The Holy Family (Il Silenzio)

Christ sleeps across his mother's lap in an attitude suggestive of the Pietà when his dead body was placed in a similar position. Joseph and the infant John the Baptist look on, the latter enjoining both attention and silence and mysteriously attired in a leopard skin (rather than the traditional camel skin).

The composition was known as 'Il Silenzio' (Silence) in the 16th century. It is based on a highly finished drawing made by Michelangelo and was probably painted in Florence in about 1560.

Key facts

Artist dates
born 1512-15; died 1579
Full title
The Holy Family (Il Silenzio)
Date made
about 1565
Medium and support
Oil on wood
43.2 x 28.6 cm
Acquisition credit
Bought, 1887
Inventory number
Location in Gallery