Urgent Museum Notice

The Holy Family with St. Elizabeth and St. John the Baptist

Close up of The Holy Family with St. Elizabeth and St. John the Baptist

Etching shows the Virgin Mary nursing Jesus and dangling an object for a toddler-aged Saint John. Saint Elizabeth is on the right, her face weathered and her hands occupied. Saint Joseph, carpentry tools in hand, occupies the background, a raised axe in his right hand.

Elisabetta Sirani, The Holy Family with St. Elizabeth and St. John the Baptist, 1650-1660; Etching on paper, 10 1/2 x 8 1/2 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay

The Holy Family with St. Elizabeth and St. John the Baptist
Elisabetta Sirani

Elisabetta Sirani created numerous depictions of the Holy Family, often repeating or varying the themes for private collectors. She may have created this etching as a more personal view of Mary and Saint Elizabeth with their children.

Sirani portrays the figures in a domestic setting. The Virgin Mary nurses Jesus, who rests across her lap. Saint John squirms at her feet, reaching for the object that Mary dangles in front of him. Saint Elizabeth sits at the right, and Saint Joseph, carpentry tools in hand, occupies the background. Presenting Jesus and his cousin John the Baptist as ordinary, playful children emphasizes Sirani’s familiar and affectionate approach.

As in her paintings, Sirani demonstrates her accomplished use of chiaroscuro and pictorial handling while expressing sentiment through intimate poses. While Sirani does not depict the minute details of clothing or setting, she does illustrate complex fabric folds and the weathered face of Saint Elizabeth.

Artwork Details

  • Artist

    Elisabetta Sirani
  • Title

    The Holy Family with St. Elizabeth and St. John the Baptist
  • Date

    ca. 1650–60
  • Medium

    Etching
  • Dimensions

    10 1/2 x 8 1/2 in.
  • Donor Credit

    Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay
  • On Display

    No