Dream of the Virgin

This small panel painting shows the Virgin lying asleep while a companion reads to her at the foot of her bed. Above her, Christ is crucified not on the cross, but on a golden Tree of Life that rises from the Virgin's womb, while below her, a hand reaching down from the bed opens the gates of Limbo to release Adam and Eve.

The subject makes explicit the idea of the redemption of mankind through the intercession of the Virgin.

'The Dream of the Virgin' is thought to have been made as part of an altarpiece for a church in the artist's home town of Bologna, depicting scenes from the life of the Virgin.

The unusual iconography of the painting was once obscured by a layer of gold paint, which gave the work the appearance of a more conventional Crucifixion scene until it was removed in 1994 by conservators at the Courtauld Institute.

Key facts

Artist dates
active 1355 - 1399
Full title
Dream of the Virgin
Date made
about 1365-80
Medium and support
Tempera on wood
56.5 × 42.5 cm
Acquisition credit
On loan from the Society of Antiquaries of London
Inventory number
Location in Gallery