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The Virgin Mary was one of the most popular subjects of medieval and Renaissance painting. She made an excellent symbol for altarpieces and devotional works because of her role as an intermediary, or go-between, with God on behalf of humanity. Although Mary takes up most of the panel, all its elements all center on the life of Christ. The bird he holds symbolizes the soul that flies away at death. It is probably intended to be a goldfinch, which, according to legend, was stained by a drop of Christ’s blood.

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