Sandro Botticelli (Italian, 1444/45–1510)
The Virgin Adoring the Sleeping Christ Child, ca. 1485
Tempera, oil, and gold on canvas
48 x 31 3/4 in.
Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh
© Trustees of the National Galleries of Scotland
A thornless rosebush and a rocky outcropping form a hortus conclusus, or enclosed garden — a symbol of the Virgin’s purity — where the young mother kneels in adoration before the slumbering Christ Child nestled on the hems of her gown and mantle. This masterpiece of Botticelli’s later years — known as the Wemyss Madonna for its longtime past owners, the Earls of Wemyss and March — is unusual among the artist’s religious works for being painted on canvas rather than wood panel. Highly meditative and intimate in character, it may have been intended for private devotion in a domestic setting. The modern tabernacle frame is a reproduction of the type in which the painting would have originally been housed.