The simplicity of this composition is deceptive; it is 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. Saint Joseph, at the right, received new emphasis in the 1600s as an important model for men-especially fathers. His compass, a sign of his occupation as a carpenter, also symbolizes God the Father.
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"