Jusepe de Ribera, St. Joseph with the Flowering Rod, c. early 1630s
From the Brooklyn Museum of Art:
Called “Lo Spagnoletto” (the little Spaniard) by his Italian clientele, the Spanish-born and trained Ribera made his career in Naples, where his major patron, the Duke of Osuna, served as viceroy to the Spanish Bourbon rulers of southern Italy. Following a Spanish tradition initiated by the famed painter El Greco (1541–1614), Ribera painted individual portraits of Christ’s intimates, including his father Saint Joseph and his disciples. According to apocryphal sources, suitors for the Virgin Mary’s hand were to present rods to the high priest of the Temple. When Joseph’s rod bloomed, he was identified as her betrothed. Ribera conveys the unexpected wonder of the moment with the lighting from above and the aged Joseph’s questioning hand gesture.