MASTER of the St. Bartholomew Altar
(active 1470-1510 in Cologne)

The Holy Family

Tempera on oak panel, 30,5 x 23 cm
Szépművészeti Múzeum, Budapest

The small-size panel obviously intended not for any church but for private devotions in the intimate milieu of a sitting-room is much like a miniature, offering to give pleasure when contemplated at close quarters. The waves of the hair - that of the Virgin undulating softly, that of Joseph more roughly in an elderly manner, the rich golden locks of the Child curling into ringlets - the objects arranged in the foreground to recall a still-life, the carefully delineated veins of the marble balustrade, all evidence this attitude. The faces, particularly that of the Virgin, are definitely of the Dutch type. The colours are gentle, melting into unassuming harmony, the forms are tranquil. The background recalling a goldsmith's work, decorated with pearls and precious stones, greatly contributes to this closed character. Apparently the picture is one of the artist's earliest works, from a youthful period, when the Baroque forms, which later became a fundamental trait of his art, had not yet become dominant.