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The Holy Family with Saints

Fra Paolino
The Holy Family with Saints, late 15th-early 16th century
Italian, 1472–1517
oil on panel
46.5 x 41.75 inches (118.11 x 106.05 cm)
Gift of the Samuel H. Kress Foundation

Images of the Holy Family with saints in attendance were popular in sixteenth-century Italy. This work depicts the Madonna holding the Christ Child, who leans forward to embrace the infant Saint John. Saint Catherine kneels behind them, wearing a greenish blue mantle, and Saint Joseph looks on over his shoulder. On the right, a window shows a view of a walled town and a winding road, where the Flight into Egypt is depicted. The High Renaissance style is epitomized in the pyramidal arrangement of the main figures and the overall attention to balance and symmetry.

Fra Paolino’s early work demonstrates a dependence on the drawings and compositions invented by his teacher, Fra Bartolommeo. In fact, this painting was once attributed to Fra Bartolommeo, owing to the similarity between its compositional details and his works. During these years, Fra Paolino must have worked as an assistant to Fra Bartolommeo, but his precise contributions remain difficult to isolate. He was obviously closely tied to his master; on Fra Bartolommeo’s death in 1517, his drawings were consigned to Fra Paolino.