The Holy Family with the Infant St. John the Baptist and St. Elizabeth

The Holy Family with the Infant St. John the Baptist and St. Elizabeth
Artist:
Nicolas Poussin (French, 1594-1665)
Date:
1650-51
Medium:
Oil on canvas 
Dimensions:
39-5/8 x 52-1/8 in. (100.6 x 132.4 cm) 
Credit Line:
Jointly owned by the Norton Simon Art Foundation, Pasadena and The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles 
Accession Number:
M.1981.6.P 
Copyright:
© Norton Simon Art Foundation 
On View
Description

Nicolas Poussin is considered to be one of the great French painters of the modern world. He is revered for developing a personal, innovative and rigorous style based on classical precedents and the High Renaissance. Through precisely orchestrated narratives, and the concentration of emotional response, Poussin produced paintings of outstanding originality.

This is one of Poussin’s most lyrical depictions of the Holy Family, a subject that occupied him during the 1650s. The Virgin and Saint Joseph look on as Saint John the Baptist and Christ playfully embrace. On the right is a procession of Christ’s first martyrs, the Holy Innocents. Their gestures point to the Christ Child, whose sacrifice on the cross will redeem their martyred souls. Two Innocents carry a basin with water, one carries a towel, which may refer to the Shroud of the Passion, and another kneels to adore the Holy Child. In the distance, a family in a boat, and two men on horseback, may recall the Holy Family’s flight into Egypt. The combination of figures and motifs in the composition suggest a message of purification and salvation.

Provenance:

Charles, 3rd Duc de Créquy (d. 1687), Artois-Picardie, France, commissioned 1651.
Raoul de La Porte, Paris, by c. 1713?
William Cavendish (d.1764), 4th Duke of Devonshire, Chatsworth, Derbyshire, England (picture hanging in Devonshire House, London, by 1761), by inheritance to;
William Cavendish (d. 1811), 5th Duke of Devonshire, Chatsworth, Derbyshire, England (picture hanging in Devonshire House, London), by inheritance to;
William George Spencer Cavendish (d. 1858), 6th Duke of Devonshire, Chatsworth, Derbyshire, England (picture transferred from Devonshire House, London, to Chatsworth, c. 1835), by inheritance to;
William Cavendish (d. 1891), 7th Duke of Devonshire, Chatsworth, Derbyshire, England, by inheritance to;
Spencer Compton Cavendish (d. 1908), 8th Duke of Devonshire, Chatsworth, Derbyshire, England, by inheritance to;
Victor Christian William Cavendish (d. 1938), 9th Duke of Devonshire, Chatsworth, Derbyshire, England, by inheritance to;
Edward William Spencer Cavendish (d. 1950), 10th Duke of Devonshire, Chatsworth, Derbyshire, England, by inheritance to;
Andrew Robert Buxton Cavendish, 11th Duke of Devonshire, Chatsworth, Derbyshire, England (sale, London, Christie's, 10 April 1981, lot 100, to);
Norton Simon Art Foundation, Pasadena, and The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.

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