O HOLY COMMUNION: St Joseph and the Christ Child by Guido Reni (1638 – 1640), The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
‘What a sublime vision to have the Son of God ever before his (St. Joseph’s) eyes! Ecstasy most rare! Rapture most marvelous’ – Blessed William Joseph Chaminade
The Artist: Guido Reni (1575 – 1642) is one of the most illustrious Italian painters of the Baroque period. Born in Bologna, Reni came from a family of musicians who encouraged his visual art skills. Eventually, Reni moved to Rome and became the primary leader of a strong Bolognese art contingent there. Like his contemporaries, Reni drew on Biblical and Classical subjects. His works are strategically sculptural, handsomely humanized, and deeply dramatic. The grace and veracity of Reni’s serene compositions won him the title ‘the divine Guido’.
Mastering the moment, the artist captures the divine in his beautiful painting titled ‘St Joseph and the Christ Child.’ He produced two other renditions on the same theme.
Description: As we gaze at the composition, St Joseph steps out of the shadows into a mysterious light. In his arms he beholds the glory of the Incarnation – God made flesh. Joseph holds this mystery with gentle care. He supports the length of the body of Christ Child with his bare hands. Notice those tender lines of age on his sagging skin. It reflects the frailness of the elderly and the delight and delicateness of a newborn. And yet Joseph looks neither back nor forward. He envisions eternity ‘face to face.’
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