Oil on canvas, 89cm by 109.5cm.
This painting was purchased by John, 5th Earl of Exeter (1648-1700) whilst on the Grand Tour.
It first appears in the 1688 Burghley Inventory: ‘The Best Bedd Chambr….1 peice over ye other Doore, our Saviour & St John by Genaro.’
The 1738 Inventory gives a fuller description: ‘Turenne room (the best bedchamber)….Over the other Door a Picture of the Same Size; The Holy Family, Our Saviour holding out his Hand, which St. John is kissing, the Virgin Mary holding a Book in one Hand, the other holding Our Saviour, Elizabeth holds St. John done by Genaro.’
The description of the figure as St. Elizabeth is mistaken. It is, in fact, St. Anne.
Gennari, who was born to a family of artists, studied in the workshop of the great Bolognese Baroque master Guercino (1591-1666).
His style was always close to that of his master and when Guercino died, Gennari inherited his studio.
In 1672, he travelled to France where he worked at the court of Louis XIV and for members of the French aristocracy.
Two years later, he was in London, where he became court painter to both Charles II and James II, painting allegorical and mythological scenes and portraits.
He also received commissions from their wives, Catherine of Braganza and Mary of Modena.