The Holy Family with the Infant Saint John the Baptist

Artist: Perino del Vaga (Pietro Buonaccorsi) (Italian, Florence 1501–1547 Rome)

Date: ca. 1524–26

Medium: Oil on wood

Dimensions: 34 3/4 x 25 5/8 in. (88.3 x 65.1 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: Purchase, Acquisitions Fund, Mr. and Mrs. Mark Fisch, Denise and Andrew Saul, and Friends of European Paintings Gifts, Gwynne Andrews Fund, Mr. and Mrs. J. Tomilson Hill, Jon and Barbara Landau, Charles and Jessie Price, Hester Diamond, and Fern and George Wachter Gifts, 2011

Accession Number: 2011.26


Florentine by birth, Perino del Vaga was trained in Raphael's workshop in Rome, where he soon became one of the most inventive artists of his generation. This is a rare early work and dates from the mid-1520s. The young Christ holds the traditional symbols of a goldfinch (symbolic of the Resurrection) and a cherry (signifying the delights of the blessed). More unusually, the young Saint John is crowned with grape leaves and wears a leopard skin, usually associated with the ancient god Bacchus. This mingling of pagan and Christian iconography reflects ideas prevalent in Florentine intellectual circles that attempted to reconcile classical wisdom with Christianity.