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Workshop of Albrecht Dürer, The Virgin and Child ('The Madonna with the Iris')

Key facts
Full title The Virgin and Child ('The Madonna with the Iris')
Artist Workshop of Albrecht Dürer
Artist dates 1471 - 1528
Date made about 1500-10
Medium and support Oil on lime
Dimensions 149.2 × 117.2 cm
Acquisition credit Bought through the Art Fund, 1945
Inventory number NG5592
Location Room 15
Collection Main Collection
The Virgin and Child ('The Madonna with the Iris')
Workshop of Albrecht Dürer

The Virgin Mary breastfeeds the infant Christ in a walled garden surrounded by flowers. God the Father, a small figure radiating light, appears in the sky above. The image of the Virgin and Christ Child in a garden was derived from the poetic imagery of the Song of Solomon, a book of the Old Testament. In it, a woman is described as a lily and a rose as well as an enclosed garden (which, when associated with Mary, came to symbolise her virginity).

This painting was probably made by members of Dürer’s workshop. It includes flowers that are derived from his detailed watercolour studies of the natural world – one of his particular artistic preoccupations – many of which would have been available in the workshop. Each floral element had theological significance: the iris and the rose were associated with the Virgin’s ‘Seven Sorrows’, while the grapevine with large leaves and delicate tendrils was a symbol of the Eucharist (when Christians drink wine at Mass in remembrance of Christ).

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