Object Image

The Madonna and Child

In a remote landscape, the Virgin, who is dressed in modest robes, holds the infant Christ and offers him milk. The baby turns away from her breast and smiles at us.

Images of the Virgin breastfeeding, known as 'Virgo Lactans', became popular during the Middle Ages as part of the increasing devotion to the Virgin Mary. Her milk was regarded as a sign of her own devotion and sacrifice, symbolically connected to the blood of Christ. Paintings of the Virgin breastfeeding became particularly popular in Tuscany from the fourteenth century onwards. But after the Council of Trent, held between 1545 and 1563, nudity in religious art was discouraged and such images were less frequently commissioned.


probably c. 1520-30
Oil on wood
79.7 x 65.1cm
Image and text © The National Gallery, London, 2023

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