The Virgin and Child, Saint John the Baptist and an Angel

Image credit: The National Gallery, London

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The Virgin Mary and Christ Child are seated in a leafy grove, accompanied by an angel and the young Saint John the Baptist, Christ’s cousin. Saint John holds a cross wound with a scroll inscribed ‘ECCE AGNUS DEI’ (‘Behold the Lamb of God’), referring to Christ’s future sacrifice for humankind, and presents a lemon to the infant. The inclusion of the lemon is very unusual.

The citron or etrog tree is mentioned in the Bible. In Leviticus 23: 40 Moses commands that its first fruits are offered to God in thanksgiving. In Morando’s painting, the lemon is noticeably the only or first fruit in the grove, suggesting that Saint John is offering it in thanksgiving to Christ as the son of God. The Baptist looks away sadly with the foreknowledge of Christ’s crucifixion, but the infant Christ points to the fruit and turns to us, accepting his destiny and reminding us to give thanks.

The National Gallery, London



The Virgin and Child, Saint John the Baptist and an Angel


probably about 1514-18


Oil on canvas


H 75.6 x W 64.8 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

Bought, 1867

Work type



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