Maître du retable tardif de Salem
(Peter Igel?, active 1496-about 1516)
The Holy Kinship
Tempera and oil on wood
46.2 x 129.6 cm
Purchase, gift of Murray G. Ballantyne, inv. 1960.1266
This panel shows the legendary relations of Mary, Mother of God. Mary sits in the middle, against the gold background, with the baby Jesus and her mother, Saint Anne. According to tradition, she married three times and had numerous descendants. However, it is not her daughters who are of genealogical interest here, but her grandchildren, for these include some of the future disciples of Christ. The Holy Kinship was a theme that enjoyed great popularity in Northern Europe in the later fifteenth century. This work must once have been the predella − long, horizontal panel at the bottom of alterpieces − of a triptych which is ideal for presenting group pictures. Scholars refer to this screen as the Later Salem Altarpiece. The artist characterizes himself in his figures which turn towards each other with intent expressions, making the sense of sight a distinguishing motif.