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The Virgin and Child
Morales, Luis de
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Morales, Luis de

Badajoz (Spain), 1510 - Alcántara? (Spain), 1586

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The Virgin and Child

Ca. 1565. Oil on panel.
Room 052C

This is one of Morales’s most characteristic and best-known paintings, both because of its technical quality, its domestic format and its apparently tender and heartwarming subject, and also because it is one of the works by the painter that have been exhibited continuously ever since first entering the Prado. It joined the Museum’s holdings in 1916 after the Royal Board of Trustees had accepted the extraordinary artistic legacy of one of its most active and generous members, Pablo Bosch y Barrau (1862-1915), a financier and collector from Barcelona. Bosch had acquired the panel from the heirs of a deacon of Ávila, and when it was hung at the Madrid home of the Catalan financier, it drew attention with its delicacy and quality.

We know nothing of the painting’s original provenance, but it is a carefully executed piece, and is thought to have been commissioned by some personage of note who wanted one of Morales’s most frequently repeated compositions, a fact indicated by the large number of known versions. Most of these are in a smaller format centred on the half-length figures of Mary and the Christ Child. This version, on the other hand, shows a more developed three-quarter Virgin, who appears seated with the Child in her arms. She contemplates him in self-absorption, her head inclined to her right, where the Child, his back to the viewer, raises his head in his turn towards his mother, searching for her breast with his hand after using the other to lift part of the thin veil she wears. The child’s moving legs emphasise his restlessness in contrast with the repose of the protecting mother, whose large hands are spread over the cloth in which Jesus’s body is wrapped.

Jesus’s hand, which has found its way inside Mary’s crimson dress, turns the scene into a powerful image of a subject, the Nursing Madonna, with a long tradition in Christian art. As Louis Réau pointed out, this iconography had an extremely varied and nuanced development which began in Byzantine painting and spread far and wide during the Middle Ages. There were many examples in western art of the image of Mary suckling the Child or exhibiting a bare breast, though it progressively disappeared in the course of the sixteenth century because it became considered indecorous or unsuitable.

The idea for the composition is an adaptation of the seated Virgins that Morales himself established in his most resourceful works, beginning with the Virgin and Child with the Little Bird at the parish church of San Agustín in Madrid, dated 1546, and including above all the Virgin and Child with the Infant St John in Salamanca and the Virgin and Child with St John the Baptist and St John the Evangelist in Valencia de Alcántara. Seated in the foreground, the Virgin is arranged pyramidally, with one of her knees thrust forward and her head slightly inclined. The Museu de Arte Antiga in Lisbon holds a copy that is almost identical to the Prado’s with the exception of the Virgin’s tunic, which is of a different hue of deep red. It is possible that they both issued from the same model. In fact, Gaya Nuño considered the Prado panel to be an enlargement of the smaller versions. For stylistic reasons, the central group, among which we include this work, must date from about 1560-65 (Text drawn from Ruiz, L.: The Divine Morales, Museo Nacional del Prado, 2015, pp. 96-98).


Technical data

Inventory number
Morales, Luis de
The Virgin and Child
Ca. 1565
Height: 84 cm; Width: 64 cm
Private collection, Ávila, until the late 19th or early 20th century; acquired by Pablo Bosch; it entered the Museo del Prado in 1916 as part of the bequest of Pablo Bosch y Barrau, 1916

Bibliography +

Caffin, C.; Cole, T., Old Spanish Masters, The Century Co., Nueva York, 1907, pp. 51.

Berjano Escobar, Daniel, El pintor Luis de Morales (El Divino), Mateu, Madrid, 1917, pp. 95-96.

Noul, M., Sotomayor, F., Muguruza, P., Les chefs-d'oeuvre du Musée du Prado, Musée d'Art et d'Histoire, Ginebra, 1939, pp. n. 65.

Trapier, Elizabeth du Gué, Luis de Morales and leonardesque influences in Spain, The Trustees, Nueva York, 1953, pp. 25, 26.

Angulo Íñiguez. Diego, Pintura del Renacimiento, XII, Plus Ultra, Madrid, 1955, pp. 239.

Gaya Nuño, Juan Antonio, Luis de Morales, C.S.I.C. Instituto Diego Velázquez, Madrid, 1961, pp. 42, lám. 6, 7 y 9.

Backsbacka, Ingjald, Luis de Morales, Helsingfors, Helsinki, 1962, pp. 163 / lam. 62.

Salas, Xavier de, Museo del Prado. Catálogo de las pinturas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1972.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Catálogo de las pinturas, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1985, pp. 434-435.

Origen de la litografía en España: el Real Establecimiento Litográfico, Fábrica Nacional de Moneda y Timbre, Madrid, 1990, pp. 185 / lám. 104.

La Pintura Española, I, Electa, Milán, 1995, pp. 253.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado: inventario general de pinturas, III, Museo del Prado, Espasa Calpe, Madrid, 1996.

Martínez-Burgos, Palma, En: Las tierras y los hombres del rey: Felipe II, un monarca y su época, Sociedad Estatal Commemoracion de Los Centenarios de Felipe II y Carlos V, Madrid, 1998, pp. n. 291.

Solis Rodriguez, Carmelo, Luis de Morales, Fundación Caja de Badajoz, Badajoz, 1999, pp. 192-94, n. 18.

Museo Nacional del Prado, El Greco y la pintura española del Renacimiento: guía, Museo del Prado, Aldeasa, Madrid, 2001, pp. 66.

Portús Pérez, Javier, La colección de pintura española en el Museo del Prado, Edilupa, Madrid, 2003, pp. 49.

Enciclopedia del Museo del Prado, VI, T.F. Editores: Fundación Amigos, Madrid, 2006, pp. 2193.

Mateo Gómez, I., Flandes, Portugal y Toledo en la obra de Luis de Morales. Las Vírgenes gitanas o del sombrero, Archivo español de arte, 317, 2007, pp. 7-24.

Ruiz. Leticia, 'Luis de Morales. La Virgen de la leche' En:, El Divino Morales, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2015, pp. 96-98 n.16.

Jover de Celis, M. Alba, L. Gayo, M. García-Máiquez, J, 'En el taller de Luis de Morales' En:, Luis de Morales, Diputación de Badajoz,, 2018, pp. 97-113 [101, 113 f.28].

Other inventories +

Inv. Legado Pablo Bosch, 1916. Núm. 24.
Morales (Luis de), 1509 (?) + 1586. Escuela española. / 24 Virgen con el Niño. / Tabla 0,84 - 0,64.

Inv. Nuevas Adquisiciones (iniciado en 1856). Núm. 1404.
Sigue el legado Bosch / Autor = Luis de Morales. Escuela española / 1404. Asunto = virgen con el niño (tabla) / Dimensiones = alto = 0,84 ancho = 0,64.

Exhibitions +

El Divino Morales
16.06.2016 - 25.09.2016

El Divino Morales
09.02.2016 - 16.05.2016

El Divino Morales
06.10.2015 - 10.01.2016

Las tierras y los hombres del rey
22.10.1998 - 10.01.1999

Location +

Room 052C (On Display)

Update date: 09-04-2022 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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