The Virgin and Child in a Mandorla with Cherubim

Image credit: The National Gallery, London

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The Virgin Mary tenderly supports the infant Christ in her arms. Gilded backgrounds like this derived from icon paintings produced in the Byzantine (Eastern Christian) Empire. By the time the picture was made, they had largely been replaced in Italian painting by landscape or architectural backdrops. Christ’s blessing gesture, a sign of his divine authority, is also derived from Byzantine art. These elements might be deliberate references to a particular icon thought to have been painted by the Gospel writer Saint Luke, which was in the church of Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome. It was thought to have miraculous powers, making it very popular to copy: each version was thought to multiply the power of the original. Here the artist has altered the image by framing the figures in a mandorla (an almond-shaped enclosure).

The National Gallery, London



The Virgin and Child in a Mandorla with Cherubim


about 1480-1500


Tempera on wood


H 46 x W 32 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

Presented by Queen Victoria at the Prince Consort's wish, 1863

Work type



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