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Virgin Mary reading to the Infant Christ (recto)
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Virgin Mary reading to the Infant Christ (recto)

Late 1480s - early 1490s

Vittore Carpaccio (1455/56-1525/26)

Pen and dark brown ink over red chalk, on laid paper

Width: 9.4 cm; Height: 12.8 cm;

Pen and ink, lower left & recto, overpainted with white bodycolour (partially scraped out) over indecipherable inscription, ozzo

Pen and ink, lower centre & verso, (indecipherable inscription)

Acquisition (source, method, date)
Seilern, Antoine (Count); bequest; 1978

About this work
Perched on a window ledge, a mother turns from her book to look at her son. Only the haloes and the crown held by the toddler indicate that this is Mary and the infant Christ. The mood is domestic and almost impromptu, as if the sitters have been captured unawares. Representations of the Virgin and Child were among the stock-in-trade of every Renaissance artist. The back of this sheet holds another study of this subject by the Venetian painter Carpaccio.


The construction and technique of this drawing is typical of Carpaccio. He often laid-in the rudiments of his drawings with red chalk and then built up the composition with pen and ink. However, here the chalk also contributes to the final effect, working in combination with the ink to create the strong sense of shape and shadow on the Virgin’s robe and headdress. (Permanent collection label)

Copyright: © The Samuel Courtauld Trust, The Courtauld Gallery, London

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