Nicolas Poussin, French, 1594-1665
Title: The Holy Family with Saints Anne, Elizabeth and John the Baptist
Date: 1649
Medium: Oil on canvas
79 x 106 cm
Credit Line: Milltown Gift, 1902
Object Number: NGI.925
DescriptionPoussin executed this painting for one of his main patrons, Jean Pointel, a banker and silk merchant. The picture is one of a number of variations that he painted of the Holy Family. Seated at the centre of the composition is the Virgin with the Christ Child on her lap. Behind them stand St Joseph and St Anne, who gaze downwards fondly. Anne rests one hand on the Virgin’s shoulder and the other on Christ. In the foreground, St Elizabeth holds the infant John the Baptist. Putti pick flowers and present garlands to Christ, their inclusion adding an antique note to the Christian scene. The figures are organised within interlocking pyramids. Behind them is an italianate townscape; its buildings are proportioned so that they create a seamless recession towards the horizon. Both the figures and the buildings are balanced and ordered.
Poussin was deeply interested in classical antiquities, which he had studied in Rome. His knowledge of ancient art and architecture informed his formal approach to compositional arrangements. The red, blue and gold draperies add brilliant Titanesque flashes of colour to the composition, enlivening the solemn beauty of the scene.

March 2016
ProvenancePainted for Jean Pointel, 1649; Jacques Serisier Collection, 10 August 1665; Royal Irish Institution, Dublin, 1816; Earl of Milltown, Russborough House, 1826; Milltown Gift, 1902
Exhibition HistoryRoyal Institute, Dublin, 1847

Royal Institute, Dublin, 1916

Nicolas Poussin, Musée du Louvre, Paris, 1960

L'ideale classico del Seicento in Italia et la pittura di paesaggio, Palazzo dell'Archiginnasio, Bologne, 1962

Dublin Centennary Exhibition, National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, 1964

Le Classicisme Francais, Masterpieces of Seventeenth Century Painting, National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, 1985

Master European Paintings from the National Gallery of Ireland, Art Institute of Chicago, 6 June - 9 August 1992; Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, 19 September - 6 December 1992; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 13 January - 28 March 1993; IBM Gallery, New York, 27 April - 26 June 1993

Nicolas Poussin 1594-1665, Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, Paris, 27 September 1994 - 2 January 1995

Royal Academy of Arts, London, 19 January - 9 April 1995

A Painting in Focus: Nicolas Poussin's Holy Family on the Steps, The Cleveland Museum of Art, 14 November 1999 - 23 January 2000

Von Poussin bis Monet. Die Farben Frankreichs, The Arp Museum Bahnhof Rolandseck, Remagen, 22 March - 6 September 2015; Bucerius Kunst Forum, Hamburg, 10 October 2015 - 17 January 2016
Label TextPoussin made this painting for one of his main patrons, Jean Pointel, a banker and silk merchant. At the centre are Mary and the Christ Child. Behind them stand Saints Joseph and Anne. In the foreground, Saint Elizabeth holds the infant John the Baptist. Putti present flowers to Christ. The inclusion of these figures gives the scene an antique air. Poussin’s interest in classical art and architecture informed his approach to compositional arrangements. Here, he has created balance through the interlocking pyramids of figures and the carefully proportioned Italianate townscape.