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Philippe de Champaigne, The Dream of Saint Joseph

Key facts
Full title The Dream of Saint Joseph
Artist Philippe de Champaigne
Artist dates 1602 - 1674
Date made 1642-3
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 209.5 × 155.8 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1957
Inventory number NG6276
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
The Dream of Saint Joseph
Philippe de Champaigne

According to the Gospel of Matthew, an angel appears to the Virgin Mary’s husband, Joseph, in a dream. Champaigne shows the angel gesturing towards both heaven and the Virgin Mary, confirming that Christ has been conceived through the Holy Ghost. Kneeling in front of an open Bible, Mary glances towards the angel, her arms crossed over her chest.

Joseph was the patron saint of workers, particularly carpenters and joiners. He is surrounded by craftsman’s tools and portrayed as a youthful rather than elderly man, as was more common. The ornately carved chair and deeply padded cushion on which he rests his head are at odds with the simplicity of his yellow cloak and sandals. His appearance signifies his humility, which the viewer would have been encouraged to follow.

This subject was painted frequently during the seventeenth century, and an annual day of devotion to Saint Joseph (19 March) was introduced in 1621.

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