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The Virgin Mary is shown in close-up with the Christ Child cradled in one arm. She wears a purple dress, which now looks greyish, with turned back cuffs. Christ is balanced rather precariously on the shelf at the front, his limbs awkwardly splayed in a contorted pose, perhaps to display his genitals as a reminder of his humanity. He reaches out to grasp the carnations that his mother holds. Carnations – nagelbloem (‘nail-flowers’) in Dutch – were associated with the Crucifixion.
The paint surface is obscured by dirt and discoloured varnishes. A scratch through the Virgin’s mouth and losses in the eyes of the figures may be the result of deliberate damage.
Oil on oak
H 47 x W 34.5 cm
Bought (Lewis Fund), 1918