POUSSIN, Nicolas
(b. 1594, Les Andelys, d. 1665, Roma)

The Holy Family with St Elizabeth and John the Baptist

c. 1655
Oil on canvas, 172 x 134 cm
The Hermitage, St. Petersburg

A motionless quality is found in the few classical paintings of Poussin's last years, such as the Holy Families. The most striking of these is one with almost life-size figures in the Hermitage, probably finished in 1655. The last vestiges of action and expression have gone. The only figure to make any gesture at all is the infant St John, who holds out his hands. The other figures are lost in a marble stillness, which gives a sort of abstract grandeur to the composition.

The painting was commissioned by Pierre Fréart de Chantelou, a court official of Louis XIII, for whose personal collection the artist executed a series of works.