GEERTGEN tot Sint Jans
(b. 1460/65, Leiden, d. 1490, Haarlem)

The Holy Kinship

Oil on wood, 137 x 105 cm
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

According to a late medieval legend Anne was three times married and by each marriage had a child called Mary. Each Mary married and produced offspring. This was one attempt to reconcile the conflicting statements by the evangelists concerning the family of Christ. The three husbands were Joachim (the father of Virgin Mary), Cleophas (whose daughter Mary married Alpheus and had four sons, James the less, Joseph the Just, Simon, and Judas Thaddeus), and Salomas (whose daughter Mary married Zebedee and was the mother of James the Greater and John the Evangelist).

The subject of The Family of St Anne (Holy Kinship, Holy Company) is seen frequently in the art of northern Europe from the 15th century and shows the Virgin and Child surrounded by numerous members of this sizeable family. In Geertgen's painting St Anne's entire family is portrayed. On the left is the matriarch herself, with a book on her lap. Beside her is the Virgin Mary with the infant Christ. Elisabeth with her son, John the Baptist, also relatives, are depicted in the foreground.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.