Amid a luxuriant wooded landscape, the Holy Family are resting in a clearing as a round of merry putti descend from the clouds and offer them flowers.

Seated in the centre of the group of figures to the right of the composition, the Virgin Mary holds the Child on her knees; a lamb, symbol of Christ’s future sacrifice, lies at her feet. She is surrounded by Joseph, draped in red, and her mother, Saint Anne, holding the young Saint John the Baptist. Behind her, an angel with wings outspread bows before the Child. The quiet majesty of this bucolic forest, its central clearing opening onto the luminous distance, is particularly well suited to this holy scene, which can be associated with the story of the rest on the flight into Egypt.

The picture is an old copy of a work painted by Hans Rottenhammer, for the figures, and Jan Brueghel the Elder, youngest son of Pieter Brueghel the Elder, for the landscape, today held at the Alte Pinakothek in Munich. Jan Brueghel’s extremely meticulous virtuoso technique, the rich freshness and great delicacy of the colours, together with his exceptional mastery of fading and gradation, earned him the nickname of “Velvet” Brueghel. The painter excels above all in its representation of misty foliage, and in the realistic rendering of flowers, here shown in abundance, in their natural state, cut, in bouquets, in baskets, and in wreaths. The very small format of this work, imbued with softness and harmony, corresponds to the intimate, domestic character of private religious devotion.

H. D.

City of Paris municipal collection's website

City of Paris municipal collection's website

The collections portal can be used to search the collections of Paris’s 14 municipal museums (approximately 336,000 works, including 43,000 belonging to the Petit Palais).

It is also possible to download around 12,000 images of the museum’s works free of charge.

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Discover a selection of databases online presenting works from the Petit Palais or documents concerning the history of the museum.