Jacopo Bassano (Jacopo Da Ponte)
St. Ursula between St. Valentine and St. Joseph

Oil on canvas
Museo Civico, Bassano del Grappa, Italy

The red cross of St. George on St. Ursula's pennant refers to her origin in England. The palm branch signifies her martyrdom, and her gesture advises the viewer to look to Heaven.

In his left hand St. Joseph holds a lily stalk, his attribute in most images. In his right hand is a book, and he holds a small chest in the crook of his left arm. Mengardi's Holy Family with St. John the Baptist also has him with a book, and in a portrait in San Maurizio, Venice the Christ Child puts a chest on his lap, but both emblems are quite rare in images of St. Joseph.

At the saint's feet is a saw, referring to his profession as a carpenter.

The museum's label designates the figure on the left as "St. Valentine." He wears a cassock and holds a palm branch, so among the many saints of that name he is most likely the priest who was martyred in Rome during the reign of Claudius II (268-270) on the 14th day of February. His literature is surveyed in the Acta Sanctorum (February vol. 2, 751-54), and his life is narrated in the Golden Legend. His listing in the Martyrologium Romanum cites his expounding of doctrine, which may explain the book in his left hand. The same gallery in the museum has a painting of what it labels as St. Valentine's baptism of "St. Lucilla" in which the saint wears the same cassock and is also pictured as a beardless young man with a book in his left hand. "St. Lucilla" could be either of two martyrs of the same period. One died on August 25 with her father Nemesius in Rome during the reign of Valerian (253-260), the other with her companion Flora on July 29 under Gallienus (260-268). Both are listed in the Martyrologium Romanum.

Jacopo Bassano, St. Valentine Baptizes St. Lucilla, circa 1575. (Museo Civico, Bassano del Grappa, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.)

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