The Virgin and Child with Saint John and Angels ('The Manchester Madonna')

Image credit: The National Gallery, London

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This is probably the earliest of Michelangelo’s surviving paintings. It is unfinished – the black modelling of the Virgin Mary’s cloak has not had its final coats of blue, and the angels to the left have barely been begun. We don't know why the picture was never completed. The Virgin sits on a rock with the Christ Child and young John the Baptist next to her. Angels stand on either side – we can make out the two on the left only by the lines drawn in to mark out the folds in their clothes and by the areas of greenish underpainting traditionally used to balance the pinkish flesh tones that would be painted over them. Saint John the Baptist in his camel skin looks out past us, perhaps to suggest his role in preparing the way for Christ’s ministry.

The National Gallery, London



The Virgin and Child with Saint John and Angels ('The Manchester Madonna')


about 1497


Tempera on wood


H 104.5 x W 77 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

Bought, 1870

Work type



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