Unknown Master, The Holy Kinship
Germany, circa 1410-40
Tempera on oak
Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, Cologne, Germany
This is what the Middle Ages saw as the Virgin Mary's extended family.
The women are in a "garden enclosed," a phrase from the Song of Songs 4:12 traditionally applied to the Virgin. The men of the family stand at the garden wall behind them.
The members of the family and their relationships are explained in the Golden Legend's chapter 131 on the birth of Mary. They can be identified as follows:
The woman on the far left is Mary Salome, the third of St. Anne's daughters. On her lap are her sons James the Greater and John the Evangelist. The man reaching down to touch her from behind the wall is her husband Zebedee.
Moving to the right we see Alpheus and his wife Mary, the second of Anne's daughters, with their four children. The three at her knees are the future apostles Simon, Jude, and James the Less. About to kiss his mother's face is Joseph the Just, the "Barsabas" who was a candidate to succeed Judas as the twelfth apostle (Acts 1:23).
The next woman in the row is Anne herself. Behind her are her three husbands: Salomas, Cleophas, and Joachim. Joachim was Anne's first husband and the father of the Virgin Mary. When he died Anne married Cleophas, the father of Mary the wife of Alpheus. And when Cleophas died she married Salomas, the father of Mary Salome.
The Virgin Mary sits on her mother Anne's left, with Jesus on her lap and her spouse Joseph standing behind her.
On Mary's left are her cousin Elizabeth. Elizabeth's husband Zechariah stands behind her. On her lap, the baby who will be John the Baptist reaches toward Jesus, a reminder of the time when he leapt in the womb at the approach of the pregnant Virgin (Luke 2:41).
Next is Elizabeth's mother Hismeria. The man in the red headpiece reaching toward her is unlabeled but is probably Hismeria's husband, the father of their son Eliud, who stands at his left.
The last of the men on the far right is Eminen, the son of Eliud. His wife is the last of the women on the far right. The Golden Legend does not give her a name. The child on her lap is labeled Servatius. The Golden Legend confuses this child with the St. Servatius who was bishop of Maastricht in the 4th century.
Read more about the Holy Kinship.
Read more about St. Anne, St. Mary Salome, and the Virgin Mary.
Source: Wikimedia Commons