This painting is one of Cranach’s best-loved works; some twenty treatments of the subject by him have survived. Christ’s blessing of the children is a typically Protestant subject, for it illustrates Luther’s view that the way to heaven is not through good works (to be performed largely by adults) but through faith alone, understood as an act of divine grace. Although the work presumably did not come into the Holzhausens’ possession until 1810, later nineteenth-century members of that family thought they recognised their own ancestors in the children shown in the picture.
For almost 700 years, from 1245 until 1923, the Holzhausens were one of Frankfurt's most important patrician families and prominent members of the Imperial City's town council. More than thirty members of the family served as mayor on some seventy occasions. Until about 1500 the family were merchants on a large scale, but then concentrated on administering their country property and feudal lands. The death of Adolph Freiherr von Holzhausen (1866-1923) marked the end of the older branch of the family on the male side. He bequeathed to the Städel the ancestral portrait gallery of Frankfurt's Holzhausen family, which dated back to the time of the Renaissance. The portrait collection exhibits the particular charm of an ancestral gallery that has been maintained over many generations.