Vouet, Simon

Paris 1590 - Paris 1649
Biography & List of works

The Holy Family


Medium: Oil On Canvas

Size: 118 x 102 cm


Cardinal Jules Mazarin, Palais Mazarin, Paris (his posthumous inventory of 1661, “1007. Un autre [peinture] faict par Vouet, sur toille, représentant la Vierge assise tenant le Petit Jesus entre ses bras, et Sainct Joseph auprès avecq une livre. Hault de trois pieds six pouces et large de trois pieds …. Prise 300L (see Comte de Cosnac, Les Richesses du Palais Mazarin, Paris, 1884, p.304); Private Collection, London.


William R. Crelly, The Paintings of Simon Vouet, New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1962, no. 163, p. 232; Vouet, Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, 6 November 1990 – 11 February 1991, Exhibition Catalogue by Jacques Thuillier in collaboration with Jean-Pierre Cuzin, assisted by Barbara Brejon de Lavergnée (for the drawings) and Denis Lavalle (for the tapestries), p. 138.

Of his later works, this splendid Holy Family was until recently only known from the engraving in reverse by Pierre Daret, dated 1646, and some indifferent copies. [1] Our painting is one of his largest compositions of this subject and was commissioned by Cardinal Jules Mazarin, the effective ruler of France during the last years of Louis XIII and the infancy of Louis XIV. The image of the Christ Child clutching tightly to His mother’s robe in a familiar infantile gesture is one that is well-known to us from other Madonnas by the artist. The rich, dark green of the curtain behind is particularly striking, although the grand, gilded throne in which the Virgin is seated demonstrates that Vouet was unwilling to present the Holy Family in the kind of crude setting in which one might expect to have found them. This is a moment of intimacy and emotion that suggests a very personal response.[2]


On 6 July 1995 Brejon (with Pierre Rosenberg) saw the painting in London and remarked “le tableau est magnifique et ne me pose aucun probleme. C’est un important inedit”. 

[1]A superior quality copy can be found in the Snite Museum of Art, University of Notre Dame, Indiana.

[2] The painting, which has several prominent pentiments has been examined by Arnaud Brejon and Pierre Rosenberg, who confirmed its autograph status.