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Saint Joseph's Dream
Herrera the Younger, Francisco de
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Herrera the Younger, Francisco de

Sevilla, 1627 - Madrid, 1685

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Saint Joseph's Dream

Ca. 1662. Oil on canvas.
Not on display

An angel appears to Saint Joseph in his sleep, pointing to the dove of the Holy Ghost as the heavens open in a luminous burst of glory. Under the dove, a group of angels carry a mirror and flowers alluding to the fact that Mary remains a virgin despite her pregnancy. On a mat alongside the saint, we see an adze, a hand drill and other carpentry tools.

Saint Joseph’s Dream was a relatively frequent subject in Siglo de Oro Spain, as it combined an interest in that saint fostered by Saint Teresa with a deeply rooted devotion to the Virgin Mary. In most cases, the scene is set indoors, often in a carpentry shop. Here, however, Herrera the Younger sets it outdoors, and that change has very important consequences from an esthetic viewpoint, as it allowed the artist to display his greatest skills. Following his return to Spain at some point before 1654, Herrera became extraordinarily famous for large compositions in which one or more figures are lit from behind by the light shining down when the heavens open. This divine light fills the paintings with light and color and blurs the forms in a manner that in no way lessens the artist’s complete mastery of drawing and composition. With its perfect merging of form and content, the present painting is clearly one of that group of works that launched the high baroque period for painting in Madrid and Seville. And there is no better expression of the ethereal and impalpable nature of dreams, miracles and mysteries than this equally ethereal, luminous and impalpable style of painting.

The rapid recognition of this work’s extraordinary values is reflected in a comment by Antonio Palomino (1724), who saw it in its original location at the chapel of San José in the church of Santo Tomás in Madrid: where the pilgrim can also find a painting of the dream of Saint Joseph (...) on the top of the altarpiece; which I consider the most gifted and tasteful that I have seen of his work. That reference obliges us to date the painting from 1660 or after, when Herrera settled definitively in Madrid. With this work, the Museo del Prado endows its collection with one of the masterpieces of Spain’s high baroque, contemporaneous with paintings by Murillo or Claudio Coello, as well as others at the museum by Herrera himself that demonstrate the degree to which Spain’s finest artists were able to create a powerfully original and distinctive language.

Technical data

Inventory number
Herrera the Younger, Francisco de
Saint Joseph's Dream
Ca. 1662
Height: 196.5 cm; Width: 209.5 cm
Colegio de Santo Tomás, Madrid; Collection of Sebastián Gabriel de Borbón; Gentile, Paris; Legenhooch, Paris, 1953; Newhouse Galleries, New York, 1954; Chrysler Museum, Norfolk; Collection of Plácido Arango Arias; Bequest of Plácido Arango Arias, 2015.

Bibliography +

Palomino de Castro y Velasco, Acisclo Antonio, El Museo Pictorico y Escala Optica. Vol. I y II, Aguilar, Madrid, 1947, pp. 1021.

Sullivan, E. J., Painting in Spain 1650-1700. From North American Collections, The Art Museum, Princenton, 1982, pp. n. 19.

Pérez Sánchez, Alfonso E., Carreño, Rizi, Herrera y la pintura madrileña de su tiempo, Ministerio de Cultura. Banco Herrero, Madrid, 1986, pp. 98-99.

Valdivieso, E. (ed.), La pintura sevillana en los siglos de oro, Ministerio de Cultura, Dirección General de Bellas Artes y Archivos, Madrid, 1991, pp. 104-5.

Pérez Sánchez, A. E., Navarrete Prieto, B., Pintura española recuperada por el coleccionismo privado, Fundación Fondo de Cultura de Sevilla, Sevilla, 1996, pp. n. 56.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Plácido Arango Arias. Donación de 25 obras maestras de su colección de arte antiguo al Museo del Prado, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2015, pp. n. 17.

Portús Pérez, Javier, Francisco de Herrera 'el Mozo' El sueño de José, En: Donación de Plácido Arango Arias al Museo del Prado, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2016, pp. 56-57 n.19.

Contini, R, 'Francisco de Herrera, 'El Mozo'. The Dream of St.Joseph' En:, El Siglo de Oro: The Age of Velázquez., Staatliche Museen ; Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung, 2016, pp. 242-243 n.86.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Memoria de actividades 2015, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2016, pp. 60-61.

Other inventories +

Inv. Nuevas Adquisiciones (iniciado en 1856). Núm. 2906.

Exhibitions +

06.06.2020 - 25.07.2021

El Siglo de Oro. The Age of Velázquez
01.07.2016 - 30.10.2016

Temporal presentation: The Plácido Arango donation
07.07.2015 - 22.11.2015

Update date: 25-10-2022 | Registry created on 24-08-2015

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