DYCE, William
(b. 1806, Aberdeen, d. 1864, London)

The Virgin and Child

Oil on canvas, 81 x 58 cm
Royal Collection, Windsor

There exists an earlier painting (possibly dating from 1838) of the same subject in the Tate Gallery, London, and a variant of the present design in the Castle Museum, Nottingham. The latter, which is on slate, was made in preparation for the present picture. All three paintings have compositional affinities with Raphael, particularly works such as the Madonna del Granduca, the Madonna Tempi and the large Cowper Madonna. Dyce made a number of preparatory studies for the Virgin and Child and in a surprisingly wide variety of media - drawings, watercolours, oil and apparently even fresco, although this last item may be the painting on slate in Nottingham.

The painting in the Royal Collection was acquired by Prince Albert in 1845. The pleasure that the Virgin and Child gave to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert resulted in the commission a year later of Saint Joseph to form a pair. This was finished in 1847 and was thought by Prince Albert to be finer than the Virgin and Child. Both pictures were hung after Prince Albert's death in the Queen's Bedroom at Osborne House, Isle of Wight. The queen herself made a copy in pastel of the Virgin and Child.

The Virgin and Child and Saint Joseph are both works that in their simplicity of design, purity of outline and restricted colour are comparable with paintings by Overbeck and Schnorr von Carolsfeld.