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Titian, 'The Virgin suckling the Infant Christ', about 1565-75

Key facts
Full title The Virgin suckling the Infant Christ
Artist Titian
Artist dates active about 1506; died 1576
Date made about 1565-75
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 76.2 × 63.5 cm
Acquisition credit Mond Bequest, 1924
Inventory number NG3948
Location Room 29
Collection Main Collection
The Virgin suckling the Infant Christ

The Virgin Mary gazes at the infant Christ who feeds from her breast. The naked child is encircled in his mother’s arms and twists away from us. Our eye is drawn from the Virgin’s delicate fingers, up the line of Christ’s back and to the expression of devotion on her face.

Titian appears to be citing a very similar design by Michelangelo and does capture some of the grandeur and strength of his colleague’s figures in the Christ Child’s twisting pose and the Virgin’s heroic build, but he simultaneously brings a painterly softness and tenderness to his picture. The silvery harmonies combine with tremulous brushwork to make the solid forms of the Virgin and Child seem to dissolve into shimmering light.

Titian may have kept this painting in his studio and worked on it during the last years of his life. The unblended brushstrokes and restrained colour scheme are typical of his very late works such as The Death of Actaeon in the National Gallery.

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