Free Term Paper On Holy Family With ST. Francis In A Landscape

Type of paper: Term Paper

Topic: Painting, Family, Art, Holiness, Artists, Style, Jesus Christ, Landscape

Pages: 7

Words: 1925

Published: 2021/02/23

About the Artist: Giorgio Vasari

Giorgio Vasari (1511-1574) was a renowned Italian architect, historian, painter, and writer. Today, he is famous for his “Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects,” a collection of subjective biographies of artists that he compiled during his career. This collection is considered one of the foundations of historical writing in arts. Born in Arezzo, Tuscany, his cousin recommended him at an early age to become a pupil of a skillful painter of stained glass, Guglielmo da Marsiglia (LACMA). At the age of sixteen, Cardinal Silvio Passerini sent him to Florence to join the circle of Andrea del Sarto where he developed his humanistic education. However, it is believed that Michelangelo’s style later influenced Vasari’s paintings.
Vasari moved to Rome in 1529, where he studied the works of several Roman High Renaissance artists including Raphael (Muchnic, 1987). His own Mannerist painting was admired during his lifetime than it was afterwards. His paintings such as “Holy Family with St. Francis in a Landscape” are not easy to come by since he executed grand commissions of huge decorative cycles on walls of palaces, churches, and public buildings (Muchnic, 1987). Vasari traveled throughout Italy and had several paintings that were admired and kept by different individuals. He also painted the “life of Pope Paul II” at the Palazzo Della Cancellaria in Rome (Muchnic, 1987). Additionally, Vasari engineered the decoration and refurbishment of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence. In his career, Vasari worked for Popes, Cardinals, bankers, and other prominent merchants. Provinciality and awkward passages marked Vasari’s early career. However, when he joined the Florentine and Roman Manneria, he managed to emerge as one of the illustrious and influential exponents (Van Thiel, pp. 24-64).

Description: Holy Family with St. Francis in a Landscape

Several heavenly scenes of the Holy family (Jesus, Joseph, and Mary) are exhibited as simply as scenes that involved the holy and saintly relatives as is exhibited in this painting. Even though the Bible does not present events and episodes involving individuals such as Young John the Baptist and St. Elizabeth with the holy family, artists, especially renaissance artists used incidents that involved the holy family with the saints. It is believed that they might have used apocryphal sources as the reason behind their conclusions (Kempers, p. 39-42). In some paintings, the artists included people such as a patron saint upon the request of their clients. In most paintings including the painting discussed in this article, the accompanying saints were clothed in robes to represent the religious orders (Van Thiel, p. 33).
The painting "Holy Family with St. Francis in a Landscape" was a 16th century painting of Giorgio Vasari, an Italian historian, and painter. The painting was a gift of Ahmanson Foundation (M.87.87). The painting is currently kept at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and available for public view at Ahmanson Building, floor 3 MAP IT. The oil on canvas painting measures 72 1/2 x 49 1/4 in. (184.15 x 125.1 cm). The painting was completed in 1542 in Italy. The painting depicts an adoring mother (Mary) and child (Jesus) in a glowing light, with St. Francis and Joseph looking on them from a darkened background. In this painting, the Virgin Mary has a stylish dress and coiffure.
Joseph also has a clamp that secures his cloak. However, St. Francis puts on a simple robe with the cowl of a monk. The adroitly modeled painting presents an archetypical image of love, familial love. Today, such pictures are reproduced in greeting cards to members of the family and friends. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art procured the painting in 1987 from a private European collection at an undisclosed price. The museum cleaned and restored the painting in its conservation laboratory and availed it in a frame for viewing.

Analysis (Form, Style, and Content)

This painting uses the mannerism style of painting and realism. Mannerism or Manerismo is a high renaissance Italian artistic style that means style or manner. The style dominated Italian art between the 1520s and the early 1590s when the Baroque style was introduced (Barnet, p. 75). This style originated from Rome and Florence as a reaction to the classicism and naturalism of High Renaissance art. Since Giorgio Vasari admired the styles of Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Raphael, most of his paintings including the Holy Family with St. Francis in a Landscape followed the mannerism style. This painting also uses realism as a style of painting. Even though realism was significantly practiced in France, some Italian painters and artists incorporated realism in their arts.
One significant aspect of mannerism that is evident in this painting is the portrayal of nude images. In former paintings of the classism and naturalism, the nude images were presented in natural poses. However, mannerist artists used complex and artificial poses to avoid depicting the nude images. Additionally, the artists would include clothing to cover the nude images. The clothing used in the images was consistent with the classes of the individuals represented in the paintings. Additionally, mannerist artists depicted individuals with graceful but peculiarly elongated limbs, stylized facial features, small heads, and contrived poses (Conisbee, & Mary, p. 29). In this painting, we can see Joseph has elongated arms as he carries the bible in his hand. Mary’s clothing is also stylized hair and clothes.
About the presentation of nude images, it is believed that the naturalism paintings of the early Renaissance regularly used these nude images. However, the painting of the Holy Family with St. Francis in a Landscape avoids the use of nude images. Nevertheless, it still has the baby without clothing. However, children did not have much significance on the paintings even if they were depicted as naked in the painting. The fact that the holy parents and the saint have clothing on them is enough evidence to indicate that the painter is skilled enough to avoid nudeness. The title of the painting itself “The Holy Family with St. Francis in a Landscape” provides the audience with a preconception of the painting even before viewing the painting itself.
Another feature of the mannerism style is evident in the background of the painting. As opposed to other high renaissance paintings, where the backgrounds were flat and had indeterminate dimensions, the mannerist arts were different. The latter used a continuous refinement of form and concept and pushed the contrast and exaggeration to emphasize on the abnormalities of scale (Muchnic, 1987). At times, the painters used a total irrational mix of classical decorations and reference to the antique pictorial fantasies (Muchnic, 1987). The Holy Family with St. Francis in a Landscape also uses similar exaggerations. As earlier indicated, the biblical stories do not provide the association of the saintly individuals with the holy family. However, in this painting, Vasari includes St. Francis in the painting. This could have been upon the request of the client or simply a reference to the antique.
The high renaissance paintings, especially the mannerism paintings represented the nobles. The low-class members of the society were not always painted, but when they were painted, they were depicted with different apparel and in different contexts such as farming. In the Holy Family with St. Francis in a Landscape, Vasari uses the colors to differentiate between the saint and the holy family. It is easy to identify that Joseph and Mary’s clothing are different from St. Francis’s clothing. Mary has a gold lining around her shoulder while Joseph is also wearing a golden clamp to cover his cloak. Additionally, the baby Jesus is also standing on a golden stand with a mattress on it, probably a bed.
However, the contrast is indicated in St. Francis apparel, which is gray in color. I believe that the artist intentionally creates this contrast to enable the audience to differentiate between Joseph and the saint, who is not part of the holy family. Another thing to notice in the positioning of the images, Mary and the baby (Jesus) are brought to the front of the picture while Joseph and the saint are looking from the back. This is used to indicate that, according to the biblical stories, Jesus is the Son of God, who was born through, and earthly mother and Joseph was his caretaker. The saint was also an earthly person who could help Jesus to infuse into the culture of his people.
The image depicts some form of naturalistic photography from the background, especially the background involving the tree and the landscape. It is a free flowing painting with evenness. The saturation of the colors used in the painting is deep with a flat tone. Even though the painting does not have a negative space, its focal point is the representation of the holy family accompanied by St. Francis. As a student and a viewer of this painting, it reminds me of the biblical stories about the holy family. The scene of the painting is also appealing to the tree and the house from a far distance as well as the people in the painting that brings a mixture of naturalistic and artificial poses.


This painting is a religious painting of the holy family and a saint. Saint Francis in this painting is holding a cross in his hand, which is a sign of the suffering of Jesus to the liberation of mankind from sin through the way of the cross. Additionally, Joseph is holding a book in his hand, which represents the Bible.
Apart from the items that the people in the painting are holding, the people here represent holiness. Jesus is the Son of God. Here in the painting, he is with his earthly parents. In some cases in the biblical stories, Jesus associated with unclean people such as lepers and tax collectors. However, this painting avoids these promiscuous scenes and concentrates on the scenes of the holiness of Jesus and his family by introducing a saint.
Today, this painting can be used in different settings. Religious families can use this as a wall painting in their living rooms. In the home setting, the piece of art does not only represent the religious message, but also emphasizes the essence of the family unit. As such, it is worth concluding that the piece enlightens Christian families on the essence of incorporating religious values into the family setting. Additionally, the painting can also be found in churches to represent the holly family and the saint in the church. Moreover, this is an appropriate painting to use on the back of greeting cards to relatives, family, and other worthwhile people, more so during the Christmas festivities. As earlier indicated, this painting represents familial love. The love between the families here is extended to the saint. Therefore, Christians can use the painting to explain to individuals the importance familial love. The presence of such paintings in the houses of Christians can also strengthen the bond among the members of the family. As a student, I can send this painting to my parents or other members of our family.
In conclusion, I consider this painting as appropriately placed in its context according to the time of the painting and the desired purpose. The combination of the colors not only helps in differentiating the saint from Joseph, but also in helping the audience to consider the painter valuable. Secondly, the people in the painting present a theme of familial love as well as the love of God. The saint represents the love of God while the Holy Family represents the love among members of the family. The child is also present in the painting to indicate the purpose of the family. Procreation is one of the prominent themes in high renaissance art across Europe. Overall, this piece of art serves the purpose intended because, artistically, it is excellently designed. Thematically, the piece of work delivers the messages that are rooted in the culture of both the time and the region of origin. The theme of religious spirituality borne in the piece of art is powerfully delivered through the representation of the pious trinity in which Christianity believes.

Works Cited:

Barnet, Sylvan. A Short Guide to Writing about Art. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson, 2008. Print.
Conisbee, Philip, Mary L. Levkoff, and Richard Rand. The Ahmanson Gifts: European Masterpieces in the Collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Los Angeles, CA: Museum, 1991. Print.
Kempers, Bram. Painting, Power, and Patronage: The Rise of the Professional Artist in Renaissance Italy. New York: Allen Lane, 1992. Print.
Van Thiel, Pieter. “The Holy Family.” Rembrandt: The Master and His Workshop. Ed. Sally Salvesen. Vol. 1. New Haven: Yale University Press; London: National Gallery Publications, c. 1991. 161-162.
LACMA “Holy Family with Saint Francis in a Landscape.” Italy, 1542
Muchnic, Suzanne. “Vasari's 'Holy Family' Masterpiece at Museum.” Times Art. October 30, 1987

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