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For most of us the family is the centre of our lives, and so for artists and patrons family life is a subject that has wide and instant appeal. The subject of the family was also important when one of art’s functions was to instruct and inspire: the Holy Family set the model in Christian societies and stories from myths and legends could provide warnings of how not to behave.

Family portraits can be among the most appealing, with a range of ages, the opportunity for showing relationships within the group and their domestic settings (as in so-called ‘conversation pieces’). Some households included household staff or servants in their group portraits. Deceased children could also be included.