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The Virgin and Child

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Ferrara (or, made)
    Urbino (made)

  • Date:

    1460-1480 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Russi, Francesco di Giovanni de' (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Watercolour on vellum

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level C, case MB2A, shelf DR56, box CONS

Physical description

Historiated initial letter `B' cut from an illuminated manuscript on vellum, showing the Virgin and Child seated among the rocks, at the top left a putto holding a red shield signed by the artist `M. Francho.'

Place of Origin

Ferrara (or, made)
Urbino (made)


1460-1480 (made)


Russi, Francesco di Giovanni de' (artist)

Materials and Techniques

Watercolour on vellum

Marks and inscriptions

M. Francho
1) Signature; top left; gilt


Height: 7 cm irregular, Width: 6.3 cm

Historical context note

This is one of only two signed works by this artist; the other is in a manuscript in the British Library. Franco de' Russi studied at Ferrara under Gugliemo Giraldi and was a follower of Mantegna. With Taddeo Crivelli he was one of the two principal artists commissioned to illuminate the great Bible of Borso d'Este in Ferrara, 1455-1461, but had apparently left Ferrara by 1458 where he is documented as working in Urbino for Federico da Montefeltro, described as `maestro Franco de Ferrara.' He also worked in Padua in the 1460s where he illuminated two manuscripts copied by Bartolomeo Sanvito. On Federico's death in 1482 he moved to Venice.

Data taken from notes compiled by Rowan Watson. The full text of the entry is as follows:

Cut-out historiated initial B (red and green foliate letter-shape, Virgin Mary and Child seated in a landscape, with a distant town, burnished gold ground); above the letter-shape a putto holding a red heart lettered "FRANCHO", ie Franco dei Russi.

Italy. c. 1460?
85 x 65 mm; miniature 65 x 58 mm.

Bought at Sotheby's 29 Nov. 1990, lot 22
Pub: Reproduced in colour in d'Ancona & Aeschlimann,
`Dictionnaire des miniaturistes (Milan, 1949), p. 188; b/w in M. Levi d'Ancona "Contributi al problema di Franco dei Russi", 'Commentari' XI (1960), pl.XII, fig. 4'

Descriptive line

Painting by Franco di Giovanni de' Russi, historiated initial letter `B' cut from an illuminated manuscript on vellum, showing the Virgin and Child seated among the rocks, watercolour and gold on vellum, 1460-1480

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

P. d'Ancona and E. Aeschlimann, Dictionnaire des Miniaturistes, Milan, 1949, pp.187-8 and plate opposite.
Victoria and Albert Museum Department of Prints, Drawings and Paintings Accession Register for 1991


Watercolour; Vellum



Subjects depicted

Historiated initial


Paintings; Drawings; Manuscripts; Christianity; Religion

Production Type



Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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