National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Saint Mary Salome and Her Family Bernhard Strigel (artist)
German, 1460/1461 - 1528
Saint Mary Salome and Her Family, c. 1520/1528
oil on panel
overall: 125 x 65.7 cm (49 3/16 x 25 7/8 in.)
Samuel H. Kress Collection
On View
From the Tour: 15th and Early 16th-Century Germany
Object 7 of 8

This work and its companion, Saint Mary Cleophas and Her Family, also in the Gallery's collection, portray Jesus' extended family. According to the medieval Golden Legend, the Virgin's mother was married three times and bore two other daughters named Mary. These panels show the younger Marys with their own children, Jesus' cousins. Here Mary Salome is surrounded by her father, whose unusual hat identified Jews in medieval Europe; her husband; and her children saints James and John the Evangelist, the latter occupied with a book to remind viewers of his role as Gospel writer and the author of Revelations. The eagle was his traditional symbol.

This domestic and tranquil subject appealed to popular sentiment and to worshipers' personal identification with Christ and the saints. The panels probably flanked a sculpted centerpiece of painted and gilded figures, creating a crowded tableau that would have resembled real-life scenes from medieval passion plays, in which townspeople acted out events from the life of Christ.

In these paintings, with their tooled gold backgrounds and shallow space, Strigel returned to a Gothic sentiment that had largely been abandoned after the Reformation swept through Germany in the 1520s. More typical of this period are his portraits of Hans Roth and his wife, also in the Gallery's collection. This couple represents a new clientele: prosperous merchants and burghers. Her family, and perhaps his as well, had far-flung ventures in the New World and the spice trade.

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