The Cleveland Museum of Art

Collection Online as of November 21, 2017

The Holy Family on the Steps, 1648

oil on canvas, Framed: 103.5 x 135.2 x 13.3 cm (40 11/16 x 53 3/16 x 5 3/16 in.); Unframed: 73.3 x 105.8 cm (28 13/16 x 41 5/8 in.); Former: 72.3 x 104 cm (28 7/16 x 40 15/16 in.). Leonard C. Hanna, Jr. Fund 1981.18

This deceptively simple composition represents a complex meditation on the Holy Family’s role in the redemption of humanity. At the center, Mary presents the Christ Child to the world. At the left, Saint Elizabeth leans forward to foretell his eventual death, while her son, Saint John the Baptist, offers Jesus an apple, signifying humanity’s fall from grace in the Garden of Eden. At the right, Saint Joseph holds a compass, a sign of his occupation as a carpenter and also symbolic of God the Father. Poussin developed his composition meticulously and deliberately, using clear primary colors, simple forms, and a geometric organization to express the central importance of the Holy Family in Christian belief.

Paris 1994, no. 173.
London 1995, no. 60.
Cleveland, Ohio: The Cleveland Museum of Art; November 14, 1999 - January 23, 2000. "A Painting in Focus: Nicolas Poussin's Holy Family on the Steps." color repr. pl. 1, p. 9.
The Frick Collection (November 8, 2006 - January 28, 2007): "Masterpieces of European Painting from The Cleveland Museum of Art", exh. cat. no. 12, p. 60-63.
Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage (March 29, 2007 - July 8, 2007): "Masterpieces of European Painting from the Cleveland Museum of Art"
Musée du Louvre, Parsi (3/30/2015 - 6/29/2015): "Poussin and God"

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Library materials about Nicolas Poussin (147)

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