The Holy Family with Saint Anne and the Infant Saint John El Greco Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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Artist El Greco produced several different versions of The Holy Family with Saint Anne and the Infant John the Baptist at the end of the 16th century. The variations between them are fairly subtle, leading to some confusion when identifying the individual pieces.

The Greek painter would regularly produced several versions of his favourite paintings, particularly when the content and theme was particularly attractive to other potential patrons. He called upon the services of his studio in his later years who were able to do much of the work for him, under his guidance. His own son would lead them and was considered a technically well trained artist, though without the required levels of innovation to succeed professionally on his own. We have uncovered two very similar versions under the ownership of the Prado Museum in Madrid, as well as the National Gallery of Art in the USA. The main differences to spot are the angles of the children in this painting, as well as the colouring in the hair of the figure in green to the right. There also also smaller differences right across the painting, such as the formation of clouds, the way in which the clothing drapes, and so on. They were clearly intended to be very similar, but without being direct reproductions.

Both items are dated at around the year 1600, and by this stage the artist had been working successfully for many decades, both in Italy and then Spain. Interestingly, the two artworks on this theme are also quite different in height, suggesting that a good amount of freedom was allowed in the two versions. One is around a metre tall, whilst the other is only 70cm. If they were intended to be near identical, it would have made more sense to follow the same dimensions. Both artworks have also passed through different collections several times, with their respective provenances leading back to the 19th century, possibly even before. Although both versions of The Holy Family with Saint Anne and the Infant John the Baptist are not amongst his most famous paintings, they are still typical of his style and technically impressive contributions in their own right.

It is the colours used here which remind us of El Greco's influence from the Republic of Venice. Crete, where he was born, fell under the jursidiction of this region in his early years and he inevitably came across the great masters of the School of Venice. One of their signature touches was the use of bright tones, which can be found within The Holy Family with Saint Anne and the Infant John the Baptist on the clothing of each figure in this portrait. Blues, purples, oranges and greens also stand out in a splendid manner and it reminds us also that the influence from this early period remained strong throughout the artist's career, as by the time of these two paintings he would be very much in the latter part of his life.