This particular scene was painted frequently, especially in the Middle Ages, as a common component of the larger cycle of the ‘Life of the Virgin’. It has been painted by, amongst others, Giotto, Perugino (c1500 - 1504), Raphael (c1504), Ghirlandaio (c1485 – 1490), Pieter van Lint (1640), Filippo Bellini (late 16th century), Veronese (mid 16th century), and Giacomo di Castro (17th century). This version, by an unidentified artist, came from an English Catholic Foundation and is believed to be a 17th Century Italian work.
Height 50” (127 cm) Width 57” (145cm)
Stock No. 4235W
A subject of Christian art that is not mentioned in canonical Gospels but covered in various apocryphal sources, notably the ‘Golden Legend’ of the 14th century, this painting presents the story of the Virgin Mary and her marriage to Saint Joseph. In the ‘Golden Legend’, it is told that, when Mary was 14 and living in the Temple, the high priest declared that all the virgins who had been reared in the Temple must return to their families and marry. Mary declared that it was not something she would do as she had vowed herself to God. On consultation with God, the high priest declared that all the men or marriageable age from the house of David must come to the Temple and bring with them a stick and lay it upon the alter. Whomever’s rod blossomed would become espoused to Mary. The Holy Spirit descended as a dove and caused Joseph’s rod to instantly blossom and thus he and Mary were married according to Jewish custom.
The youthfulness and innocence of Mary in this painting is in stark contrast to the maturity of Joseph, who was purportedly much older than the rest of the suitors. Her face and hands appear unfinished, giving her an almost ethereal appearance alongside the assured and protective demeanour of Joseph and the grip of his hand.