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Workshop of Joos van Cleve, The Holy Family

Key facts
Full title The Holy Family
Artist Workshop of Joos van Cleve
Artist dates active about 1511; died 1541/2
Date made probably about 1525
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 49.4 × 36.5 cm
Acquisition credit Salting Bequest, 1910
Inventory number NG2603
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
The Holy Family
Workshop of Joos van Cleve

The Virgin Mary is seated behind a grey parapet on which the infant Christ stands. He grasps at her strangely high breast and she curls her right hand protectively around him. Saint Joseph, in a straw hat and glasses, reads at a lectern.

This is one of many similar paintings associated with Joos van Cleve, although in most of them Christ is perched on the Virgin’s knee rather than standing on the sill. Indeed that was how he was shown in the first version of our painting – his position was changed after the initial composition was painted.

The composition was clearly created in Joos' workshop using drawings to combine elements used in other paintings – the lilies, the knife and orange, and the stems of cherries recur in several pictures. The design of our painting is not very well balanced, however, and must be the work of an assistant.

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