Advanced Search

The Infant Christ and Saint John the Baptist Playing in a Mountainous Landscape

Photo by Peter Paul Geoffrion

The Infant Christ and Saint John the Baptist Playing in a Mountainous Landscape

Artist: Pieter Van Der Werff (Dutch, 1665–1722)
Culture: Dutch
Date: 1715
Medium: Oil on panel
Dimensions:
22 5/8 x 19 1/2 x 1 1/4 inches (57.5 x 49.5 x 3.2 cm)
Classification: Painting
Credit Line: Museum purchase
Label Text:This painting by Pieter van der Werff is a replica of the central motif in a work (below) by the artist’s older brother and teacher, Adriaen van der Werff (1659 – 1722). Pieter’s composition differs from that of Adriaen’s in that it is slightly smaller and lacks the Virgin Mary seated behind the two children. In both works, the Christ child on the left embraces John the Baptist while holding a bird in his hand. This bird, probably a goldfinch, symbolizes Christ’s death on the cross and the soul’s resurrection from its earthly body. The goldfinch, whose diet consists of thistle seed and other thorny plants, is associated with the crown of thorns worn by Christ before his death, and thus foreshadows future events in the infant’s life.

Provenance: Purchased December 13, 2001 through (Sotheby's London, lot 120) by Duke University Museum of Art, now Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University.
Object number: 2001.42.1