Dream of St. Joseph and Baxandall

7:00 AM

Anton Raphael Mengs, Dream of Saint Joseph, 1772

Perspective.  Perspective changes how one may look at a situation.  Change the perspective and the opinion may change as well. The author of Painting and Experience In Fifteenth Century Italy, Michael Baxandall, also asks us to view things through a different perspective, either of that lifestyle or era.  

Through a modern perspective, Mengs's Saint Joseph looks as if he is done with his wife's nagging as she constantly reminds him to take out the trash, "Not again...just leave me in peace," as would be a recurring phrase in contemporary society.  But to bear in mind Baxandall's teachings, let us view this piece through another light.  

To coincide with older teachings, Joseph would dream of a son, but rather not his own son, but that of God's.  Here he learns of the annunciation of Christ through a dream.  And so by looking at the artwork as is from that time period, we see the true nature of the piece.  It is not a man weary from his wife's nagging, instead it portrays a rather a joyous moment in Joseph's life.  Perspective is imperative in any situation and key to learning about the whole picture.

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