 93.5 × 110.3 cm
Acquisition credit Presented by Charles Bridger Orme Clarke, 1922
Inventory number NG3664
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
The Virgin and Child with Saints Catherine and Barbara
Quinten Massys

The Virgin Mary is seated on a marble and porphyry throne within a church; an opening on the left leads to a landscape. The infant Christ squats on her lap, and two saints kneel on either side: Catherine of Alexandria on the left and Barbara on the right.

The naked child, wrapped in a white cloth, places a ring on Saint Catherine’s finger. Traditionally known as the mystic marriage of Saint Catherine, this was a way of visualising her spiritual union with Christ. Behind Saint Barbara is her symbol: the tower in which she was imprisoned.

This is one of the rare surviving examples of a Renaissance painting done on cloth rather than wooden panel; although many such paintings were made, they were extremely fragile.

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