Georges de La Tour 1593 – 1652

Joseph's Dream

oil on canvas (93 × 82 cm) — 1630-35 Museum Musée des beaux-arts, Nantes

This work is linked to Matthew 1:20

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According to Matthew Joseph was ashamed that he was not the father of the child his wife was carrying. But then an angel appeared to him in a dream, explaining that the child was of the Holy Spirit and that Joseph need not worry.

The way De la Tour uses clair-obscur to play with light shows he learned a lot from studying Caravaggio. He is therefore often seen as the main French caravaggist. The source of the light remains largely hidden, which enforces the mystical sphere of the painting.

Some experts doubt that the subject of this work indeed is Joseph. He is usually depicted as a carpenter and not as book-reading man. The angel does not look like Gabriel, the Lord's angel Matthew refers to. The painting could be about the story in 1 Samuel 3, where the young Samuel is repeatedly called by the old priest Eli but finds him asleep every time.

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