Madonna suckling the Child

WAG 2772


The image of the Virgin with the infant Christ at her breast is known as a Madonna Lactans. It focuses on the human nature and humility of the mother and child rather than their divine character. The subject was popularised in Renaissance Florence through paintings by Lorenzo and his active studio. The Walker’s painting is a larger copy with variants to landscape and dress of a picture in Cincinnati Art Museum painted around 1520. Lorenzo had trained alongside the more famous Leonardo and Perugino in the Florentine studio of Verrocchio, which he took over in 1482-3. This is one of the artworks presented by the Liverpool Royal Institution. Liverpool’s economic development grew directly from Britain’s involvement with transatlantic slavery: the kidnapping, enslavement and forced migration of people from West Africa to the Americas and many to the Caribbean. Many members of the Royal Institution made their fortunes directly through the trade or indirectly through the wider economy. This wealth was largely how they were able to bring rare art and treasures, such as this, to the city.