(b. 1465/66, Leuven, d. 1530, Antwerpen)
St Anne Altarpiece (central panel)1507-08
Oil on wood, 224,5 x 219 cm
Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels
Massys's first dated work is the Holy Kinship, also known as The St Anne Altarpiece, now in Brussels. This triptych dates from 1507-1508, and was commissioned by the Confraternity of St Anne for their chapel in St Peter's church in Leuven. It is visibly the work of an experienced artist.
The central panel shows the Virgin, the Holy Child and St Anne, with Mary the mother of James and Mary Salome sitting in the foreground with their children. Further back, there are four men standing behind the central figures, and behind them is an architectural fantasy in the Italian style, executed in trompe-l'oeil. The overall effect is of a portrait of a rich, dignified middle-class family, with its severe patriarchs and its amiable and graceful women - a family such as one might meet among the newly-wealthy classes that had begun to proliferate in Antwerp, thanks to the development of the port, which in those days had recently established itself as the first in Europe.