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Saint Joseph with the Young Christ Francisco de Herrera the Elder

Artist

Francisco de Herrera the Elder Seville ca. 1590 – ca. 1656 Madrid

Culture Spanish
Date 1645
Object type painting
Medium, technique oil on canvas
Dimensions

165 × 115 cm

Inventory number 5895
Collection Old Master Paintings
On view Museum of Fine Arts, First Floor, European Art 1600–1700 and British Painting 1600–1800, Cabinet 4

For a long time, Joseph was merely a side character in depictions of the lives of Christ and the Virgin Mary, but in Spain, reverence for him increased at the end of the sixteenth century. Saint Joseph cared lovingly for the Virgin Mary, and not only raised the Child, but also endowed him with virtue and wisdom. In this picture, their intimate relationship is shown by their wordless dialogue of tender gestures. The myrtle flower in Joseph’s hand represents his pure and chaste relationship with Mary, while the crown of thorns in the Child’s hand refers to his coming Crucifixion. Francisco de Herrera was a key figure of painting in Seville in the first half of the seventeenth century. He was one of the first artists to move on from the dominant mannerist approach towards a freer imitation of nature and a method of painting based on contrasts of light and shade.

This record is subject to revision due to ongoing research.

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