Jul 23, 2007

The Holy Family with Mary Magdalen

The Holy Family with Mary Magdalen

c. 1590–1595

El Greco

(Spanish, 1541–1614)

Oil on canvas

Framed: 160 x 131 x 7.5 cm (63 x 51 9/16 x 2 15/16 in.); Unframed: 130 x 100 cm (51 3/16 x 39 3/8 in.)

Gift of the Friends of The Cleveland Museum of Art in memory of J. H. Wade 1926.247


The seemingly weightless figures, the startling color combinations, and the moody, imprecise setting all show El Greco’s interest in conveying the intense spirituality of these figures rather than their concrete reality. Above all, the painting addresses Mary’s role as mediator between Christ and the viewer. She supports her son, but her faraway look indicates awareness of his fate. Mary feeds Jesus fruit held by Joseph that is full of symbolic meaning, with the apple representing the fall of man; cherries, the blood of Christ; peaches, salvation; and pears, the sweetness of Christ’s virtue.

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