Holy Family is a favorite subject of Antwerp painters in the 16th century, an idealized family portrait, our painting invites us to enter and share a moment of intimacy with the Virgin Mary, St Joseph and the child Jesus.
Reunited inside, the almost theatrical decor is accentuated by a curtain whose folds form a partial frame for our characters. The seated Virgin proudly presents her son on her knees, standing up, leaning on her mother with her arm, who supports him by her waist and holds her foot in a gesture of tenderness. Saint Joseph, slightly in the background, his head turned to Jesus, looks at him closely and holds an apple in his left hand. Marie is wearing a veil that discovers her locks of curly blond hair, she is the only one to look at the spectator in front, the look full of sweetness and tranquility. She wears a dress with green hues, and a red coat which she raises the pan to carefully cover the back of her naked son. St Joseph bearded, wearing a violet-colored tunic with pink shades and a yellow-orange gradient coat. This refined palette is highly appreciated by Antwerp Mannerists. The table with a white tablecloth has a cup of claw fruit and red cherries delicately arranged. The cup contains a bunch of grapes, a pear, a squash, a celery root and some hazelnuts. The apple in Joseph's hand and the other fruits allude to the fall of the first human couple (Adam and Eve) and to redemption and the possibility of finding lost paradise. Cherries symbolize Paradise and its eternal sweetness. The grape is the sign of the future passion of Christ. A powerful light illuminates the Virgin and Jesus to put them forward, leaving St. Joseph slightly in the shadows. The painter plays with the texture of the clothes falling down, forming numerous folds, pretexts for subtle play of shadows and lights. The fruit bowl and cherries gently cast shadows on the table. The model of the Holy Family in the still life is developed by avant-garde figures of Antwerp Mannerism, especially by Joos Van Cleve and Pieter Coeck Van Aelst. Our painting bears an imprint of Italian influence on Flemish painting in the middle of the 16th century. This Italianizing treatment is felt quite clearly in the direction of staging, features softened characters, the face of the virgin round, hands slender but rather muscular.
An artist who could be at the origin of our painting is Willem Key (1515 Breda - 1568 Antwerp), painter of history and especially of portraits. Some tables that are available on RKD on which we find the similarities with ours. Several points support this hypothesis, as a pupil of Pieter Coeck Van Aelst, the specialist of religious scenes, he was inspired by the models of Holy Family of his master. We note that the design and construction of our painting derives a lot from Van Aelst, the treatment of characters differs and demonstrates a painter who gives even more importance to his characters, uses shadows and lights more specific to Italian painters. This Italian style comes from the fact that Willem Key with his colleague Frans Floris take classes in Liège to Lambert Lombard, who, back from Italy, founded the first art academy.
Our painting dates around 1560, itis an exquisite work of an Antwerp artist. The delicacy of the features, the play of lights, the expressions of the faces attest a remarkable mastery and know-how. The very realistic still life executed with great care and skill shows that the painter excels in several genres. He also succeeds in transmitting this atmosphere of well-being and gentleness which he imprints the picture.
Dimensions: with the frame: h. 73 cm, l. 66 cm.
Oil on oak panel.
Presented in a 17th century elegant Flemish frame in ebony veneer engraved with flowers.
The Holy Family at the Renaissance.
The Gospel of Saint Luke pays particular attention to the childhood of Jesus, inaugurating the figure of the child who promises salvation. Nevertheless, it took centuries for this divine incarnation to benefit the social status of the child. In the 14th century, Western society discovered childhood. The cult of childhood was relayed in the Renaissance by a sense of family that has developed in the middle class. The painters humanize the Holy Family, if their favorite subject remains the virgin to the child, now Mary looks like a young mother and his son is no longer a fixed symbol, but a chubby toddler.
Price : on request