Joseph the Carpenter



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              Joseph the Carpenter was created by a French Baroque painter named Georges de La Tour. It is an oil painting that came to life in 1645 in Louvre, Paris. La Tour is famous for painting religious chiaroscuro scenes lit by candlelight. Joseph the Carpenter was done in tenebrism style that was very popular during the Baroque era; the painting portrays a scene of young Jesus with Saint Joseph, his earthly father. In the painting Joseph is drilling into a piece of wood with an auger which is supposed to reflect the shape of the cross; the setting of the picture is a foreshadowing of Jesus’s crucifixion. The young Jesus is depicted almost as if he is in benediction with his hand raised and the candlelight shining through his face which is seen as a symbolic reference to Jesus as the “Light of the World.”


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           During the Baroque era the art world was changing dramatically. Artists were starting to use vivid realistic depictions of everyday life and common people in their artwork; still life and tenebrism became very popular during this time which created a dramatic focus within the art. One of the biggest influences of the Baroque era was The Council of Trent; they impacted the arts as they represented the Counter-Reformation and were organized to think up ideas to bring people back to the church. Realizing that the arts had such a huge influence on people, they decided to use art to communicate to followers the message of the church and ignite spiritual fervor.  Joseph the Carpenter is a perfect example of how The Council of Trent was trying to reach followers of the church through art. The young Jesus is sitting with Joseph in common clothes and working, with his auger, as many people understand what hard work means. The idea of showing father and son working together is a great way to help people understand the church and stories from the Bible; that even Jesus lived a simple life on earth. There is not a complex meaning behind the painting and it is not highly decorative, yet it has a simple beauty to it that is easily understood. The painting has a religious emotional appeal to it with the lighting in the picture as if it is shining through the innocence of the child and not the candle.

                Joseph the Carpenter is a beautiful piece of artwork and it illustrates the use of tenebrism perfectly. The creative meaning behind the picture brings to life stories and ideals from the Bible. La Tour did a great job of showing the companionship that one can imagine that Joseph and Jesus had as shown in this picture of them working together. There are many things that can bring a Father and son together; a son learning the crafts of his father is a great way. That is exactly what I believe La Tour was trying to do, aside from the other meanings, to show the bond of father and son.

Comparing Renaissance and Baroque Art


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          During the Renaissance a Flemish painter, named Pieter Bruegel, produced a very complex painting in 1562 called, The Fall of Rebel Angels. The painting is to depict the book of Revelations from the Bible; he did so in a very unusual style with the angels being half-human and half-animal monsters. The picture is very chaotic and difficult to understand; at first glance many people may not relate it to the Bible. The Fall of the Rebel Angels was done in mannerism style, with many allegories which were only understood by the educated elite of the time. As the Reformation was unfolding during the Renaissance many artists were turning away from the church and rebelling by creating more secular artwork, as you can see very clearly in Bruegel’s, The Fall of the Rebel Angels.

          Joseph the Carpenter shows the essence of the Baroque era as artists moved away from mannerism styles and created artwork that everyone could understand and relate to. The artwork in the Baroque era was much more theatrical with vivid realistic depictions of everyday life. They used tenebrism to show sharp contrasts within the pictures of people in their common lives. The Counter-Reformation during the Baroque era had a huge role in this because they wanted to use art to bring people back to the church so the art needed to be understood by everybody. They used art to tell stories from the Bible that people could relate to and would show the men and women of the Bible as heroes or as people to look up to. The church was trying to ignite spiritual fervor in the hearts of its followers and so was born the new styles of artwork.


Lubbock, Tom. Bruegel, Pieter: The Fall Of The Rebel Angels (1562). The Independent, 2008. Web. 25 Feb. 2014.

Trueman, Chris. The Council of Trent. N.p, 2013. Web. 25 Feb. 2014.

Wikipedia. Georges de La Tour. N.p, 2014. Web. 25 Feb. 2014.

Wikipedia. Joseph the Carpenter. N.p., 2014. Web. 25 Feb. 2014.

Wikipedia. The Fall of the Rebel Angels. N.p, 2014. Web. 25 Feb. 2014

Wisse, Jacob. Pieter Bruegel the Elder (ca. 1525–1569). The Metropolitan of Museum of Art, 2013. Web. 25 Feb. 2014.


3 thoughts on “Joseph the Carpenter

  1. Great post detailing this piece of work! You were right on with the influence by the Counter Reformation. What a wonderful piece of art to display as an example of Counter Reformation influence. You detailed the influence nicely in that this scene was realistic and relatable which is what the Catholic Church longed for in art. Your comment that it has a simple beauty that is easily understood really puts this piece of work in perspective. It is a simple scene and the use of tenebrism creates this beautiful light around Jesus; you have good taste. I think it is very nicely painted with a lot of realistic qualities; I enjoy paintings that are realistic so the appeal to this one for me is strong. I am very astounded by the tenebrism used for the candlelight; it has a very realistic feel based on the lighting as well. I was looking through your link for Georges de La Tour and saw some more of his fascinating work. It seems that he had many pieces of work in which candlelight was the source of light and his shading is very nicely done and seems very realistic. Here are some links to some of his works with a candle as a light source:

  2. Your selection of art was great, Joseph the Carpenter exemplifies the way in which contrast between dark and light were used to highlight the main subject in the piece, for example the child Jesus in the painting. It reminded me of Vermeer’s use of light in the Baroque piece I chose, Young Woman with Water Pitcher, where the light seeping through the window highlights the young woman’s face. The information you provided on the symbolism of the piece was excellent and the influence of the Counter-Reformation was apparent. Your comparison of Renaissance and Baroque art showed the impact the Council of Trent had during the Baroque era.

  3. The art you chose was great and the simple meaning you put behind it was even better. Your blog was very strong in comparing the renaissance and the baroque. The Council of Trent has an impact in both of these so it was a great choice. Joseph the Carpenter was not made to be looked into but to be looked at simply and beautiful. The father and son bond is like no other and a lot of everything we know comes from our old man. Great blog and great comparison of the two.

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