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The Holy Family with the young St John

Photo credit: Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford

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A famous presentation drawing by Michelangelo of c.1538–1540 was the basis for painted versions by his followers, of which this is the only example with an extensive landscape. Known as 'Il Silenzio' (Silence) because of the gesture of St John, this painting shows the Holy Family contemplating the sleeping Christ, foreshadowing the Lamentation. The Virgin holds a book open at Psalm 85. 11 and lifts a transparent veil from the Child's body, a reference to the revelation of Truth.

The Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology



oil on slate


H 52.5 x W 41.2 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

Bequeathed by George Fairholme, 1846

Work type



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The Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology

Beaumont Street, Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 2PH England

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