Artibus et Historiae no. 29 (XV)

1994, ISSN 0391-9064

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MARGARET ROLAND - Van Dyck's Holy Family with Partridges: Catholic and Classical Imagery at the English Court

A re-examination of documentary and iconographical evidence demonstrates that Van Dyck's Holy Family with Partridges, now in the Hermitage Museum, was painted in England for Queen Henrietta-Maria. It is not, as often accepted in the past, the now lost version that belonged to Frederick-Hendrick of The Netherlands. Visual sources for the painting are found in Christian and pagan works by Rubens and Titian and the symbols used are both Catholic and classical, reflecting the Neo-Platonic atmosphere at the English court. Themes and motifs found in court masques, plays and poetry - including the ring of dancing putti - are paralleled in the Hermitage painting. The inclusion of a sunflower and the prominence of autumn fruits and flowers suggest monarchical allusions as well. Inigo Jones and Ben Jonson are among those who may have played a role in Van Dyck's choice of iconography.

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