BRUEGHEL, Jan the Elder
(b. ca. 1568, Brussel, d. 1625, Antwerpen)

The Holy Family

c. 1623
Oil on panel, 93,5 x 72 cm
Alte Pinakothek, Munich

The Holy Family leaves us in little doubt as to why the second son of Pieter Bruegel was given the nickname "Velvet" Brueghel. It is a masterpiece of "fine" painting in which elements of floral still-life, landscape painting and devotional painting are combined into a harmonious whole. A magnificent garland of meticulously painted flowers and fruits reflecting the diversity of nature frames the idyllic scene like a triumphal arch. It forms the letter M for Mary, who is seated as in a "beszlozzenen garten" or hortus conclusus dominating the middle ground with the Christ child on her knee. Beside her are the angels and the lamb, slightly behind her is Joseph and in the background is a view of a landscape with grazing deer. The figures were painted by Pieter van Avont - an excellent example of the way specific painterly tasks were delegated according to artists' specializations within Netherlandish painting.