The Virgin and Child with Saint John and his Parents

This painting prabably dates from around 1620, and one other signed version is known to exist. The work exemplifies the vein of robust realism that Jordaens, in the wake of Rubens and Van Dyck, brought to the interpretation of religious subject matter.

The theme is derived from the 'Meditations' of the so-called Pseudo-Bonaventura, a popular early renaissance text which recounts the visit of the infant John the Baptist with his parents, Saints Elizabeth and Zacharias, to the Virgin and Child. Accompanied by a lamb, Saint John releases a goldfinch. This bird was believed to have been splashed with the blood of Christ at the Crucifixion, so was seen as a symbol of the Passion.

Visually, the high basket chair suggests a halo encircling the heads of the Virgin and Child, thus contributing a symbolic resonance to a painting which is otherwise filled with a vigorous sense of reality.

Key facts

Artist dates
1593 - 1678
Full title
The Virgin and Child with Saints Zacharias, Elizabeth and John the Baptist
Date made
about 1620
Medium and support
Oil on canvas
114 x 153 cm
Acquisition credit
Bought, 1917
Inventory number
Location in Gallery