The Virgin and Child with Cat and Snake, 1654

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In 1654, Rembrandt's finances were unravelling. Could this be why he chose the stories of Christ's youth-certain sellers-as the subject of a series of prints' Nevertheless he endowed the stories with freshness and originality.

Emphasizing the humility of the infant king, Rembrandt placed the circumcision in the stable in Bethlehem, a break with the artistic tradition placing the event in a grand temple. Even so, a shaft of heavenly light pours down on the Holy Family.

The scene of Mary snuggling Jesus combines everyday Dutch realism with the traditional symbols of the Virgin, including a serpent-Eve's tempter-beneath her foot. Rembrandt poignantly excluded Joseph from the divine interior and cleverly used the leaded-glass window to describe Mary's halo.

Simplicity is the key to the sketchy presentation of Christ's debate with the elderly rabbis. Not only is the twelve-year-old boy the smallest figure and the center of the rabbis' attention, he is also the most simply rendered and lightly shaded.

The final scene, in which the relieved yet weary parents have finally found and retrieved their truant son, shows the long road back to Nazareth. The story as told by Luke, relates that Mary kept all of her sorrows in her heart. Rembrandt emphasized the weight upon her by giving her a stooped posture, reinforced by the curved tree behind her.

Details
Title
The Virgin and Child with Cat and Snake
Artist Life
1606–1669
Role
Artist
Accession Number
P.1,251
Catalogue Raisonne
H.275 i/ii; B.63; Mz.229 i/iii; Holl. 63 i/ii; B-B.54-C i/ii
Curator Approved

This record has been reviewed by our curatorial staff but may be incomplete. These records are frequently revised and enhanced. If you notice a mistake or have additional information about this object, please email collectionsdata@artsmia.org.

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