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The seemingly contradictory notions of the wisdom and innocence of the Christ Child are here conveyed through his physical youth combined with his confident pose, twisting to read the holy book open at his feet. His mother reads over his shoulder, confirming her role as the Mother of Wisdom, and foretelling the Passion of Christ by her sorrowful expression. Both clasp the stem of a columbine, the shape of which was thought to resemble doves in flight, and was thus seen as a symbol of the Holy Ghost.
oil on poplar panel
H 73.4 x W 55.2 cm
acquired by Richard Seymour-Conway, 4th Marquess of Hertford, 1865; bequeathed to the nation by Lady Wallace, 1897