Friday, March 28, 2014

40 Days of Paintings - St. Joseph with the Infant Jesus (Guido Reni)

It has occured to me before that there are so many images of the Virgin Mary with the baby Jesus.  Just look at Raphael's work alone.  But we see images of Joseph with the baby Jesus not nearly as often.  There are pictures of the Holy Family all together, but still few of the father and son bonding time alone.  And that's when we turn to Guido Reni, one of the great stars of Italian Baroque.
Now, I may be wrong.  There may be plenty of images of Joseph and the child Jesus together, and I'm just not looking hard enough.  But I will say that this is certainly one of the most tender of images.  The first painting of this 40 Days series was one of Raphael's many paintings of Mary and the infant Jesus, and I chose my favorite of them all.  It is my favorite for the same reason I love this painting by Guido Reni.  It is a real father with a real infant sharing a tender, candid moment together as father and son.  Just as Raphael's was the same with a mother and her infant son.  There is no distance between them, and as with Raphael's Mary, Joseph here is completely smitten with love for this child.
So just out of curiosity, I just did a web search for images of Joseph and the baby Jesus, and there are a few.  But none of them come close to this piece as far as having a personal connection between father and son (and also not being way too cheesy and modern-looking). 
I really do feel kind of sorry for Joseph, because he just isn't talked about that much in Christian tradition, except as the guy who married Mary and raised God's Son.  But beyond that, we don't know that much about him, or how he was as a father to Jesus.  In some ways, I like to think of Joseph as the hard-working redneck type who taught Jesus how to get his hands dirty.  Joseph was a carpenter, and I definitely think he taught Jesus a thing or two about being a hard worker, to catch fish, and prepare them for meals.  And at the end of the day, I think what we see with the relationship between Joseph and Jesus is what we see in this painting - a father who loves his son.  In modern times, Joseph would be the type of father to teach Jesus to play catch, throw a football, drive a car, to treat people with respect, and also to stand up for what is right.  I'd like to think that much of the strength that helped Jesus endure his Passion was strength that his father Joseph taught him.

St. Joseph and the Infant Jesus
oil on canvas
c. 1620s

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