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The representation of the Virgin as mother holding the Christ Child entered the West through Byzantine art. By the Renaissance, the relationship of mother and child became increasingly imbued with human feeling, as seen here, while the religious sense of the image was conveyed by means of symbolic attributes. The book refers to Christ’s innate wisdom, and may also be a forerunner of the Gospels; the ivory teething stick, with black ribbons, recalls His innocence and suffering and the white sheet, a symbolic winding sheet, foretells His death.
oil on poplar panel
73.2 x 54.4 cm
acquired by Richard Seymour-Conway, 4th Marquess of Hertford by 1854; bequeathed to the nation by Lady Wallace, 1897