Case in point: Tucked away upstairs in the Audrey Jones Beck Building, in the Carol Clark Tatkon Gallery, is the museum’s crown jewel, a must-see for every one of the MFAH’s 2.5 million yearly visitors.
That’s right, I’m talking about Joos van Cleve’s The Holy Family, which features the sketchiest baby Jesus in the history of ever.
Just look at Him.
Now I’m sure we’ve all seen plenty of versions of Madonna col Bambino; every city’s fine arts museum is required to have at least ten of these suckers. But I ask, have you ever seen a sketchier Bambino?
Just look at Him.
Mary’s boob is nothing new. Sure, this one is nice, even if it’s probably way fairer than hers would’ve been in the real world. Van Cleve worked in Antwerp, so he might’ve only known Low Country breasts. But we’re getting distracted. We’re not here to talk about people crafting gods in their own image. Xenopanes figured that out 2,500 years ago. We’re here to talk about the sketchiest baby Jesus in the history of ever.
Just look at Him. Hand on tit. Grabbing a little bit of her bling. Head cocked toward us. He’s making direct eye contact, just like you wouldn’t want a friend to do in an orgy. His lips are parted with a smirk that says “Awwww, yeah.”
This baby Jesus is a fucking player.
Even Joseph knows something is up. Stepdaddy is hanging out in the back, looking all old, lest we think he could actually get it up for Mary, who has to be a virgin forever in our minds. He’s glancing askew at the Son, wondering just what that little Dude is up to. “Is He feeling up my wife and gloating about it? That little Kid has got some nerve.”
Yep. The sketchiest baby Jesus in the history of ever.
This painting is not without formal and thematic problems. Mary’s fingers are all crazy looking and the perspective is off, as you’d expect from something painted in the early 1500s. That perfectly bound book in Joseph’s hand is clearly a gift from a time traveler. And the red flower in Mary’s hand is nowhere near as cool as this one. But none of that matters, because that baby Jesus is so sketchy, so cocky, so damn lewd, that there’s no way any visit to the MFAH would be complete without stopping by to check Him out.
Baby Jesus, you’re the Man.