(b. 1541, Candia, d. 1614, Toledo)

St Joseph and the Christ Child

Oil on canvas, 289 x 147 cm
Capilla de San José, Toledo

The paintings for the high altar and side altars of the Chapel of San José, Toledo, were begun end 1597; completed end 1599. The Chapel was dedicated to Saint Joseph, Saint Teresa's favourite Saint - 'the Father of my Soul' - for it was the original intention of the founder, Martín Ramírez (d. 1595) to build a chapel for her (d. 1582). The paintings for the high altar (still in place) were the Saint Joseph and the Christ Child, and above, the Coronation of the Virgin; and, for the side chapels, the Saint Martin and the Beggar and the Virgin and Child with Saints.

Saint Joseph and the Christ Child was the central painting of the high altar and probably the first of the series to be painted for the Chapel of San José. Saint Joseph is shown as a figure of trust and protection to the Christ Child, who indicates the way. The colours, the rhythm of the tower-like figure of Joseph, express perfectly the meaning of the painting. There is no 'mannerist' ambiguity in the relationship of figure to setting. The subject is a parallel to that of Saint Anne teaching the Virgin, and is an extract from the theme of the Christ Child walking between the Virgin and Saint Joseph. It is at this time that El Greco begins to include a view of Toledo in his paintings. The view here is that of the Metropolitan Museum painting (none of the view is lost, for the figures merely divide it in two). The small signed version in the Museo de Santa Cruz is probably the model for the painting.