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Possibly by Giovanni Cariani, 'The Holy Family with Saints and a Donor', about 1540

Key facts
Full title The Virgin and Child with Saints Joseph and Lucy and a Woman and Boy at Prayer
Artist Possibly by Giovanni Cariani
Artist dates about 1487 - 1547
Date made about 1540
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 85.8 × 118 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1886
Inventory number NG1203
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
The Holy Family with Saints and a Donor
Possibly by Giovanni Cariani

An unidentified woman and boy kneel in prayer before the Virgin and Child with saints in a landscape. Saint Lucy, the bearer of light, holds a martyr’s palm and a burning oil lamp. The woman, wearing an ornamented dress and cloak, is probably the mother of the kneeling boy presented by Saint Joseph. The flowering rod Saint Joseph holds represents the staff that broke into blossom to show he was chosen to marry the Virgin Mary.

The light around the woman’s head suggests she is supposed to be a saint, but it may not be original. The mother and son are probably the donors of the painting.

This picture is possibly by Cariani although it is not entirely typical of his work. The composition is derived from Camillo Boccaccino’s altarpiece in Cremona Cathedral, commissioned in 1533, showing the Virgin and Child with Saints Martha, Mary Magdalene, James and Anthony Abbot, which is now lost.

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