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Madonna with the Christ Child Writing
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Madonna with the Christ Child Writing

Description Exhibitions Provenance Inscription Credit
Description In this masterpiece, the Christ Child, cradled in his mother's left arm, energetically stretches out his right hand to put away his quill pen in the pen case hanging on a delicate strap from Mary's right wrist. Most likely he has just written the names of the saved on the piece of vellum in his left hand. Behind them, angels display a richly woven cloth to honor Mary as Queen of Heaven while others sing. This painting and its frame (carved from the same piece of wood) are intended to look like a contemporary mirror. The pious Christian would look into this "mirror" and see the Virgin and Christ, ideal reflections of the good Christian life. Indeed, the French phrase inscribed around the outer edge five times, "Je suis bien," perhaps best translated as "I am good [goodness?]," can best be interpreted as the words of Christ or his mother. The combination of complex iconography, naturalistic details, and delicate execution in this work is characteristic of the International Gothic style that flourished during the early 15th century. The painting derives its round shape from contemporary convex mirrors, and was probably intended to hang at the head of a bed.
  • Illuminated Manuscripts: Masterpieces in Miniature. The Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore. 1984-1985.
  • Vive la France! French Treasures from the Middle Ages to Monet. The Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore. 1999-2000.
  • Art from the Court of Burgundy, 1364-1419. Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dijon, Dijon; The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland. 2004-2005.
  • From Van Eyck to Dürer: Artistic Exchanges between the Netherlands and Centeral, Eastern and Northern Europe c. 1420-1530. Groeningemuseum, Brugge. 2010-2011.
  • The Road to Van Eyck. Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam. 2012-2013.
Provenance Hollingworth Magniac, Colworth, Bedford, by purchase; Charles Magniac, Colworth, 1867, by inheritance; Sale, Christie's, London, July 2, 1892, no. 181; Private collection, Switzerland [date and mode of acquisition unknown]; Paul Drey Gallery, New York [date and mode of acquisition unknown]; Walters Art Museum, 1964, by purchase.
Inscriptions [Transcription] Inscribed on original frame: Je suis bien; [Translation] I am good [goodness?]
Credit Museum purchase, 1964

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ca. 1410-1420 (Late Medieval)
oil and gold leaf on wood
(Painting & Drawing)
Accession Number
13/16 x 8 3/4 in. (2 x 22.3 cm) (d. x diam.)


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