Jean Bourdichon, Tours, c. 1505–1510

Paris, Ecole des Beaux-Arts, M. 90–93

Family in Christendom has always also been the Holy Family, as prefigured in the house of Joseph in Nazareth after the return from Egypt. The picture could indeed be derived from this idea, showing an honest joiner with his wife in his workshop, handling his oversized plane. The craftsman could be identified as Joseph, although here he is not a carpenter; the woman at the spindle could be Mary; and the Infant Christ himself could be collecting the shavings on the floor. But a joiner is not a carpenter, and even though the Mother of God is frequently shown spinning before her confinement, this activity is rarely portrayed in Christ’s youth. Therefore a restriction to the Holy Family in Nazareth is purely speculative.