Circle of Gerard David, the Holy Family in an inner garden of a castle, late 15thC, 36,2 x 52 cm

This Holy Family panel displays the hallmarks of the emergent Early Netherlandish style. A fascination with the natural world dominates. The smallest details are meticulously worked to reflect the reality on a two-dimensional plane. Illusionistic effects are enhanced by the technical innovation of overlaying translucent oil pigments on aqueous opaque pigments. The resulting luminous, enamel-like surface achieves apparent depth, rich gradations of light, and broad distribution of colour values. "The Holy Family panel" was conceived as an object of private devotion.
Oil on panel, 36,2 x 52 cm

The foreground and central scene show the Virgin Mary sitting in a half-open 'Hortus Conclusus' playing with her newborn while Joseph diligently demonstrates the art of carpentry. The symmetrical golden wavy hair and the fine oval face with almond-shaped eyes, fine elongated nose and narrow lips still refer to the Eyckian type of the Holy Virgin. In the figure of Joseph, the physical resemblance to the similar Joseph as a carpenter on the right panel of the Merode Triptych, painted by the Bruges painter Gerard David, is striking (Mérode Triptych, Metropolitan Museum, The Cloisters, New York).
Gerard David's work before 1480 still shows the influence of Jan van Eyck, Dirk Bouts, Robert Campin and Hugo Van der Goes.
The art of detailed realism (the plant and flower bed in the 'Hortus Conclusus' and the carpenter tools of Joseph f.i. the broad axe, the chisel and grooving iron) and the devotional character (the blessing hand of Mary towards the newborn Saviour) is an invitation to the spectator to follow this path of simplicity in action as well in joyful meditation. The spirituality in this small and wonderful painting seems to illustrate the learnings of Geert Grote and the Modern Devotion, a new spiritual movement that will spread during the 15th century.

  • Condition: - the back of the panel was planed down and cradled.
    - overpaint: the left side with a large vertical overpainted crack to the panel, large parts of the wall of the castle, large parts of the Hortus Conclusus and the vegetation, the foreground (several utensils), the face of the Holy Child, the rest of the figures with some retouches but no large overpainted parts
    Furthermore, in our opinion, the work appears in very good and hangable condition.