Rare oil on panel illustrating the Virgin breastfeeding the child Jesus on her knees.
Half-length view of the young mother is seated in front of an entablature. Dressed in a blue dress and wrapped in a large red coat with multiple folds, hair partially covered by a white veil. Her open dress reveals her breast which she holds out towards her child; Jesus stripped naked and installed on a white cloth in his mother's lap, holds an apple in one hand and raises the other hand in a sign of blessing. The mother looks tenderly at her son emanating serenity and enjoying the intimacy of the moment. Jesus has a pensive gaze and doubtless thinks of his destiny.
Following the Flemish naturalist tradition, fruits are placed in the foreground (one of the first examples of still lifes whose rise in Flemish painting developed from the 16th century).
As is customary, the fruits are charged with symbolic importance, the pear expresses the love of Christ for humanity and the apple embodies the salvation of the soul of man.
Our Nursing Virgin belongs to a group of similar works of different sizes attributed to the Master of the Parrot. If the position of the Virgin and the child remain unchanged, the decorative elements or the background are different, thus individualizing each painting.
Comparative works by the Master of the Parrot
• Oil on panel. 70 x 53.5cm. Koller auction house, Zurich, Switzerland, September 22, 2006,
• Oil on panel. 50x36cm. Koller auction house, Zurich, Switzerland, September 18, 1996,
• Oil on panel. 45.5 x 35.5cm. Van Ham auction house, Cologne, November 14, 2019,
• Oil on panel. 50 x 38.5cm. Bonnefantenmuseum. Maastricht.
Comparative works by the workshop of the Master of the Parrot
• Oil on panel, 63 x 48 cm. Auction House, Christie's, London, July 5, 2019
The theme of the nursing Virgin seems very appreciated by the painter and the success is undoubtedly due to the softness in which he manages to express this sacred motherhood, returning the touching image of a loving mother and her son.
Flemish school of the first half of the 16th century, workshop of the Master at the Parrot
Oil on oak panel,
Dimensions: h. 53 cm, w. 41cm
Flemish style frame in richly molded ebonized wood
Box: h. 86 cm, w. 74cm
The Master of the Parrot (Antwerp, active 1525-1550)
This convention name was given by Max. J. Friedländer (art historian specializing in the Flemish Primitives) to an artist active in Antwerp during the first half of the 16th century, close to Pieter Coecke van Aelst and the so-called Master of the "half-figures" because of the frequent presence of this bird in his paintings.
As explained by MJ Friedländer in his monograph "Le Maître au parrot" (in: Phoebus, 1949, II, n° 2, p. 49 - 55), the nickname of this anonymous master comes from several panels of Virgins on which the baby Jesus feeds a parrot. Friedländer added a group of Virgins without a parrot, mainly consisting of the Nursing Virgins but stylistically related to the main group.
The theme of the nursing virgin is undoubtedly inspired by the works of Joos Van Cleve.