The Virgin and Child before a Firescreen

Image credit: The National Gallery, London

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This puzzling picture of the Virgin and Child is often called the ‘Firescreen Madonna’, after the large wicker firescreen behind the Virgin’s head. We do not know who it was made for, or where or how it was used. We are not even sure how it originally looked: it was extensively restored in the nineteenth century. Although they are biblical figures, the artist has placed the Virgin and Christ inside a wealthy, even palatial, Netherlandish home. The Virgin is dressed as a queen. She wears a blue overdress over a linen shift, open at the neck to show her blue-veined breasts. Wisely, she has spread a white cloth over her knees to protect her clothes from the naked, wriggling child. A tiny hook at its corner would have allowed it to be hung up to dry.

The National Gallery, London



The Virgin and Child before a Firescreen


about 1440


Oil with egg tempera on oak with walnut additions


H 63.4 x W 48.5 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

Salting Bequest, 1910

Work type



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Normally on display at

The National Gallery, London

Trafalgar Square, London, Greater London WC2N 5DN England

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