Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Dream of St Joseph

Anton Raphael Mengs 1728 - 1779 
Traum des Hl. Joseph [The Dream of St Joseph]
Oil on oak wood
114 x 86 cm 
Gemäldegalerie, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

In the Gospels there are three dreams which St Joseph has, all of which are important in the life of Jesus and the Holy Family

In Matthew 1:20-21 Joseph is told not be afraid to take Mary as his wife, because she was conceived by the Holy Spirit.

In Matthew 2:13 Joseph is warned to leave Bethlehem and flee to Egypt.

In Matthew 2:19-20, while in Egypt, Joseph is told that it is safe to go back to Nazareth.

In all  three dreams "the Angel of the Lord" is the one who delivers God`s  message to Joseph

"The Angel of the Lord" was in the Old Testament a common designation of God in communication with a human being. 

The dreams may be meant to recall the dreams of Joseph, son of Jacob the patriarch

We also recall Jacob's dream of a ladder that stretches from Earth to Heaven and the Christian interpretation as Christ being the ladder between Heaven and Earth, God and Man, with the angels ascending and descending upon the Son of Man

Mengs was an exponent of Neo-Classicism championed by Winckelmann

The "noble simplicity" and "calm grandeur," by which Winckelmann meant chiefly a harmony of proportion in the drawing of the figure and a well-balanced composition, are  evident in the works of Anton Rafael Mengs. 

As are breadth, centrality, with blitheness and repose, which for Winckelmann  were  the marks of Hellenic culture

The international career and lengthy stays in Rome put Mengs in contact with the German theoretician whose circle he joined. 

In his time Mengs was extremely successful and often compared to Raphael himself

In the Ancient World, the Greeks and Romans were fascinated by the phenomenon of dreams

In Dreams and Experience in Classical Antiquity, Professor William V Harris writes:
"From the Iliad onwards, via Aristophanes and the gospel of Matthew, to Augustine and beyond, Greek and Latin texts in many genres are constellated with dream-descriptions. 
The best ancient minds, Plato, Aristotle and Galen among others, paid careful attention to what dreams might mean. "
One also recalls Saint Jerome's famous account of his dream of being condemned by God as a "Ciceronian" addicted to pagan learning,

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