MICHELANGELO Buonarroti
(b. 1475, Caprese, d. 1564, Roma)

Jacob - Joseph

1511-12
Fresco, 215 x 430 cm
Cappella Sistina, Vatican

"Matthan begat Jacob. Jacob begat Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ." (Matthew 1:15-16)

At the top of the entrance wall of the chapel, to the right of the viewer, next to the Eleazar-Matthan lunette, there is the one concluding the genealogical sequence of the ancestors of Christ in the Gospel of St Matthew.

Sullen and perplexed, wrapped in a huge yellow ochre cloak and seemingly withdrawn, the old man - generally believed to be Jacob - dominates the family group on the left due to his expressive power and the quality of the colour. Similarly, on the right, the female figure, usually thought to be Mary, is more prominent than the other members of the Holy Family and the child holding a mirror. Behind Mary in the shadow, Joseph holds the Christ child, who stretches out an arm toward the round mirror held out at the height of his face by a naked female child, possibly an allegory of the Church.

The compositional schemes of the two neighbouring lunettes correspond: in both there is a female figure in the foreground seen in full, or half, profile and facing the outer wall of the chapel, and a male figure, on the internal side, with his torso seen frontally.

Suggested listening (streaming mp3, 5 minutes):
Étienne Nicolas Méhul: Joseph, aria