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The Holy Family with St John the Baptist by Michelangelo

"Holy Family with St John the Baptist" by Michelangelo

“Holy Family with St John the Baptist” by Michelangelo

“The Holy Family with St John the Baptist” is a painting that was created around 1540 by Michelangelo or his close circle. The unfinished drawing using brown brush wash on poplar wood is laid out only in the outer outlines.

The composition depicts a striding mother, who guides the Christ Child, who is standing by her feet, standing with the use of a walking aid. In her the other hand, she holds the boy St. John walking next to her.

Joseph is shown bent over the Christ child, as he provides additional support while he is learning to walk. The depiction may be commemorating the return of the Holy Family from Egypt.

The work is closely associated with Michelangelo, to whom the picture was previously assigned. Some experts considered it a copy by Michelangelo’s circle of an original lost draft by Michelangelo from the 1640s.

Yet, the unusually high quality of the artwork encourages other experts to attribute the work directly to Michelangelo.

The picture was originally part of the Royal Collection in Naples, and today it is part of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, which acquired it in 1846.

“Holy Family with St John the Baptist” can be compared to Michelangelo’s Doni Tondo (1504–1506) as a reference point to Michelangelo’s style.

"Holy Family with St John the Baptist" by Michelangelo

“Doni Tondo” by Michelangelo – Uffizi Gallery


Michelangelo (1475 – 1564) was an Italian sculptor, painter, architect, and poet of the Renaissance who was born in Florence, and who had a significant influence on the development of Western art.

He is one of the greatest artists of all time. He is often considered as a contender for the title of the leading representative of Renaissance man, along with his rival, Leonardo da Vinci.

The Holy Family with St John the Baptist

  • Title:               The Holy Family with St John the Baptist
  • Artist:             Michelangelo, or close circle
  • Date:              1540
  • Material:        Brown brush wash on poplar wood
  • Dimensions:  62 cm × 49.5 cm
  • Museum:       Ashmolean Museum

Michelangelo: A collection of Drawings


Michelangelo: Mind of the Master

Virtual Tour of Ashmolean Museum

An Art Lesson from Michelangelo

The controversial art of Michelangelo


“Faith in oneself is the best and safest course.”
– Michelangelo


Photo Credit: Ashmolean Museum / Public domain

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