St. Joseph and the Christ Child
Attributed to Sebastian Salcedo, active Mexico, 1779-1783
Oil on Canvas
Sight: H 18 3/4 in. x W 14 3/4 in.
Gift of Fred and Jann Kline, Fred R. Kline Gallery
Knights of Columbus Religious Heritage Art Collection
The basic composition of Salcedo’s painting is based on the two central figures of St. Joseph and the Christ Child. Both are encompassed by a frame-like garland of roses on one side and shafts of wheat on the other, suggesting the symbolic bread of the Eucharist. The scattered cherubs show two small figures upholding the roundel, while above, two more peer down between a spray of lilies. All the elements lend to the style of Mexican Rococo.
An expression of quiet tenderness is displayed by both figures. St. Joseph, eyes looking downward, leans his head ever so gently to support the Child’s, whose eyes gaze quietly outward toward the viewer, ever mindful of his destiny. The infant is swaddled in red garments and holds a small red heart-shaped plaque to his chest, emblematic of the color of the passion and the life-sustaining energy of the Eucharist.
St. Joseph, the foster-father of Jesus holds a lily to symbolize his purity. As head of the Holy Family, he is patron for families and Christian fathers.
Since the Counter-Reformation, the Church had encouraged devotion to St. Joseph as both patron of the workers and a role model for husbands and fathers. He became extremely popular among the Indians of Mexico, and his image was often commissioned for village churches, private chapels, and home altars.
Active in Mexico, 1779-1783.
Little is known about Salcedo, although he was active as painter of narrative religious subjects in the 1700s and 1780s. Other paintings attributed to him include many small-scale images on copper or wood in the cloying style of the late Mexican Rococo. The short range of dates of his works suggest he either lived a short life or left painting to engage in another pursuit, most likely a religious vocation.