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Sassoferrato, The Virgin and Child Embracing

Key facts
Full title The Virgin and Child Embracing
Artist Sassoferrato
Artist dates 1609 - 1685
Date made 1660-85
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 97.2 × 74 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1864
Inventory number NG740
Location Room 32
Collection Main Collection
The Virgin and Child Embracing

The infant Christ stands on the lap of the Virgin Mary, reaching forward to give her a kiss. She turns her cheek to receive her son’s embrace, supporting him as he seems to be a little unsteady on his feet. Strong lighting emphasises the smooth, pale skin of both figures as well as Christ’s golden hair, though it leaves much of his face in shadow. Sassoferrato has given great attention to the folds of drapery, both in the Virgin’s blue cloak and in the deep green curtain behind the two figures. Through an archway, we see Saint Joseph coming towards the house and, behind him, a view of distant mountains.

This composition is based on an etching by the seventeenth-century painter Guido Reni. Sassoferrato was influenced by Reni, as well as by earlier artists such as Raphael and Perugino, both of whom adopted a similarly smooth finish.

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