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Record Image
Stella, Jacques (French, b.1596, d.1657), Attributed to
The Virgin, Child and Infant St John the Baptist with a Lamb
oil on copper
309 x 239 mm sight size; 435 x 365 x 55 mm frame size
Collection of the Dunedin Public Art Gallery. Purchased 1996 with funds from the Dunedin Public Art Gallery Society.
The son of a minor painter and dealer, Jacques Stella was made artist to the French court by King Louis XIII. He was in Italy when he befriended Nicolas Poussin (1594–1665), and was one of few people to become close to this great 17th-century intellectual landscape painter. Like Poussin, Stella returned to France, where his paintings of biblical themes were popular. Usually small and painted on supports such as stone and metal, they employ the concentration of the miniature and the richness of the cabinet picture to make exquisite devotional images.
This painting shows the Holy Family with the infant St John the Baptist identifiable by the presence of the lamb. The Mother of God is shown not as a poor woman but as the well-dressed occupant of a richly decorated chamber. Such paintings were meant for the well-to-do, who doubtless found it easier to identify with a subject like themselves. Despite such artifice, there is no mistaking the sincerity of the depiction. Christian belief meets a universal human concern as the artist portrays both a mother’s tenderness for her infant and his cousin and an awareness that their future might be perilous.

not on view

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