HERRERA, Francisco de, the Elder
(b. ca. 1590, Sevilla, d. 1656, Madrid)

The Holy Family

Oil on canvas, 195 x 177 cm
Museo de Bellas Artes, Bilbao

This painting is also known as the Holy Kinship or the Family of St Anne. It was executed for the St Inés cloister of the Clarisse nuns in Seville, together with a Pentecost (now lost). It presents St Anne's descent in a rigorously arranged and symmetrical composition, showing St Zachary and St Elizabeth on the right (beside their son St John the Baptist) and on the left, the Blessed Virgin, St Joseph, St Anne and possibly the Virgin's sisters. In the centre of the composition the Christ Child embraces His cousin St John, who is caressing a lamb. The sons of Mary Salome appear in the foreground: St John the Evangelist as a child, dressed in a pink robe and holding a chalice, pointing at Christ and announcing his future role as the Saviour, and his brother St James the Greater, whose head appears on the extreme left. The three other children on the opposite side are probably St James the Minor, Simon and Jude Thaddeus, the sons of Mary of Cleophas; one of them is holding a lamb, the attribute of St John the Baptist, that is lying in the lap of St Elizabeth.

A fragment of blue mantle is depicted in the upper area, probably a part of what was a representation of the Immaculate Conception surrounded by children and crowned by a figure of God the Father. The work was cut at an unknown date.