Prospero Fontana
(Bologna 1512 – 1597)

Holy Family with SS. John and Francis

Oil on board, 120 x 100 cm (47 x39 inches)

Seeming to turn away, the austere Virgin appears to keep her distance from what is occurring behind her; as if she already knew how the story of the two infants that she holds in her arms would end. Behind her, the fraternal kiss between the two infants is observed by the obsequious gaze of Francis, a stranger to that moment of intimacy. Indeed, thanks to a drawing, elsewhere the Virgin gives up the place of honour to Caterina, viewed askance by a worried Joseph (Fig. 5). This all happens around the middle of the sixteenth century.

Fig. 5: Prospero Fontana, Holy Family with Saints John and Catherine. Previously London, Christie’s, © Christie’s Images Limited 2013.