Arezzo 1593-post 1652
Holy Family with Saint John the Infant
oil on canvas, 120×98 cm
This work is characterized by the remarkable and vigorous naturalistic rendition of Saint Joseph, who assists, thoughtfully and in the shade – something that has often been his fate in paintings from every period – the meeting between Jesus and the Baptist. The episode refers to a legendary rest which the Holy Family, according to the Christian tradition, took on the journey home from the flight to Egypt. The infant Jesus is holding an apple in his right hand, to symbolize, as underscored by Emilio Negro, author of a study on this Holy family, “the fruit gathered by Adam from the tree of good and evil, or in other words a clear allusion to the Saviour’s redemption from original sin”.
Negro has proposed to attribute this canvas to Bernardino Santini, a painter born in Arezzo who in his first known works, as the Crucifixion of Santa Maria in Gradi in Arezzo, from 1629, distinguished himself by a combination of traits associated with the counter-reformation and luminist novelties that differed considerably from his later works, inspired by contacts with the more up-to- date Florentine painting, with results that are particularly closely related to Iacopo Vignali and Filippo Tarchiani; the influence of the latter is very clear in the painter’s masterpiece, Apparition of the Virgin to Saint Francis of the church of Arezzo dedicated to the
preacher from Assisi, from 1634.
Among the works mentioned for purposes of comparison by the scholar we find Mystic wedding of Saint Catherine of Alessandria and the altarpiece featuring Saint Augustine between the blood of Christ and the milk of the Madonna (Arezzo, in the church of Saint Bernardino and Saint Augustine respectively).