(b. 1540, Antwerpen, d. 1619, Bologna)

The Holy Family with the Infant St John the Baptist in a Landscape

Oil on copper, 42 x 32 cm
National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh

Calvaert was born in Antwerp, but travelled to Italy in about 1560, where he remained for the rest of his life, and chiefly worked on religious commissions. In Bologna he played an especially important role as a teacher for the next generation of Italian artists: Guido Rent, Francesco Albani and Domenichino were among his pupils.

This is a characteristic example of Calvaert's small devotional paintings, of a type that he produced in large numbers. The Holy Family is accompanied by the infant Saint John, at the lower left, who holds a reed cross and receives Christ's blessing. They are at rest during the Flight into Egypt, and attendant angels provide fruit and spring water to sustain them. Above the mountainous landscape, a premonition of Christ's Passion appears: putti carry the cross and nails and the column on which he is to be scourged. The smooth sheet of copper provided an ideal surface upon which to depict such a detailed and richly coloured design.