Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Joseph’s Dream

Title: Joseph’s Dream

Artist: Gaetano Gandolfi

Medium: Oil on canvas

Size: 95 x 76 cm

Date: c. 1790

Location: Private collection.

In Matthew 2:13 it is written that sometime after the magi had departed by their surreptitious route, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. "Get up," he said, "take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him."

Jesus' miraculous escape here should not lead us to overlook the nature of his deliverance (compare, for example, 1 Kings 17:2-6). Jesus and his family survived, but they survived as refugees, abandoning any livelihood Joseph may have had at home as they were undoubtedly traveling lightly. Although travel within Egypt was may have been easy for visitors with means, many Judeans had traditionally regarded refuge in Egypt as a last resort.

Gaetano Gandolfi (August 31, 1734 – June 20, 1802) was a successful artist active in Bologna, whose oeuvre includes about 220 paintings, terracotta sculptures, etchings and a huge number of drawings. From its beginnings, Gaetano's art was brilliant and individual. He had a distinguished academic career and between 1751 and 1756 won two medals for sculpture and four for drawing. In later years, he became increasingly neo-classical. Both stylistically and thematically he seems to have been well aware of Giaquinto as well as artistic currents in France in the 1760s. Gaetano died playing bowls in the church field of S. Egidio, probably of a heart attack, although there is an alternative tradition that he was knocked on the head by a ball.

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