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The Madonna and Child with Saint John the Baptist and Saint Elizabeth

Photo credit: The National Gallery, London

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Elderly Saint Elizabeth looks down over the Virgin Mary’s shoulder at her son Saint John the Baptist. The Christ Child removes a garland of flowers from his head, symbolising innocence or childish pleasure. He grasps the reed cross held by the infant Saint John, who wears his camel-skin cloak and carries a baptismal bowl. The reed cross foreshadows the Crucifixion, and by grasping it Christ accepts his destiny to die for humanity. The wild strawberries offered by Saint John may refer to Christ’s fruitful and righteous life, and their colour may also be a reminder of the blood spilled during the events leading up to his death. The picture was painted around 1540, perhaps for an acquaintance of Bronzino’s at the court of Duke Cosimo I de' Medici in Florence.

The National Gallery, London



The Madonna and Child with Saint John the Baptist and Saint Elizabeth


probably about 1540


Oil on wood


H 101.6 x W 81.3 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

Bequeathed by Sir Lionel Faudel-Phillips, 1941

Work type



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The National Gallery, London

Trafalgar Square, London, Greater London WC2N 5DN England

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