Where: The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri.
The setting is entirely domestic – not religious – and Joseph has assumed an uncommon position in this particular rendering of Madonna and Child.
“Joseph is subordinated in this painting and appears to be older than usual with a walking stick,” says Ian Kennedy, Louis L. and Adelaide C. Ward curator of European Painting and Sculpture for the Nelson.
Virgin and Child in a Domestic Interior was painted in the mid-fifteenth century by Flemish painter and Van Eyck student, Petrus Christus. It’s more than 500 years old and in excellent condition, making it one of the masterpieces of the Nelson-Atkins collection.
“The chandelier and very detailed interior are very characteristic of the Flemish and of Christus,” says Kennedy of Van Eyck’s star pupil. “The painting is very geometric looking, and Christus is trying to get away from the influence of Van Eyck.”
The artist’s hometown of Brugges, Belgium is visible through the window and an apple on the ledge symbolizes the fall of man. The colors are bright; the green in the bedspread is especially vibrant and Mary’s skirt is painted atypically turquoise.
“Everybody likes it,” says Kennedy. ”It’s a picture you can keep looking at and find something new to admire each time.”
The painting — a favorite at Christmastime — can be viewed at the Nelson.