The J. Paul Getty Museum announced the acquisition of two rare paintings, enhancing its collection of European art. The works include The Holy Family by Gerard David and Bouquet of Flowers in a Two-Handed Vase by German artist Ludger tom Ring the Younger. The paintings were purchased individually on the European art market and will go on display at the Getty Center this week.
The Holy Family highlights the artist’s use of rich oil colors and delicate brushwork that distinguish his extraordinarily meticulous painting technique. David placed the three figures—Mary, Jesus, and Joseph—close to the viewer, underscoring their warm, familial bond. The Virgin and Child tenderly embrace as Jesus presses his cheek against Mary’s while she holds her son tightly. Joseph holds a spoon and lidded bowl, keeping the porridge-like milk soup warm for the child. Jesus holds an unblemished apple, a symbol of his role as “the new Adam;” two decaying apples sitting atop the lidded bowl offer a stark allusion to the future passion of Christ.
Typical for painters of the period, David portrayed the figures in a contemporary environment: the buildings and hilly landscape visible outside the window are characteristic of sixteenth-century Netherlands. The superb condition of the painting preserves David’s subtle modeling of flesh and many exquisite details, such as the fine gold highlights of the Virgin’s tresses and the tiny swan floating on the pond in the background.
Bouquet of Flowers in a Two-Handed Vase by German artist Ludger tom Ring the Younger becomes the earliest independent still life painting in Getty’s collection. It marks a pivotal moment in Renaissance art, when close artistic observation of European plants, initially expressed through drawn and watercolor studies by German masters Martin Schongauer and Albrecht Dürer around 1500, became worthy subjects of panel painting. It is the first bouquet painting by Ring acquired by a museum in the United States.
The painting imparts a monumentality despite its relatively modest scale. On a simple shelf or table set against a dark background, the artist depicted a luxurious two-handled vase made of milky Venetian glass decorated with gold and blue enamel. The vibrant bouquet features over fifteen species of plants native to northern Europe, including roses, gillyflowers, pot marigolds, pink daisies, violets, and rosemary.