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Annibale Carracci, The Holy Family with the Infant Saint John the Baptist

Key facts
Full title The Holy Family with the Infant Saint John the Baptist ('The Montalto Madonna')
Artist Annibale Carracci
Artist dates 1560 - 1609
Date made about 1600
Medium and support Oil on copper
Dimensions 35 × 27.5 cm
Acquisition credit Bought with the support of a number of gifts in wills and donations, 2004
Inventory number NG6597
Location Room 37
Collection Main Collection
The Holy Family with the Infant Saint John the Baptist
Annibale Carracci

Domesticity reigns in this exquisite little picture. A delightfully pretty Virgin Mary balances a squirming, curly-haired Christ Child on her knee. She herself is perched rather precariously on a laundry basket, and her nephew, the young Saint John the Baptist, tugs at her blue mantle. On the other side the elderly Saint Joseph has taken off his glasses to peer at the child, taking care to mark his place in his book.

Known as the ‘Montalto Madonna’ after its patron, Cardinal Alessandro Peretti Montalto, this small painting on copper was one of Annibale Carracci’s most celebrated and copied works, but was presumed lost for 300 years until its rediscovery in 2003.

The rich balance of colour, the harmony of form and movement, and the play of light make this one of Annibale’s greatest small paintings, and reveal the impact of Correggio on his work.

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