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Mattia Preti, 'The Marriage at Cana', about 1655-60

Key facts
Full title The Marriage at Cana
Artist Mattia Preti
Artist dates 1613 - 1699
Date made about 1655-60
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 203.2 × 226 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1966
Inventory number NG6372
Location Room 32
Collection Main Collection
The Marriage at Cana
Mattia Preti

This crowded banquet scene shows Christ’s first miracle (John 2: 1–10). He, his mother and the disciples were invited to a wedding feast at Cana in Galilee. When the wine ran out, Mary told her son and he asked to have six stone jars filled with water. When tasted the water was found to be wine of the finest quality. Christ is seated at the right next to his mother, who has told the servants to do Christ’s bidding. The astonished steward — probably the man in red on the left – exclaimed: ‘Thou hast kept the best wine till last ’.

A great narrative painter, Mattia Preti vividly conveys the emotional drama of the episode. In the foreground, servants are decanting the miraculous wine, while the man seated next to Mary lifts his hand in astonishment. In the centre of the composition an exquisite goblet is held out by the steward, into which a Black servant pours a golden liquid.

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