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Sebastiano del Piombo, The Madonna and Child with Saints and a Donor

Key facts
Full title The Madonna and Child with Saint Joseph, Saint John the Baptist and a Donor
Artist Sebastiano del Piombo
Artist dates about 1485 - 1547
Date made 1517
Medium and support Oil on wood
Dimensions 97.8 × 106.7 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1895
Inventory number NG1450
Location Room 9
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
The Madonna and Child with Saints and a Donor
Sebastiano del Piombo

The Virgin Mary turns to look down at the kneeling man beside her and extends a protective arm around his shoulder. Saint John the Baptist points at the lively Christ Child, while Saint Joseph sleeps with his head on his arm. The diagonals in the composition draw the viewer’s eye to Christ’s gaze, which is directed back at the viewer.

The kneeling man is the donor of the painting, most likely Pierfrancesco Borgherini, a wealthy Florentine merchant. In 1517, Michelangelo was asked to send Sebastiano a drawing for a Virgin and Child with Saint John the Baptist from which to paint a picture for Pierfrancesco Borgherini. The National Gallery’s painting is dated 1517 on the arm of the Virgin’s seat. There is a red chalk drawing by Michelangelo of the Virgin and Child (Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam) in a similar pose to the one shown here, and it may be the drawing that Michelangelo supplied to Sebastiano.

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