Joseph lifts up the child Jesus like any father and excitedly teaches Him all about the Law that he loves so dearly, regardless if his son is particularly old enough to understand yet. Jesus looks attentively to the Law, learning devotion and love of His Heavenly Father from his earthly father.
In the mystery of the God-Man, Jesus is fully God and fully Man. Fully God from the moment of His conception, understanding all things through the fullness of the Godhead. But as FULLY Man, He also had to learn all things as any man learns. This is the mystery of both being true at once.
Ancient tradition, particularly in iconography, depicts the Child Jesus as a little fully-developed man to show this Divinity which is His nature from the start. So too in this piece, I added a regality and poise far surpassing the toddler body.
But with resting His hand on Joseph, He fully accepts and loves being taught by his foster father.
Joseph wears a simple white, in symbolism of his poverty and his purity, and green, in symbolism of his fidelity to God. The Torah* (with “Torah written on it in Hebrew) is bright red as the prophecies of the Messiah will be fulfilled in the Cross, mirroring the cross that always adorns Jesus’ halo.
Painted as a comission the client wanted a gift for her friend who was converting at Easter. The friend had a huge devotion to St. Joseph particularly in him being the first teacher of the Law to Jesus and in him leading us to Mary. Because both would have been too complicated for the small size of the painting, I added the blue background as Joseph leading up to Mary.
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*yes. It would have been a scroll. But have you ever seen anyone hold a scroll with one hand without looking incredibly awkward? One of my favorite things about devotional art is that it is outside the bounds of time. Look at a Caravaggio and see his masterful weaving of modern clothing with historical clothing.