Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014
The Infant Christ and St John Embracing
The figures of the infant Christ and St John the Baptist are shown at full-length, sitting on a bank. St John leans across to embrace Christ with both arms and in response Christ raises his right hand to tenderly touch St John's cheek.
The subject is the meeting and embrace of the children on Christ’s return from Egypt. Mary and the Christ Child appear to have met the infant St John while walking in the countryside and the setting here resembles a woodland glade, with the figures framed by leaves, fruit and vine tendrils. Christ is naked and St John wears a goatskin tabard and a small bowl at his waist, in reference to his later roles as a saint in the wilderness and as the baptizer of Christ. His attributes of a reed-cross and a diminutive sheep or lamb are visible at either side of the figures.
There are several versions of this painting, including a qualitatively equal one in the County Museum, Los Angeles. A replica of the work from Mantua was also briefly in Charles I’s collection.