Madonna Adoring the Sleeping Child

Giovanni Bellini Italian

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 606

Asleep beneath the solemn gaze of his mother, the Christ Child’s pose is a reminder of his eventual death and sacrifice. Placed on a ledge that resembles an altar, the child doubles as a symbolic representation of the Eucharist, the Christian rite in which sacramental bread is blessed on an altar and becomes the body of Christ. This work is an important early one by Giovanni Bellini, the greatest painter of fifteenth-century Venice and one of the key figures of European painting. Its hard, linear quality is indebted to the example of Bellini’s brother-in-law, Andrea Mantegna, as well as to the sculpture of Donatello, which Bellini studied in Padua. The picture has suffered from a strong, abrasive cleaning.

Madonna Adoring the Sleeping Child, Giovanni Bellini (Italian, Venice, 1424/26–1516 Venice), Tempera on wood

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