Lattanzio Querena (1768-1853)
St. Joseph with the Christ Child and Saints

Church of St. Felix, Venice, Italy.

Strikingly, the painting borrows from Madonna and Child imagery, placing the child on Joseph's lap, not Mary's. Standing before them, St. Anthony of Padua reaches out for the child. Behind him in the background is St. Lorenzo Giustiniani, the first patriarch of Venice (1451-56). His attributes are the close-fitting headpiece and the patriarchal cross (distinguished by two crosspieces) seen here. The church's label identifies the man at Lorenzo's right as "Vincenzo," most likely St. Vincent Ferrer, wearing the Dominican black mantle over a white cassock.

In the foreground St. Peter points to a passage in scripture. As usual, he is identified by a bald pate, square beard, and the keys hanging from his belt. Completing the right foreground are a soldier in armor and St. Aloysius Gonzaga, identified by a stalk of lilies and a white surplice over a black cassock. The church label identifies the soldier as "Osvaldo." The parish of St. Felix had a compagnia or confraternity of "St. Oswald the Confessor" and St. Oswald of Worcester (died 992) was indeed a confessor, a saint who is not a martyr but he would not be pictured in armor because he was a bishop. The only other St. Oswald is a martyred English king who fought the pagan rulers of Northumbria and did much to spread the Christian faith there in the 7th century.1 It would be appropriate to portray him in armor, but elsewhere almost all his images give him a crown and a sceptre, which are lacking here. Perhaps there is a misidentification or a confusion as to the identity of the confessor Oswald.

The painting would seem to be intended to honor those saints who had a special relationship to the church. In addition to the St. Oswald confraternity the parish had others dedicated to Saint Joseph and St. Aloysius Gonzaga. Anthony of Padua and Lorenzo Giustiniani also have special significance in Venice, the latter as its first patriarch and the former as a sort of secondary symbol for the Venetian Republic with its dependencies (viz. this paragraph in my Anthony of Padua page).

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Read more about images of St. Joseph.
Read more about images of St. Vincent Ferrer.
Read more about images of St. Aloysius Gonzaga.
Read more about images of St. Anthony of Padua.
Read more about images of St. Lorenzo Giustiniani.

Photographed at the church by Richard Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.

1 See "Compagnia di Sant'Osvaldo"; Butler III, 293-65; and Butler I, 439-40. No St. Oswald other than the bishop and the king is listed in any of my resources, even Watkins, which has more than 10,000 saints.