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The Virgin Adoring the Christ Child ('The Ruskin Madonna')

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The Virgin Adoring the Christ Child ('The Ruskin Madonna') About 1470


The impressive classical ruins frame the kneeling Virgin praying over the Christ Child. His action of sucking a finger is both natural and symbolic, for it seems he may have pricked his finger and drawn blood, a premonition of his Crucifixion. The architecture, beautifully and carefully described in perspective, probably represents a Roman Temple which, according to legend, collapsed when Christ was born. This represented the triumph of the new religion over the old. The painting was transferred from panel to canvas and extensively restored. John Ruskin, the nineteenth century critic and artist, owned it for a time, hence its popular title 'The Ruskin Madonna'.

Glossary Open


The principle of representing depth on a flat surface so that items further away from the eye appear smaller and parallel lines appear to converge.


The representation of subjects or ideas by use of a device or motif to create underlying meaning. A literary and artistic movement that originated in France and spread through much of Europe in the late 19th century. There was no consistent style but rather an appeal to the idea of the artist as mystic or visionary and the desire to express a world beyond superficial appearances.

Perspective, Symbolism


  • Acc. No. NG 2338
  • Medium Tempera and oil on canvas, transferred from panel
  • Size 106.70 x 76.30 cm (framed: 141.50 x 110.30x 10.50 cm)
  • Credit Purchased with the aid of the Art Fund and the Pilgrim Trust 1975