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Our Lady is either reading to the infant Jesus or teaching him to read. It is a popular conceit. Benson shows the infant Jesus pointing out passages such as the Magnificat that refer to her. In this picture it can be presumed that the passages refer to the scenes in the background: the apocryphal search for the Holy Family by Herod's soldiers in the cornfield that grew up overnight, the tranquil progress into Egypt, parables such as the wheat and the chaff and symbols such as the peacock, symbol of the Passion.
Campion Hall, University of Oxford
oil on panel
H 63.5 x W 56 cm
gift from R. Shirley