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The Visitation of the Virgin to Saint Elizabeth

Photo credit: The National Gallery, London

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The Virgin Mary – the figure in blue – has gone to visit her cousin Elizabeth, who had become pregnant miraculously. The picture illustrates their meeting as described in the Gospel of Luke, which tells how Mary went from Nazareth to Juda, where Elizabeth lived.

The woods and hills behind are criss-crossed with paths. In the distance is a city on a river – presumably Nazareth, although the actual town is not close to one – and on the right is a crumbling hilltop fortress, intended to be Juda. Elizabeth has clearly hurried out to meet Mary. She goes down on one knee before her, a mark of respect for the mother of God.

This panel was possibly once part of a huge altarpiece painted in the Netherlands, perhaps for export to Spain or Portugal, with a large central image surrounded by smaller scenes of the life of Christ.

The National Gallery, London



The Visitation of the Virgin to Saint Elizabeth


about 1515


Oil on oak


H 80 x W 69.5 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

Bequeathed by Mrs Joseph H. Green, 1880

Work type



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Normally on display at

The National Gallery, London

Trafalgar Square, London, Greater London WC2N 5DN England

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