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The Anxiety of Saint Joseph (L'anxiété de Saint Joseph)

James Tissot

European Art

Betrothed but still unmarried, Mary and Joseph do not yet live together, making the news of her unexpected pregnancy a cause of deep concern for Joseph. Ordinarily industrious, as the curled wood shavings around his feet attest, the carpenter hunches over his bench, lost in thought and unable to work. In the hope of catching a glimpse of Mary, he gazes out at the street as women pass carrying jars filled with the day’s water.

Although traditional representations of Joseph show a man of advanced age, Tissot painted him as younger and more robust, arguing in his accompanying commentary that “Rabbinical doctrine” would have regarded the union of an old man and a young girl as a “profanation.” He further asserted that the rigorous demands placed on the Holy Family required a man of vigor.
MEDIUM Opaque watercolor over graphite on gray wove paper
  • Place Made: France
  • DATES 1886–1894
    DIMENSIONS Image: 6 5/16 x 7 13/16 in. (16 x 19.8 cm) Sheet: 6 5/16 x 7 13/16 in. (16 x 19.8 cm) Frame: 15 x 20 x 1 1/2 in. (38.1 x 50.8 x 3.8 cm)  (show scale)
    SIGNATURE Signed right edge, approximately 4 inches from bottom: "J.J. Tissot"
    COLLECTIONS European Art
    ACCESSION NUMBER 00.159.20
    CREDIT LINE Purchased by public subscription
    PROVENANCE 1900, purchased from the artist by the Brooklyn Museum.
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    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    CAPTION James Tissot (Nantes, France, 1836–1902, Chenecey–Buillon, France). The Anxiety of Saint Joseph (L'anxiété de Saint Joseph), 1886–1894. Opaque watercolor over graphite on gray wove paper, Image: 6 5/16 x 7 13/16 in. (16 x 19.8 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Purchased by public subscription, 00.159.20 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 00.159.20_PS2.jpg)
    IMAGE overall, 00.159.20_PS2.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2007
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    RIGHTS STATEMENT No known copyright restrictions
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