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Vincenzo Catena, A Warrior adoring the Infant Christ and the Virgin

Key facts
Full title A Warrior adoring the Infant Christ and the Virgin
Artist Vincenzo Catena
Artist dates active 1506 - 1531
Date made after 1520
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 155.3 × 263.5 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1853
Inventory number NG234
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
A Warrior adoring the Infant Christ and the Virgin
Vincenzo Catena

We do not know the origins of this mysterious painting. It has the wide rectangular shape typical of Venetian votive pictures made to thank the Virgin Mary or a patron saint.

The Virgin sits on a stone throne ornamented with sphinxes, symbolising wisdom, while Saint Joseph stands beside her. A warrior approaches the Virgin and Child on his knees, his right hand to his heart, his face in shadow. He wears European armour, but the silk of his headdress is from Islamic North Africa, the enamelled trappings of his horse from Islamic Spain, and his curved dagger and belt hanging on the wall are of Islamic style.

The image appears to be unique in showing a Muslim warrior kneeling in adoration before the Virgin and Child. The infant Christ raises his right hand in blessing while a page in Venetian costume stands behind the wall holding the warrior’s horse. The painting may commemorate the warrior’s conversion to Christianity or the hope for universal peace.

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