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Luce Foundation Center for American Art

Painting: Pre-18th century: Madonna and Child
Madonna and Child

Madonna and Child
about 1615-18
Attributed to Peter Paul Rubens
oil on wood
41 5/8 x 29 1/8 in. (105.7 x 73.9 cm.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of John Gellatly

This image of the Virgin Mary and Jesus is a version of one that appears in a Rubens triptych commissioned around 1617 for the Antwerp Cathedral. In this tender scene, Mary gently touches the child’s foot with her right hand and balances him with her left hand, as if helping him to take his first step. The focus is more on Christ’s humanity than his divinity. The painting entered the National Collection of Fine Arts (now the Smithsonian American Art Museum) from the collection of John Gellatly, a prominent collector of American and European art. Gellatly felt that American artists were the equal of any “old master,” and his many European works were meant to be an example and an encouragement to this country’s painters.

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