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The Visitation of the Virgin to Saint Elizabeth
Workshop of Goossen van der Weyden
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The Virgin Mary, in blue, has gone to visit her cousin Elizabeth, who had become pregnant miraculously. The picture illustrates their meeting as described in Luke’s Gospel, which tells how Mary went from Nazareth to Juda, where Elizabeth lived.

The woods and hills behind are criss-crossed with paths. In the distance is a city on a river – presumably Nazareth, although the actual town is not close to one – and on the right is a crumbling hilltop fortress, intended to be Juda. Elizabeth has clearly hurried out to meet Mary. She goes down on one knee before her, a mark of respect for the mother of God.

This panel was possibly once part of a huge altarpiece painted in the Netherlands, perhaps for export to Spain or Portugal, with a large central image surrounded by smaller scenes of the life of Christ.

Key facts
Artist Workshop of Goossen van der Weyden
Artist dates active 1492; died after 1538
Full title The Visitation of the Virgin to Saint Elizabeth
Group Two Panels from an Altarpiece
Date made about 1516
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 80.5 × 70 cm
Acquisition credit Bequeathed by Mrs Joseph H. Green, 1880
Inventory number NG1082
Location in Gallery Not on display
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Two Panels from an Altarpiece

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These paintings show episodes from the life of Christ: the visit of the Virgin to Saint Elizabeth, and the Flight into Egypt. They are thought to be two of four surviving panels, possibly from of a huge altarpiece made for a patron in Spain or Portugal; this format was more popular there than in the Low Countries.

Goossen ran a large workshop, and several assistants evidently worked on these panels at various stages. At least two artists did the underdrawing (the preliminary outlining of a composition); one was responsible for the figures, the other for the landscape. There were certainly changes of plan: the final landscapes are completely different from those in the underdrawing.

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