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workshop of Robert Campin, possibly Jacques Daret, The Virgin and Child in an Interior

Key facts
Full title The Virgin and Child in an Interior
Artist workshop of Robert Campin, possibly Jacques Daret
Artist dates 1378/9 - 1444; born 1401-1403, died about 1468
Date made before 1432
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 18.7 × 11.6 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1987
Inventory number NG6514
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
The Virgin and Child in an Interior
workshop of Robert Campin, possibly Jacques Daret

This tiny painting – almost postcard sized – shows an endearing fireside scene: Christ’s bath time. The Virgin sits on a cushion on the floor, surrounded by domestic paraphernalia. There is a brass bowl in front of the fire, and a basket of white cloths – presumably nappies or swaddling bands – on the floor.

Although Mary and Jesus are biblical figures the artist has placed them in a wealthy fifteenth-century Netherlandish home. Rays around their heads remind us that this is no ordinary mother, but the Mother of God. The naked Child twists on her lap, to kiss his mother’s lips and stroke her chin with his left hand; with the other hand, he touches his genitals. His unusual gesture perhaps refers to the idea that the Virgin, as a symbol of the Church, was understood in the Middle Ages as the bride of Christ.

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