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An Allegory of the Immaculate Conception

Photo credit: Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford

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Vasari delighted in the complexity of the iconography and design of his celebrated altarpiece of 1540 for the Altoviti chapel in SS Apostoli, Florence. This painting is a small-scale, autograph version. The Virgin Mary is shown as an agent of Salvation, triumphing over Satan and sinfulness represented by Eve, according to the Latin inscriptions carried by angels. Adam and Eve are bound to the Tree of Knowledge, round which the serpent (in female form) is wound; Old Testament prophets and kings are also bound to the Tree, in this gloomy stage of mankind before Salvation, while John the Baptist proclaims the coming of Christ.

The Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology



c. 1540


oil on panel


H 57 x W 41 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

Purchased, 1962

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The Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology

Beaumont Street, Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 2PH England

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