The Holy Family

Artist: Joos van Cleve (Netherlandish, Cleve ca. 1485–1540/41 Antwerp)

Date: ca. 1512–13

Medium: Oil on wood

Dimensions: 16 3/4 x 12 1/2 in. (42.5 x 31.8 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: The Friedsam Collection, Bequest of Michael Friedsam, 1931

Accession Number: 32.100.57


The motif of the Virgin and Child is quoted from Jan van Eyck's regal Lucca Madonna of about 1435 (Städelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt). Reduced to a half-length image and placed in a domestic setting, the composition is further altered by the addition of Joseph. The wine and fruits on the foreground ledge refer to Christ's incarnation and sacrifice. Presented as part of everyday life, they also testify to the emerging genre of still-life painting. The combination of quotidian domestic intimacy and symbolic meaning must have had mass appeal, since many variations of this painting were produced for sale on the open market.