Agnes reopened on Tuesday 7 July. Welcome back! Learn more.

00:00
/
00:00
Sirani, Elisabetta
The Holy Family with Saints Elizabeth and John the Baptist
around 1650-1660

Elisabetta Sirani (1638-1665) is an exceptional example of a female artist of the early modern era. Unlike the women artists in Bologna who preceded her, Sirani specialized in painting subjects from the bible and history, themes at the top of the hierarchy of artistic genres. She was likely trained by her father, Giovanni Andrea, and she would go on to establish an informal art academy that educated as many as a dozen women in the foundations of painting. She executed public and private commissions, and was even visited in her studio by Cosimo de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany. Upon her unexpected death at the age of 27 years, she was mourned with numerous poems, commemorative music and a grand catalfaque.This rare etching is one of only ten known compositions that Sirani produced in print. In her arrangement of the Holy Family, Sirani privileges female kinship and the domestic environment. She presents the Virgin in the very earthly act of breastfeeding as she entertains the infant St. John. His mother, in turn, is seated behind him, winding swaddling cloth. Joseph, wiedling his axe and a piece of wood, is relegated to the background. The artist uses the platform of the Holy Family to depict a charming image of familial contentment.

 
Sirani, Elisabetta
Bologna, Italy 1638-Bologna, Italy 1665
The Holy Family with Saints Elizabeth and John the Baptist
around 1650-1660
etching on paper, 2/2
27.8 x 22.1 cm
Purchase, Franks Fund and European Art Acquisition Fund, 2018
61-010

Subscribe to our “This Week at Agnes” e-newsletter to stay abreast of events, news and opportunities at the art museum.

Agnes reopened on Tuesday 7 July. Welcome back! Learn more.