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Italian, The Holy Family

Key facts
Full title The Holy Family
Artist Italian
Date made 16th century
Medium and support Oil on wood
Dimensions 49.5 × 38.4 cm
Acquisition credit Layard Bequest, 1916
Inventory number NG3125
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
The Holy Family

In this painting, probably made for private devotion, the infant Christ stands on the Virgin Mary’s lap and reaches up to embrace her. With his right hand he points up at her face. Saint Joseph looks on at the right, his hands crossed over his chest in reverence. In one hand he appears to hold a staff, and in the other he seems to hold either a carpenter’s square (referring to his profession) or a book.

The very dark background from which Saint Joseph emerges makes it difficult to see the details. The picture is damaged in many places by long vertical cracks probably caused by shrinking of the wooden panel on which it is painted.

This is one of a group of paintings by an as yet unidentified artist. It was once thought to be by Sodoma as it bears some resemblance to his style.

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