The Holy Family on the Steps, 1648. Creator: Nicolas Poussin (French, 1594-1665)
The Holy Family on the Steps, 1648. 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 colours, simple forms, and a geometric organization to express the central importance of the Holy Family in Christian belief.
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'The same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up...', mid 19th century
'The same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened', mid 19th century. Biblical scene, from Moses 7: 11: 'And after seven days the floodwaters came upon the earth. In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, on the seventeenth day of the second month, all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened. And the rain fell upon the earth forty days and forty nights'. God sends a flood - the only human survivors on Earth are Noah and his family. The rest of the population try desperately to escape the rising floodwaters, but are destined to drown. Engraving after 'Winter (The Flood)', a painting made c1660 by Nicolas Poussin, in a series depicting the Four Seasons, in the Louvre Museum, Paris.
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'The Adoration of the Golden Calf', c1635. Artist: Nicolas Poussin
'The Adoration of the Golden Calf', c1635. According to the Old Testament, the Golden Calf was an idol made by Aaron for the Israelites while Moses was away on Mount Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments from God. When Moses returned and witnessed their idolatry he became angry, smashed the tablets of stone on which the Ten Commandments were inscribed, and destroyed the idol. Found in the collection of the National Gallery, London.
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