The Madonna and Child with Saint Joseph, Saint John the Baptist and a Donor

Image credit: The National Gallery, London

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The Virgin Mary turns to look down at the kneeling man beside her and extends a protective arm around his shoulder. Saint John the Baptist points at the lively Christ Child, while Saint Joseph sleeps with his head on his arm. The diagonals in the composition draw the viewer’s eye to Christ’s gaze, which is directed back at the viewer.

The kneeling man is the donor of the painting, most likely Pierfrancesco Borgherini, a wealthy Florentine merchant. In 1517, Michelangelo was asked to send Sebastiano a drawing for a Virgin and Child with Saint John the Baptist from which to paint a picture for Pierfrancesco Borgherini. The National Gallery’s painting is dated 1517 on the arm of the Virgin’s seat. There is a red chalk drawing by Michelangelo of the Virgin and Child (Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam) in a similar pose to the one shown here, and it may be the drawing that Michelangelo supplied to Sebastiano.

The National Gallery, London



The Madonna and Child with Saint Joseph, Saint John the Baptist and a Donor




Oil on wood


H 97.8 x W 106.7 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

Bought, 1895

Work type



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