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Royal Collection © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
The Virgin and Child crowned by two angels
An engraving of the Virgin and Child.
The Virgin held a variety of roles in late medieval piety, and Dürer refers to a number of them in this print. She is shown as Queen of Heaven, crowned by two angels, and, in the apple that she holds, as the New Testament counterpart to Eve, referring to Eve’s Original Sin for which Christ’s Crucifixion would atone. She wears a circlet of roses, a symbol of her popular identity as the ‘rose without thorns’, while the picket fence shows her as the 'hortus conclusus' (or ‘enclosed garden’) in the biblical Song of Songs, a reference to her virginity.
Dürer made a woodcut of the same theme in the same year. This includes many of the same motifs: the crowning by angels, the circlet of roses, the apple held by the Virgin. But the woodcut shows Mary in the midst of a crowd of angels and putti, a contrast to the present engraving, which shows the Virgin and Child isolated in a calm landscape.
Catalogue entry adapted from 'The Northern Renaissance. Dürer to Holbein', London 2011