The Holy Family with Saint John the Baptist

Nicolas Poussin French

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 623

During Poussin’s early years in Rome, he was especially interested in Venetian painting. He studied Titian’s great mythological compositions, notably the Bacchanals, from which he took inspiration for this painting’s fruit-gathering cherubs. The Holy Family sits under an apple tree with a grape vine twisting around it, two symbols Poussin used to layer meaning for a well-trodden subject. As symbols of salvation, apples connect Christ to the first man, Adam. Grapes are associated with the holy communion and the substantiation of wine for Christ’s blood. Originally, the painting’s palette would have been much brighter, but several of its pigments have degraded over time.

The Holy Family with Saint John the Baptist, Nicolas Poussin (French, Les Andelys 1594–1665 Rome), Oil on canvas

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