A holy family – 13 January 2020

A peasant woman carries her child along a path through a field, the sun on her back. She is accompanied by a young boy, who crouches behind her. The tone of the picture is cool and peaceful.

This painting is both realist and symbolic, finding Christian meaning in everyday people and objects. The fish-net on the woman’s back suggests a halo. On the path in front of them ivy makes the shape of a cross. The silvery light was real, not imagined. Together the group are a Holy Family: Mary, the Christ child, and John the Baptist. The subjects are both humble and holy, drawing the viewer in with confidence, while at the same time pointing to a deeper, more costly, message of the purpose for life of this child.

The picture ‘Maternité’ is by the American artist George Hitchcock, who was resident for a considerable time in the Netherlands. There he painted many pictures of peasant women, often suggesting a deeper spiritual meaning in their simple activities. This picture hangs in Aberdeen Art Gallery.


In fair green hill of Palestine,
And by its winding rills,
Along the Jordan’s sacred stream,
And o’re the vine clad hills.

Once lived and roved the fairest child
That ever blessed the earth;
The holiest and happiest
And yet the humblest birth.

Children’s hymn, 1860

Little Lamb who made thee
Dost thou know who made thee
Gave thee life & bid thee feed.
By the stream & o’er the mead;
Gave thee clothing of delight,
Softest clothing wooly bright;
Gave thee such a tender voice,
Making all the vales rejoice!
Little Lamb who made thee
Dost thou know who made thee

Little Lamb I’ll tell thee,
Little Lamb I’ll tell thee!
He is called by thy name,
For he calls himself a Lamb:
He is meek & he is mild,
He became a little child:
I a child & thou a lamb,
We are called by his name.
Little Lamb God bless thee.
Little Lamb God bless thee.

William Blake, The Lamb