The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
The Virgin and Child
  • Bartolomé-Esteban Murillo (1617 - 1682)
  • The Virgin and Child
  • Spain
  • c.1665 - c.1670
  • Painting
  • Oil on canvas
  • Image size: 106.7 x 78.9 cm
    Object size: 136 x 108 x 12 cm
  • P133
  • Great Gallery
Commentary
History
Further Reading
  • The young and beautiful Virgin is depicted seated, holding the Christ Child on her knee. Their embrace emphasises the intimate emotional bond between mother and child and thus their humanity. They do not look at each other but rather at the viewer, inspiring compassion and devotion. The Virgin’s gaze is at once tender and sad, revealing her awareness of her Son’s future Passion. The Christ Child, naked but partially covered by a piece of fabric held by his mother, emanates light. His animated expression and dynamic pose bring movement which is counterbalanced by his mother’s stillness to create a sense of decorous serenity required of the subject.
    The figures are depicted at half-length against a neutral background of warm grey. The fictive oval frame around them creates the effect of ‘a painting within a painting’. Such a compositional device was occasionally used in Sevillian portraiture from c. 1655, for example, Murillo’s own Self Portrait at the National Gallery. It had also been used by the Flemish painter Rubens to frame devotional icons of the Madonna and Child, usually adorned with elaborate garlands of flowers.
    It was bought in 1849 by the 4th Marquess of Hertford.