Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (Circle)

Saint Joseph With The Christ Child

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (Circle)

Saint Joseph With The Christ Child

This late 17th-century Spanish oil painting depicts Saint Joseph carrying the Christ child.

Probably dating to around 1690, this remarkable survivor of the Baroque period portrays Saint Joseph carrying a flowering rod. The symbolism relates to the biblical story according to St Jerome, whereby each of Mary’s suitors brought a rod to the high priest of the Temple. Joseph’s rod blossomed which was interpreted as a divine sign that he was chosen to be her husband.

The composition appears to be an adaptation of a work by Spanish artist Bartolomé Esteban Murillo from 1665/1666. In Murillo’s original, we see a slightly older Christ standing on a plinth. 

Murillo produced various versions of Saint Joseph with the Christ child, each of which was adapted by apprentices and followers. Towards the latter part of his career, he formed an academy in Seville and it’s possible that this work originated there.

Meneses Osorio (c.1640-1721) produced a similar version, which is in the Museum of Fine Arts in Seville. Here, we see Christ being carried in a similar way but with Saint Joseph facing right, rather than left. The cherubs are also on the opposite side. When a composition is flipped, it could indicate that it’s based on an engraving, as these are generally reversed after the original.

There’s another interesting variation in the collection of the Auckland Art Gallery in New Zealand.

A wonderful relic produced amid a historical context that seems a world apart from our own.

Housed in a later frame, which originated in Seville.

Medium: Oil on canvas
Overall size: 19” x 23” / 48cm x 59cm
Year of creation: c. 1690
Labels & Inscriptions: Sevillian framer’s label on the reverse.
Provenance: Private collection, Seville, Spain / Private collection, Denmark.
Condition: Dark due to the natural ageing of organic pigments. Cleaned. Craquelure but the paint is stable. Canvas relined. Frame with some wear.

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