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The Virgin Mary is shown here as a young girl, working on an embroidery with her mother, St Anne. Her father, St Joachim, is pruning a vine. The picture is full of symbolic details. The palm branch on the floor and thorny briar rose on the wall allude to Christ’s Passion, the lilies to the Virgin’s purity, and the books to the virtues of hope, faith and charity. The dove represents the Holy Spirit. This was Rossetti’s first completed oil painting and the first picture to be exhibited with the initials ‘PRB’, for Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, inscribed on it.

July 2007