Holy Family with Saint John the Baptist

Bonifacio de' Pitati

measurements: výška 82.1 cm, šírka 116.4 cm
work type: painting
object type: easel painting
genre: religious motif
material: wood
technique: oil
institution: Slovenská národná galéria, SNG
curator: Zuzana Ludiková
inventory number: O 1772
in collections:
licence: Creative Commons License public domain
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The gesture of baby John the Baptist in the arms of Joseph is decisive in this scene from the life of the Holy Family. The child points at the veduta of Bethlehem, which explains the theme of the painting. It depicts the Holy Family fleeing to Egypt. The event rather than a symbolic picture in connection with the Holy family is the focus of attention.

The Virgin Mary holding baby Jesus and Joseph with baby John the Baptist are seated across from each other. We can see them in three-quarter profiles in short perspective contractions. The illusion of the deep space of the panoramic landscape is achieved by alternating the illuminated sections on the principle of an aerial perspective. The use of space and the mutual relations of the characters in the plot is harmonious and symmetrical.

The same composition design and an almost identical depiction of Joseph with baby John the Baptist is found in a painting whose current location is unknown. It was designated as and attributed to the work of Venetian master, Bonifazio de’ Pitati in a monograph related to his work. The short and stocky figures and the large drape-like clothing of the biblical figures represent a conservative and more traditional part of his work. The contrast created between the intimate expressions in the relations of the individual characters and their distance from the spectator is obvious. Bonifazio’s religious paintings are existentially related to a gradual change in attitude.

The aforementioned qualities are especially noticeable in his early works created before 1528. Bonifazio, who came from Verona, was mentioned in Venice for the first time after working for many years in the workshop of Palma il vecchio (around 1479–1528). In his later work, he created traditional paintings for private devotion. This was due to the limited patronage within local and less prestigious circles.

Zuzana Ludiková ● LUDIKOVÁ, Zuzana - BURAN, Dušan. Talianska maľba = Italian Painting. Bratislava : Slovenská národná galéria, 2013. 242 strán. ISBN 9788080591748.