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Ludovico Mazzolino, The Holy Family with Saints

Key facts
Full title The Holy Family with Saints Elizabeth, Francis and John the Baptist
Artist Ludovico Mazzolino
Artist dates active 1504; died 1528?
Date made about 1514-16
Medium and support Oil on wood
Dimensions 53 × 39.4 cm
Acquisition credit Holwell Carr Bequest, 1831
Inventory number NG82
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
The Holy Family with Saints
Ludovico Mazzolino

The Virgin Mary is seated on a bench, holding the infant Christ. He raises his right hand to bless Saint Francis, who kneels with his hands raised to reveal his stigmata – marks on his body which correspond to the wounds suffered by Christ during the Crucifixion.

Saint Joseph, Mary’s husband, leans on his stick, with his eyelids lowered or closed. Saint Elizabeth touches the head of her son, the infant John the Baptist, who is holding a lamb and trying to protect it from the monkey perched on a ledge. The classical architecture in the background may be intended to indicate that the pagan world has been superseded by a new Christian era.

The monkey is a puzzling feature. It seems to be threatening the lamb, a common attribute of John the Baptist and a symbol of Christ’s sacrifice. The monkey may represent evil, but as the saint seems to be enjoying its antics it may just be a decorative element.

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