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Diego Velázquez, Christ in the House of Martha and Mary

Key facts
Full title Kitchen Scene with Christ in the House of Martha and Mary
Artist Diego Velázquez
Artist dates 1599 - 1660
Date made probably 1618
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 60 × 103.5 cm
Inscription summary Dated
Acquisition credit Bequeathed by Sir William H. Gregory, 1892
Inventory number NG1375
Location Room 30
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
Christ in the House of Martha and Mary
Diego Velázquez

A maid pounds garlic in a mortar, and other ingredients lie scattered on the table: fish, eggs, a shrivelled red pepper and an earthenware jug probably containing olive oil. An older woman points towards her, as if giving her instructions or telling her off for working too hard, or she may be drawing our attention to the figures in the background.

The scene visible in the upper right is taken from the New Testament (Luke 10: 38–42). As Mary sits at Jesus’s feet, listening to him, her sister Martha complains that she should not be left to serve the food alone. Christ replies, ‘Mary has taken that good part, which shall not be taken away from her’. We view it through an opening, although it has also been read as a reflection in a mirror or a picture hung on the wall.

The figures in the foreground, dressed in contemporary costume, may be intended as a latter-day Martha and Mary.

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