The Holy Family with the Infant Christ Pressing the Wine of the Eucharist

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Southern Netherlands

The Holy Family with the Infant Christ Pressing the Wine of the Eucharist, 1485/1525

Linen, wool, silk and gilt-metal-strip-wrapped silk, slit tapestry weave
75.6 x 68.2 cm (29 3/4 x 26 7/8 in.)
Bequest of Mr. and Mrs. Martin A. Ryerson, 1937.1097

This tapestry may be interpreted as a commentary on the Christ Child’s predestined fate to shed his blood to redeem mankind. It depicts the Holy Family, with Christ in the center, flanked by the Virgin Mary on the right and Joseph on the left. Christ squeezes a bunch of grapes above a chalicelike vessel and holds another sprig of grapes in his left hand, which is reflected on a rock crystal globe, where it appears to point toward the cross surmounting the orb. To the right of the infant is located a book, undoubtedly the Bible. Behind the figures, three golden cloths of honor hang from irregularly spaced coiled columns. The outermost column bears a parchment notice that references scripture. The columns, which are meant to resemble the screws of a wine press, allude to the crushed grapes that produce the wine that is transubstantiated into Christ’s blood during the Eucharist.

— Exhibition label, The Divine Art: Four Centuries of European Tapestries, November 1, 2008–January 4, 2009, Regenstein Hall.