Artist: Joos van Cleve (Netherlandish, Cleve ca. 1485–1540/41 Antwerp) and a collaborator
Date: ca. 1525
Medium: Oil on wood
Dimensions: Overall 28 3/8 x 21 1/4 in. (72.1 x 54 cm); painted surface 27 3/4 x 20 3/4 in. (70.5 x 52.7 cm)
Credit Line: The Jack and Belle Linsky Collection, 1982
Accession Number: 1982.60.47
Two iconographic themes are combined in this splendid painting: the joys of motherhood and the sorrowful premonition of Christ's death. The sleeping infant is traditionally understood as a prefiguration of the dead Christ embraced by the Virgin, known as the Pietà. Contemplating her devotional reading, Mary points to her prayer book, in which two pages are legible. Taken from the Magnificat (Luke 1:54–55), celebrating the Annunciation, and the De Profundis (Psalm 130:1–2), used in the Mass for the dead, the verses foreshadow the Virgin’s rejoicing in the fulfillment of Christ’s destiny and her suffering at her son’s death.