National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Saint Anne with the Christ Child, the Virgin, and Saint John the Baptist Hans Baldung Grien (artist)
German, 1484/1485 - 1545
Saint Anne with the Christ Child, the Virgin, and Saint John the Baptist, c. 1511
oil on hardboard transferred from panel
painted surface: 87 x 75 cm (34 1/4 x 29 1/2 in.) support: 89 x 77.6 cm (35 1/16 x 30 9/16 in.) framed: 110.5 x 100 x 7 cm (43 1/2 x 39 3/8 x 2 3/4 in.)
Samuel H. Kress Collection
1961.9.62
On View
From the Tour: 15th and Early 16th-Century Germany
Object 6 of 8

Unlike most artists of the time, who followed their fathers' trades, Baldung came from a distinguished professional family. While in the workshop of Albrecht Dürer he acquired the nickname Grien (green), possibly for his acid-green pigments or preference in clothes. He and Dürer were close friends, and Baldung's own style was influenced by his teacher's encounter with Renaissance and classical art in Italy. Here the scene is placed, not against a gold background, but in a realistically portrayed room that opens on a landscape in the distance. The robust figures, shaped by bright light, are active and vital. Their sculptural presence is similar to that in Dürer's Madonna and Child nearby.

Saint Anne embraces her daughter Mary and holds Jesus as John the Baptist, by his gesture, repeats the Gospel exhortation "Behold the Lamb of God" (John 1.29). Saint Anne's popularity was stimulated by interest in Christ's human life and by growing acceptance of the doctrine of Mary's Immaculate Conception, which freed her from original sin—notice the apple she holds jointly with her son. After Baldung's Strassburg home became a center of the Reformation, commissions for religious altars became scarce and he turned to secular subjects and to printmaking.

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