The Virgin and Child with the Infant Saint John the Baptist

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The Virgin and Child with the Infant Saint John the Baptist About 1615


The half-length seated Virgin, the sleeping Christ Child and St John the Baptist are presented in dramatic close-up. They are not idealised and are modelled in heavily contrasted light and shadow. The intense colouring and bold foreshortening, especially of the Virgin's hand, pointing to the inscription on the Baptist's scroll 'Ecce Agnus Dei' ('Behold the Lamb of God') are characteristic of Guercino's early style. The Christ Child's pose, asleep on a white cloth, deliberately alludes to later events when his mother supports his dead body, as depicted in scenes known as the pietà, or the lamentation over the dead Christ.

Glossary Open


The correct representation in perspective of an object or figure relative to its distance from the eye.


The representation of something as a model of perfection.


The Italian for pity, the term is used for an image of the Virgin Mary holding the dead Jesus Christ.

Foreshortening, Idealisation, Pietà


  • Acc. No. NG 40
  • Medium Oil on canvas
  • Size 25Kg
  • Credit Purchased by the Royal Institution 1830; transferred to the National Gallery of Scotland 1859