Dieric Bouts, Virgin and Child, after 1454. National Gallery of Denmark
The Virgin Mary regards the small, naked infant Jesus with a motherly gaze, gently cradling the child in her hands. Lost to the world as only small children can be he is engrossed with examining a bead in the necklace – a rosary – he wears around his neck.
Style and atmosphere
The painstaking, technically brilliant modelling of the body, the long, unbound hair of the virgin, and the texture of the textiles all contribute to the convincing verisimilitude of this depiction. The intimate, everyday-like atmosphere and the detailed naturalism are typical traits of the new vein of Dutch painting that emerged with artists such as Jan van Eyck and Dieric Bouts.
The history of the painting
The painting was originally the left half of an altarpiece designed for private devotions. The other half was presumably a portrait of the altarpiece’s owner engaged in praying to the Virgin Mary and Child.