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Dyce visited Italy in the late 1820s. While there he became aware of the art of the Nazarenes, a group of German painters. They were inspired by 15th-century religious painting, and set out to create an art for their own times which possessed the same moral purpose. This picture, modelled on Raphael’s ‘Madonna and Child’ subjects of the early 1500s is quite uncharacteristic of English art of the 1830s. In this sort of picture, Dyce emerges as a precursor of the Pre-Raphaelites. As a senior Royal Academician he was an important supporter of their aim to renew English art.

October 2013