Virgin and Child with St. Anne

WAG 833


Pictures of the Virgin and Christ Child with St. Anne, the Virgin’s mother, were popular in the 15th and 16th centuries. The teaching of the Church stressed St. Anne’s perfect life, and thus the purity of Christ’s parentage. She represented a socially powerful and educated woman. In art she is often shown teaching Mary to read and pray. Anne is often portrayed as the root of the Holy Family’s power. Her role emphasises the importance of women’s education in late medieval society. Knowledge was expected to be passed from women to their children. The cult of St Anne helped reinforce a belief in Mary's special holiness. It became widespread north of the Alps in the 15th century. By 1500 it had reached a peak of popularity, encouraged by Pope Sixtus IV's pronouncements. In particular the Pope favoured the doctrine of Mary's Immaculate Conception. 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.