MASTER of the Catholic Kings
(active 1485-1500 in Castile)

The Marriage at Cana

c. 1495/1497
Oil on panel, 137 x 93 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington

Christ's first miracle, the transformation of water into wine, is described in John (2:1-12). Invited to a wedding in Galilee, Mary told her son that the family was too poor to afford wine. At the wedding table, Jesus raises his right hand in benediction, while Mary prays in recognition of the miracle. The governor of the feast looks skeptically into his cup, but the bride and groom lower their eyes in reverent acceptance of the divine gift.

The banqueting hall combines elements from Netherlandish and Spanish culture. The trumpeters in the gallery, the wedding bed, the servants in the distant kitchen, and the northern European town seen through the door and window show a Flemish concern for documenting daily life. The harsh, angular features of some male figures, the rich brown and red tonalities, and the costumes and serving vessels, however, are more typical of Castile. Hanging from the rafters, shields bear coats of arms suggesting that this scene may be an allegory on the marriage in 1497 of Juan of Castile, son of the Catholic Kings, to Margaret of Austria, daughter of the Holy Roman Emperor.