The Holy Family with St Anne Peter Paul Rubens 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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The Holy Family with St Anne is one of two particularly similar paintings from Peter Paul Rubens, mirroring much of the composition and style of The Holy Family with St Elizabeth and the Infant St John the Baptist.

If one places these two artworks together, side by side, you will immediately identify the same figures in each piece, just moved around in order to produce a different balance to the composition. Rubens was an artist who produced multiple versions of the same painting sometimes, and also occassionally would make several works which were very similar, just with a few tweaks of experimentation. It could be that whichever he preferred would be sent to fulfil a commission and the others would become a part of his expanding personal collection.

In this layout it is the younger woman and baby who receive the main focus, as the light covers their bodies in the foreground and leaves the gentleman and older lady in the shadows at the back. Rubens was known for depicting babies always with strong legs and curved bellys, just as he would with his women. This was what he saw as reality and a healthy weight for all to aspire to.

Reds and blues provide the colour in this piece, picked up from the various elements of clothing that battle against the dark shadows that sit across the composition. Light flesh tones are used, as can be seen throughout the ouevre of Rubens - he would only use darker skin to provide contrast to his main focal points, and even that was rare. One memorable element to this painting is the strong eye contact between mother and child, providing an atmosphere of strong motherhood and all that goes with that.