Peter Paul Rubens’ oil on canvas painting, Holy Family with St. Elizabeth and St. John the Baptist, measures 114×88 cm and was created in 1615 using a baroque style. The painting depicts the Holy Family with St. Elizabeth and St. John the Baptist in contemporary Flemish attire that lacks halos, giving it a secular tone to connect better with people of the time.
The image stands out because it contains an exposed breast on Mary, which alludes to the need for physical nourishment that humans require, linking Jesus to humanity’s level making Christianity more accessible to ordinary people. Rubens’ intention was to create art that portrayed religious figures as human beings instead of idealizing them like other artists did at that time.
Rubens painted Mary with her right hand over Jesus’ head while Joseph is seated holding his staff resting against his shoulder on Christ’s left side; behind them stands Saint Elizabeth holding Saint John in her arms towards Mary, accompanied by angels above dipping flowers softly into lilies held parallel by two cherubs chained together at its base.
Overall, Ruben’s innovative approach spoke directly and contemporarily compared to others who found their creations disconnected from reality during this time when Protestantism grew against an Orthodox Church imposing heightening aesthetic ideals upon images of holiness during Baroque era art’s emergence.