the Virgin Mary, seated, holds the standing Christ child on her lap, with her right hand steadying the child and her left hand draped over a book; the child's feet are perched on a pillow and he offers the blessing sign with his right hand--pointer and middle finger extended and thumb pointing upward; the background offers a country landscape with sparse structures and a lone figure

Virgin and Child, 1518–1525

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Virgin and Child was clearly meant to be seen from a distance. The large, uncluttered composition allows the flowing lines to stand out. Its creator, Sebald Beham, meant it for public devotion of the Madonna. He used simple patterns of lines to make the cutting of the printing block quicker and cheaper, an important consideration for a work of art intended for a middle-class market. Most examples were probably affixed to walls and have long since perished from exposure to weather, insects, and vandalism. Of the hundreds printed, only about a dozen survive. The enclosure within which Mary sits is the hortus conclusis, the enclosed garden that separates her from the outside world, symbolizing a sort of new Eden for the pure Virgin. Common in late-medieval Marian iconography, the idea echoes the Songs of Solomon (4:12): A garden locked is my sister, my bride, a spring locked, a fountain sealed.

Details
Title
Virgin and Child
Artist Life
1500–1550
Role
Artist
Accession Number
2016.15.1
Curator Approved

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the Virgin Mary, seated, holds the standing Christ child on her lap, with her right hand steadying the child and her left hand draped over a book; the child's feet are perched on a pillow and he offers the blessing sign with his right hand--pointer and middle finger extended and thumb pointing upward; the background offers a country landscape with sparse structures and a lone figure