Works from the National Gallery of Art

Follower of Bellini - Madonna and Child

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"Madonna and Child," c. 1480/1485, by Giovanni Bellini, oil on panel,
Samuel H. Kress Collection, National Gallery of Art
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1992 Christmas stamp issued October 22nd in Kansas City, Missouri and Washington, DC (Scott 2710)

Bradbury Thompson’s 1992 engraved and lithographed traditional Christmas stamp design was based on a painting of the "Madonna and Child with Saints" in the National Gallery of Art. Though signed “Giovanni Bellini,” the painting was probably done by a contemporary follower of the better-known artist (Brown 1993). In the painting, the saints surrounding Mary and child give the composition a more crowded and symmetrical feel. Their gazes are somewhat foreboding; with Mary wearing a slightly concerned, yet serene expression, perhaps foreshadowing Jesus’ death (Brown 1993). NGA curator David Brown has also pointed out the strange position of Mary’s hand between the child’s feet. This incongruity, along with the strangeness of the child’s blessing (seemingly directed at no one), are some of the reasons the painting was probably not Bellini’s own (Brown 1993). Nevertheless, it is an illustration of Bellini’s particularly Venetian style of Madonna and Child portraits, in which Mary frequently gazes out of the painting, hauntingly engaging the viewer. An example of his work is the "Madonna and Child" shown above. This engagement seen in Mary's face is perhaps what held interest for Thompson, the designer, and for 20th and 21st century viewers.