The Holy Family, Albrecht Bouts

Albrecht Bouts (Flemish, c. 1452–1549)

The Holy Family, c. 1520

Oil on panel

Gift of the Honolulu Star--Bulletin in memory of Frank C. Atherton, 1946 (379.1)

As the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception—the belief that the Virgin Mary was kept free fromof original of original sin from the moment of her conception— became more widely professed during the late 15th century, devotion to Saint Anne, Mary's mother, and Saint Joachim, Mary’s father, increased. As a result, depictions of the Holy Family proliferated at the turn of the 16th century.

In Derek Bouts’ minutely detailed and richly colored depiction of the Holy Family, Saints Anne and Joachim (Mary’s father) occupy the right side of the composition, while on the left, Mary, accompanied by Saint Joseph, supports anthe infant Christ as he

reaches to take from Anne an apple—, a symbol of original sin—from Saint Anne’s hand. With this simple gesture, Boutsthe artist alludes to Christ's role as savior of humankind. In the upper register of the painting, two angels draw aside the canopy's curtains to reveal the dove that symbolizes the Holy SpiritGhost, the vehicle through which Mary divinely conceived Christ.