A great week to be from Buffalo

Joseph the Carpenter, by Georges de la Tour, c. 1645, is painted in the style called tenebrism, using exaggerated chiaroscuro with violent contrast, where darkness becomes a dominating feature. Despite that, it’s a sweet father-and-son image. Note the prefiguration of the cross in the auger.
Today is a wonderful convergence of two ethnic celebrations—St. Patrick’s Day (yesterday) and St. Joseph’s Day (tomorrow). In my home town of Buffalo, NY, both are big deals.

In the Spanish and Italian Old World, St. Joseph’s Day is also Father’s Day, a tradition that ties neatly with St. Joseph’s primary role as adoptive father of the Christ child.

Saint Joseph, Jusepe de Ribera, c. 1635, is also a tenebrist painting, but the effect is radically different from de la Tour.
The elements of an Italian-American St. Joseph’s Table vary depending on the family, but they are always meatless since the holiday falls during Lent. Where I’m from, Italians include lentil soup, pasta con sarde with mollica, olives, fennel, oranges, baccalà, vegetables (including cardoons), frittatas, and of course a gazillion cookies and breads. How did St. Patrick’s Day, with its corned beef and cabbage, soda bread and green beer, end up overwhelming the far greater gustatory appeal of St. Joseph’s Day?

Oh, well. St. Joseph dominates in the world of art. I don’t believe there’s a single great painting of St. Patrick out there. William Holman Hunt’s A Converted British Family Sheltering a Christian Missionary from the Persecution of the Druids will have to stand in.

A Converted British Family Sheltering a Christian Missionary from the Persecution of the Druids, by William Holman Hunt, 1850. As a pre-Raphaelite, he rejected chiaroscuro, but the end result doesn't look much like 15th century Italian painting.
A reminder: this is a great week to have your Vitamin D levels checked. They’re always at their lowest at the end of a long winter.

Let me know if you’re interested in painting with me in Maine in 2014 or Rochester at any time. Click here for more information on my Maine workshops!

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