This painting was rescued for the nation in little over a month, with the help of the largest grant the Art Fund had ever provided at the time.

It is among the greatest Renaissance paintings acquired for any museum in the UK since the Second World War. The picture depicts the Virgin adoring her son, who lies in swaddling clothes on the ground - a prefiguration of the dead Christ wrapped in the burial shroud. Behind Mary an outcrop of rock acts both as a simple shelter and a reference to the tomb. To the left of her, a magnificent display of thornless pink roses alludes to the Virgin's purity as the 'rose without thorns'. This work was acquired with assistance from the Wolfson Foundation.


John Rushout, 2nd Baron Northwick, Thirlestane House, nr Cheltenham; his sale, Harry Phillips, London, 1859; Francis Charteris, Lord Elcho (10th Earl of Wemyss and March); thence by descent at Gosford House to the Wemyss Heirlooms Trust.

Back to top