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Holy Family

circa 1653
17th century
74.3 cm x 63.5 cm (29 1/4 in. x 25 in.)

Mattia Preti (Taverna, Italy, 1613 - 1699, Valletta, Malta) Primary

Object Type: painting
Artist Nationality: Europe, Italian
Medium and Support: Oil on canvas
Credit Line: Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, The Suida-Manning Collection, 2017
Accession Number: 2017.1326

With a close-up view of the three figures against an austere background, the painting focuses on the intimate moment shared by Mary, Joseph, and the infant Jesus. Light comes from the top left, illuminating Mary’s graceful young face and elegant hands. At the same time it accentuates the weathered and wrinkled features of Joseph. This contrast between the two figures reflects the tradition that emphasizes Mary’s virginity by stressing Joseph’s advanced age and improbability of fathering a child. The foreshortening of Jesus’ body and the cropping of the Mary and Joseph figures imply the extension of the pictorial space beyond the canvas, which has the effect of including the viewer in the scene as a participant.

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