Holy Family with Saint Anne
92.8 cm x 73.2 cm (36 9/16 in. x 28 13/16 in.)
(Moneglia, Italy, 1527 - 1585, El Escorial, Spain)
Medium and Support:
Oil on canvas
Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, The Suida-Manning Collection, 2017
Concluding just years before the execution of this painting, the Council of Trent had proposed systematic reform of the Catholic Church and responses to the Reformation. Its provisions for religious art included decrees that the subjects of paintings be easily intelligible and that there be no distraction from overly characterized or intrinsically appealing style, rather that devout feelings be stirred in the viewer. At a far frontier of Mannerism, pushing the research of ideal form beyond conventional pictorial standards, Cambiaso was already inclined toward the kind of "styleless style" implied by the Council’s imperatives. In his mature religious works, he perfected a mode that is diagrammatic in subject and practically shorn of material appeal, but equipped with unprecedentedly naturalistic incidents, specifically the action of light, that relieve the abstractness and cue a sentimental response. This painting is an important early example of this religious mode, ideal in essence, while predicting features of the early Baroque, and anticipating features of Caravaggio and Georges de La Tour.