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Workshop of Dirk Bouts, The Virgin and Child with Saint Peter and Saint Paul

Key facts
Full title The Virgin and Child with Saint Peter and Saint Paul
Artist Workshop of Dirk Bouts
Artist dates 1400? - 1475
Date made probably 1460s
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 68.8 × 51.6 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1867
Inventory number NG774
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
The Virgin and Child with Saint Peter and Saint Paul
Workshop of Dirk Bouts

The Virgin, holding the infant Christ, sits on a marble throne with a luxurious material stretched across it – a cloth of honour, something often hung behind medieval royalty. Two saints stand with them, and particular symbols tell us who they are. On the Virgin’s right is Saint Peter, a key peeping out from beneath his green robe. On the Virgin’s left is Saint Paul, the sword by which he was martyred leaning against the arch behind him. He holds out a delicate flower to Christ: a carnation. Carnations or pinks were known in northern Europe as ‘nail flowers’ because their scent resembles cloves, which are shaped like the nails driven into Christ’s body when he was crucified. So this little flower may allude to the Passion (Christ’s torture and crucifixion).

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