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Gallery Text

Botticelli oversaw an active workshop that produced multiple versions of the same composition. The central figures in this painting are a reworking of the Virgin and Child from the San Barnaba altarpiece, one of the most important commissions of Botticelli’s mature period in Florence. They are framed in a pavilion whose perspective is carefully rendered, while in the background, a townscape rises beneath a blue sky. The crisp linearity, idealized facial features, foreshortened halos, and geometric organization of space are characteristically Florentine. The architecture of the buildings, however, is Netherlandish — evidence of the vibrant cultural exchange between Florence and the North during the fifteenth century. Technical studies show that the Christ child originally held a recorder, an unusual attribute that was apparently rejected and painted over with the pomegranate, a symbol of the Passion because of its blood-red seeds.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
Sandro Botticelli (Alessandro Filipepi), Italian (Florence, Italy 1444/45 - 1510 Florence, Italy)
The Virgin and Child
Work Type
c. 1490
Creation Place: Europe, Italy, Tuscany, Florence
Level 2, Room 2500, European Art, 13th–16th century, Art and Image in Europe
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Physical Descriptions
Tempera on panel
88.9 x 55.9 cm (35 x 22 in.)
framed: 109 x 76 cm (42 15/16 x 29 15/16 in.)
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Bequest of Grenville L. Winthrop
Accession Year
Object Number
European and American Art
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Publication History

Burton B. Fredericksen and Federico Zeri, Census of Pre-Nineteenth-Century Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA, 1972), p. 33

Andrea Kirsh, "Worlds Below: An Investigation of Infrared Reflectography" (thesis (certificate in conservation), Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies, April 1973), Unpublished, pp. 1-25 passim

Edgar Peters Bowron, European Paintings Before 1900 in the Fogg Art Museum: A Summary Catalogue including Paintings in the Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 1990), p. 41, color plate; pp. 99, 319, repr. b/w cat. no. 628

Eric C. Graf, "When an Arab Laughs in Toledo: Cervantes's Interpellation of Early Modern Spanish Orientalism", Diacritics (1999), vol. 29, no. 2, pp. 68-85, repr. as fig. 1

Marina Belozerskaya, Rethinking the Renaissance: Burgundian Art Across Europe, Cambridge University Press (U.K.) (Cambridge, 2002), pp. 265-266, repr. in b/w as fig. 83

Eric C. Graf, "The Pomegranate of Don Quixote 1.9", Writing for the Eyes in the Spanish Golden Age, ed. Frederick A. de Armas, Bucknell University Press (Lewisburg, 2004), pp. 42-62, p. 55, repr. as fig. 14

Paula Nuttall, From Flanders to Florence: the impact of Netherlandish painting, 1400-1500, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT, and London, 2004), pp. 206-207, repr. as fig. 217

Barbara Rizza Mellin, "The Harvard University Art Museums", The Middlesex Beat (March 2006), pp. 6-7, ill. p. 6

Everett Fahy, "Why Not Girolamo del Santo?", Il più dolce lavorare che sia: Mélanges en l'honneur de Mauro Natale, ed. Frédéric Elsig, Silvana Editoriale (Milan, 2009), p. 40

Exhibition History

32Q: 2500 Renaissance, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/01/2014

Subjects and Contexts

Google Art Project

Related Works

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of European and American Art at am_europeanamerican@harvard.edu