The Holy Family with Saints Anne and Joachim

Artist: Diego de Pesquera (Spanish, Castile (?), ca. 1540–after 1581, Mexico (?), active 1563–80)

Date: 1567–68

Culture: Spanish, Granada

Medium: Wood, painted and gilt

Dimensions: Overall (confirmed): H. 62 3/8 x W. 41 7/8 x D. 4 in. (158.4 x 106.4 x 10.2 cm)

Classification: Sculpture

Credit Line: Bequest of Helen Hay Whitney, 1944

Accession Number: 45.128.5


This panel came from a retable made for the parish church of Los Ojíjares, near Granada, which was dedicated to Saint Anne, the mother of the Virgin. Saint Anne and her husband, Joaquim, prominently featured in the relief, were honored in Catholic devotion as emblems of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin, a cult that was especially popular in Spain. The panel remained in place from its creation in the mid-sixteenth century until it was sold in 1881.

A record of its commission in 1567 establishes that Diego de Pesquera carved the relief; the painting and gilding were entrusted to other specialists. The surface is amazingly intact, and the relief is a model display of the Spanish estofado technique, in which gilding and polychromy interact in vibrant patterns. Brocaded fabrics are imitated with particular skill.

The sculptor clearly was aware of developments in Italian Renaissance art. There is an attractive naturalism in the broad forms of the healthy wriggling infant. Equally striking is the elegantly mannered attenuation of the Virgin and Saint Anne.