Printer Friendly

St Joseph's foot deformity in Italian renaissance art.

The Renaissance sense of decorum normally led portrait painters to tone down the physical defects of their sitters, especially when persons of high status were being depicted. (1) We should therefore expect this principle to apply with even more force to the depiction of saints, who were revered as recipients of supernatural grace. On the other hand, a prime imperative for painters when representing saints, particularly in altarpieces, was that the saint should be easily identifiable by the context in which s/he appeared or by the presence of conventional attributes. (2) In some instances a pathological condition or physical deformity was the attribute of a particular saint, such as the plague buboes which characterized St Roch, (3) so in these cases the saint would be portrayed with the appropriate anatomical defect. Otherwise, however, Renaissance images of saints would typically show them without physical blemish.

It is therefore of interest that a small number of Renaissance Italian paintings depict St Joseph with a foot deformity. There are three notable examples of this unusual iconographic feature from the period 1475-1525 which invite further attention, not only because of their similarities to one another but also because of the historical significance of this period for the development of the saint's cult.

I. Martini's Nativity

The earliest of these three paintings is The Nativity with SS Bernard of Clairvaux and Thomas Aquinas (1475) by Francesco di Giorgio Martini (1439-1501). (4) This work was commissioned for a Benedictine monastery church near Siena, probably as an altarpiece. (5) Of the many known representations of the nativity scene executed by Martini, (6) this is the only one that places Joseph squarely in the centre of the composition (Figure 1).

Although he gazes somewhat deferentially toward the Virgin, who appears slightly larger than the other figures, Joseph's head is situated at the intersection of the vertical and horizontal mid-lines of the composition, and he sits directly below the dove of the Holy Spirit and directly above the infant Jesus. Outside the painted surface, in the picture's original frame, the figure of God the Father appears in a tondo immediately above the Holy Spirit. (7) The vertical axis of the picture therefore extends from the deity at the apex of the picture, through the head of Joseph, to his left foot and then the left hand of the infant, which is raised in benediction. The head of the infant is positioned between Joseph's two feet, a placement which, like the vertical alignment just described, indicates the saint's role as surrogate father and protector of Jesus. (8) Although the infant's upraised hand and Joseph's left foot are represented in perspective as being at different depths, they almost touch one another on the two-dimensional surface of the painting. It is unusual for a religious figure to be shown conferring a blessing with the left hand, (9) but this device enables the infant's hand and Joseph's foot to be brought into close proximity.

In compositional terms there is much in this painting that serves to highlight not only St Joseph in his entirety but also his left foot in particular. It is noteworthy, therefore, that this foot shows an evident deformity. On its outer edge, just behind the little toe, there is a significant swelling of the kind that would typically be found in a case of chronic gout (Figure 2). This swelling might today be diagnosed as a gouty 'tophus' formed by a deposit of urate salts in the soft tissues at the joint between the little toe and the foot, but during the Renaissance, distinguishing between gout, in the modern sense, and any other swelling of the foot would have been difficult.

The swelling on Joseph's foot is not an instance of the generalized curvature of the outer edge of the foot from the little toe to the ankle which a medical writer noted over a century ago both in classical Greco-Roman statuary and in Renaissance art that sought to imitate classical models. (10) Unlike that type of stylized curvature, the swelling behind Joseph's little toe in Martini's 1475 Nativity does not extend back past the middle of the foot but is localized at a single joint.

Joseph's swelling is also not a protrusion of the kind that occurs when a normal foot extends over the edge of a flat surface, creating a distortion of the outer side of the foot where it presses on that edge. Joseph's foot is shown here resting on level or smoothly inclined ground, and there is nothing beneath it to cause its shape to become distorted. We conclude, then, that the swelling is pathological and not a classicizing stylistic feature or a result of pressure on the foot due to its position.

One may be tempted to think of Joseph's tophus as purely incidental to the painting, as perhaps a deformity of the model's foot which Martini faithfully represented but which has no significance other than as a testament to the accuracy of his draughtsmanship. This interpretation, however, overlooks the prominence which Martini's overall composition gives to Joseph's left foot and the fact that Martini could easily have painted this foot without the swelling if he had wished to do so, no matter what the live model's foot actually looked like.

Further, the position of Joseph's left foot tends to call attention to the deformity. If the foot were seen in profile from its outer side the swelling would be foreshortened and thus not visually prominent, and if it were seen in profile from its inner side the swelling would not be visible at all. Orienting Joseph's left foot directly toward the viewer, as Martini has done, gives the tophus the greatest degree of visual emphasis. Rather than dismissing the deformity of Joseph's foot as meaningless, then, we should consider other examples in Renaissance art showing St Joseph with a foot deformity to see if we can detect a pattern.

II. Raphael's Marriage of the Virgin

The second notable example of this kind of representation is the Marriage of the Virgin (1504) by Raphael Sanzio (1483-1520),11 a work commissioned as an altarpiece for the chapel of St Joseph in a Minorite church in Citta di Castello. (12) The fact that Joseph was the dedicatee of the chapel alerts us to his importance in the picture. In the action portrayed he is an equal participant with the Virgin, not a subordinate figure. The two marriage partners stand symmetrically on either side of the vertical mid-line as Joseph places a ring on Mary's finger (Figure 3).

Here again Joseph has a deformed left foot, with the abnormality located at the same place as the tophus in Martini's Nativity (Figure 4), and here again the artist's composition suggests that this deformity has some significance. Joseph is the only figure shown barefoot in the painting; all the other figures whose feet are visible are shod. (13) Also, his left foot is in the foreground of the painting, turned toward the viewer and well illuminated. One other person's left foot is turned toward the viewer in the foreground, is equally well illuminated, and is placed in almost the same position as Joseph's. This is the foot of a much younger, almost boyish, male who is one of the disappointed suitors for Mary's hand.

According to the legend of the miraculous selection of Joseph as Mary's spouse, all the unmarried men of the House of David were instructed by divine command to bring a rod to the temple and place it on the altar. When Joseph's rod burst into flower and a dove settled on it, he was identified as the one chosen to wed Mary. (14) In Raphael's Marriage of the Virgin, Joseph and most of the unsuccessful suitors still hold the rods they were instructed to bring to the temple; but two of them--the two youngest in appearance and therefore presumably the most immature--break their rods in frustration at not having been selected. The young man in the foreground whose foot is placed parallel to Joseph's, bends over to break his rod across his knee, making him conspicuous as the only person in the painting who is not standing upright.

It is instructive in this context to compare Raphael's Marriage of the Virgin with a painting on the same theme by his teacher, Piero Vanucci, known as Piero Perugino (1448-1523). It is well known that the composition and iconography of Raphael's picture were derived from Perugino's Marriage of the Virgin, (15) an altarpiece commissioned by the confraternity of St Joseph for the Cathedral in Perugia. (16) In this work the men of the wedding party are on the priest's right (thus visually emphasizing Joseph's right foot) and the women are on his left, which is the opposite of their positioning in Raphael's painting. Joseph is the only person in the wedding party who is entirely barefoot, and his feet show no deformity. There is a semi-nude male figure in the distant background, however, who is barefoot, and one of the women in the wedding party, standing behind Mary, is wearing light sandals which expose her feet almost completely, with only a few thin strings around the upper foot and ankle. The youngest male in the wedding party, standing behind Joseph and partly obscured by other figures, stoops slightly to break his rod over the top of his thigh.

By comparison with Perugino, Raphael has further emphasized Joseph's bare feet--a feature which is uncommon in the iconography of the Marriage of the Virgin (17)--by making him the only person in the picture whose feet are exposed; he has changed the position of Joseph with respect to the priest so that his left foot is the one most prominently presented to the viewer; and he has given Joseph's left foot a deformity. In addition, Raphael has significantly highlighted the figure of the young man who breaks his rod by placing him in the foreground and increasing the extent to which his posture contrasts with that of everyone else in the picture. (18)

In Raphael's work, much more than in Perugino's, we have Joseph, apparently the oldest of the suitors, paralleled with the youngest of the suitors in a way that contrasts the former's maturity and responsibility with the latter's youth and impulsiveness. As part of this parallel, we also see Joseph's uncovered and deformed left foot contrasted with a similarly positioned youthful, tightly shod, and normally formed foot.

The nature of Joseph's foot deformity in Raphael's painting has been interpreted by a group of medical observers as polydactyly--a condition involving the presence of extra digits on the extremities, or in this particular case a sixth toe on the left foot. (19) Neither the detail illustrating Joseph's feet in this group's article nor that in the relevant museum catalogue (20) give clear evidence that the anomaly on Joseph's left foot is a sixth toe. It is not necessary to resolve this matter for the present discussion, however. For our purposes it is sufficient to note that the foot is deformed by a protrusion at the joint of the little toe which is similar in appearance to the deformity shown in Martini's Nativity of 1475.

As Baxandall has stressed, a viewer always 'brings to the picture a mass of information and assumptions drawn from general experience'. (21) During the Renaissance, 'gout' (gotta or podagra) was the name given to virtually any disease of the joints or extremities, (22) especially when accompanied by swelling. (23) To a Renaissance viewer, then, the 'gout' represented by a protrusion on the side of Joseph's foot would have signified 'painful feet' in general rather than the specific metabolic disorder identified today as gout. (24)

To account for this protrusion it has been suggested that the model who posed for Raphael's Joseph must have been a person with a deformed foot, and that Raphael was simply reproducing on the panel what he saw in the live figure before him. (25) There is no evidence to support such a hypothesis, however; and even if Raphael did in fact have a model with a deformed foot in front of him, one would still need to explain why he did not give the foot a normal shape in the painting, which he could easily have done for the sake of decorum, notwithstanding its appearance on the living model.

III. Romano's Holy Family

The final painting for analysis is The Holy Family (1520-23) by Raphael s most successful pupil, Giulio Pippi (or Lippi), known as Giulio Romano (1499-1546) (Figure 5).26 Here again Joseph's left foot is deformed (Figure 6), showing the same gouty swelling as appears on the left foot of Joseph in Martini's 1475 Nativity and Raphael's Marriage of the Virgin, and once again the artist has given this deformed foot prominence in his composition.

Joseph's left foot is conspicuous in the foreground of the painting, turned toward the viewer and brightly lit against a dark background, with the protrusion emphasized by a shadow that falls just behind it. Furthermore, it is shown in the same position as the standing woman's left foot, although her foot is in the middle distance and less illuminated. This woman, whose presence in the picture has been described as 'the most striking innovation of the composition', is based on the figure of Mary in Raphael's Visitation. (27) The position of her feet in Romano's painting, however, is significantly different from the position of Mary's feet in the Visitation; and the principal effect of this change is to bring her left foot into alignment with Joseph's.

Just as in Raphael's Marriage of the Virgin, here too Joseph s deformed foot is placed in parallel with, and contrasted with, the normal left foot of a much younger person. Furthermore, in each case there is evidence to suggest that this person's left foot was specifically positioned so as to highlight that parallelism. Finally, in the Marriage of the Virgin, the young person contrasted with Joseph is conspicuous as the only figure who does not stand upright, whereas in the Holy Family the contrasting young person is conspicuous as the only one who does stand fully upright.

The deformed left foot of Joseph in Romano's Holy Family, its placement in parallel with the normal foot of a much younger person, and the angle at which it is turned toward the viewer all appear to be imitations and adaptations of the corresponding features in Raphael's Marriage of the Virgin, just as many aspects of that latter work imitated and adapted features of Perugino's Marriage of the Virgin. Nevertheless, the question remains of what meaning such a deformity might have had in all three paintings considered here--not only in Romano's Holy Family and Raphael's Marriage of the Virgin but also in Martini's 1475 Nativity.

IV. The Pre-Tridentine Cult of St Joseph

Joseph is principally thought of as a Counter-Reformation saint, but he was an object of devotion in Italy well before the Council of Trent. (28) Although the cult of St Joseph, which had the effect of making him an important figure in the lives of the Virgin and the young Jesus, began in the twelfth century, (29) in the later Quattrocento and early part of the Cinquecento the intensity of devotion to this saint increased very markedly in Italy. (30) This movement was given added impetus when Pope Sixtus IV included the feast of St Joseph in the Roman Calendar of Saints in the late 1470s, and it received its fullest theological justification in 1522 with the publication of the Summation of the Gifts of St Joseph (Summa de donis Sancti Josephi) by the Dominican scholar Isidoro Isolano. (31) Throughout this period there was an unprecedented increase in the number of religious institutions and activities that were founded or renamed in honour of St Joseph. (32)

The symbolic equation of the Virgin Mary with Ecclesia meant that St Joseph, as the earthly protector of the Virgin, was also the defender of the Church. The upsurge of devotional interest in this saint during the period in question has therefore been linked to the great social crises of that era: constant warfare between the European powers, with repeated invasions of the Italian peninsula; expansionist attacks against Christian Europe by the Turks; frequent outbreaks of plague; and, in the final years of the period, the Lutheran challenge to traditional Church doctrine and practice. (33)

Isolano's Summa, 'the first scholastically argued theological text devoted solely to Joseph's godly qualities and powers as intercessor', (34) encapsulates the beliefs about Joseph that had developed in Italy during the previous half-century. One belief in particular is highly relevant to our understanding of Joseph's deformed foot in the paintings we have examined. According to Isolano, Joseph had 'earned the palm of martyrdom' for his dedication to Jesus and Mary and for the sufferings he had endured while protecting them. (35) Although the term 'martyr' is most commonly applied to people who die for their religion, it also has a broader sense in Catholic usage which includes the endurance of extreme suffering and hardship for the sake of one's faith. (36) Indeed, the Virgin Mary was regarded as the 'Queen of Martyrs' for just such a reason, (37) although she was not killed for her beliefs.

Chief among the hardships which Joseph endured were those that he experienced on the many journeys he undertook with Mary and Jesus. The mendicant orders, whose preaching strongly influenced lay perceptions, gave particular emphasis to these journeys, as can be seen from the Dominican Isolano's Summa and the widely read Franciscan Meditations on the Life of Christ (Meditationes Vitae Christi), a devotional text originally thought to have been written by St Bonaventure (1221-74) but now attributed to an anonymous thirteenth-century Franciscan monk. (38)

The longest of St Joseph's journeys, taken in obedience to a divine command, was from Nazareth to Egypt, to escape from the attempts of King Herod to kill Jesus. (39) The Gospel writers do not specify a location in Egypt where Joseph sought refuge for his family, but traditional sources give the destination as Heliopolis, (40) a part of present-day Cairo, which is at a distance of approximately 500 kilometres from Nazareth. Thus, Isolano particularly highlighted 'the hardships [Joseph] endured to protect the Child from Herod's tyranny'. (41) The author of the Meditations tells the faithful how to imagine these hardships, with 'the aged, saintly Joseph' proceeding on foot while Mary, holding Jesus, rides on a donkey
   along wild roads, obscure, rocky, and difficult, through woods and
   uninhabited places--a very long journey. It is said that couriers
   would take thirteen or fifteen days; for them it was perhaps two
   months or longer. They are also said to have gone by way of the
   desert, which the children of Israel traversed and in which they
   stayed forty years.... Have pity on them, for it was a very
   difficult, great, and long exertion for them as well as for the
   child Jesus. (42)

The popularity of the Meditations on the Life of Christ ensured that it circulated in hundreds of manuscripts--over two hundred still exist--that undoubtedly influenced pictorial art'. (43) The presence of an ox in nativity scenes such as Martini's, and the meeting of John the Baptist and Jesus as children in depictions of the holy family such as Romano's, both have their origin in the Meditations, (44) a text which has been described as 'a manual of christian iconography'. (45) Other pictorial features, such as the rods held by the suitors in Raphael's Marriage of the Virgin, while not originating with the Meditations, were nevertheless reflected in its pages. (46) These stories of Joseph are therefore closely linked to the way in which Joseph was depicted during the period with which we are concerned.

V. Representing Joseph's Martyrdom

Given the number of long journeys which Joseph had to undertake on foot --not just the flight into Egypt and the return to Israel seven years later, but also numerous trips between Nazareth and Bethlehem or Jerusalem, approximately 100 kilometres each way (47)--it is probable that Joseph's foot deformity was introduced into the paintings we have examined in order to give a visible indication of his martyrdom. As a person afflicted with a gouty deformity in at least one foot, Joseph's willingness to obey divine commands and to fulfil his duties as foster father and husband by undertaking long, arduous journeys on foot would have been a double martyrdom, for these journeys would have been not just exhausting and stressful but also, in his case, painful.

In medical terms, the existence of a tophus on someone's foot would not in itself mean that the foot is currently painful. The swelling is a deposit left by a previous acute attack of gout, and it is only the acute stage of the disease that is painful. Nevertheless, further acute attacks could flare up at any time and the tophus on Joseph's foot visibly identified him as a gout sufferer who was liable to experience such attacks. Moreover, as previously indicated, the 'gout' which Joseph's deformity would have represented to a Renaissance viewer was a very broad category including all forms of painful joint ailments, and not just gout as presently understood.

In paintings which depicted the flight into Egypt, the hardships of the journey could be indicated directly by such features as the rough surface of the road, the harshness of the surrounding terrain, and the absence of ready sources of food, water, or shelter. Similarly, Joseph's exhaustion was often conveyed by showing him sitting wearily, or even napping, in pictures of the Holy Family resting on their way to Egypt. (48) In representations of earlier events in the life of Joseph, however, it was more difficult to foreshadow the hardships of Joseph's future travels. The paintings we have examined here depict just such earlier scenes--Joseph's marriage to the Virgin, the birth of Jesus, and the holy family's meeting with the infant John the Baptist forty days after that birth, following Mary's ceremony of purification at the temple in Jerusalem. (49)

In order to foreshadow the flight into Egypt, it was customary for artists to depict Joseph in these earlier scenes with some of the attributes of a traveller, such as a packed bag, sturdy boots and leggings, a water bottle, and a staff (50)--these last two items being included, for example, in Martini's 1475 Nativity. Such attributes suggest Joseph s readiness to travel but they do not convey any particular sense of the hardship associated with that travel. By giving Joseph's foot a visible pathological condition the artist could directly communicate the idea that long journeys on foot would be especially difficult for him. Indeed, in the Renaissance one of the principal consequences expected of gout was that the sufferer would be unable to travel. (51)

Apart from these considerations, it is worth noting that in both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament the feet are regarded as the humblest part of the body, (52) presumably because they are in contact with the ground, (53) and the left side is considered less worthy than the right. (54) These valuations were also current in Italian Renaissance culture. (55) So depictions of Joseph which placed a visual emphasis on his left foot, and which also showed this foot with a deformity (making it an even less worthy part of the body), can be understood as alluding not only to the sufferings associated with Joseph's role but also to the humility with which he accepted them.

VI. Alternative Interpretations

Before drawing any conclusion from the foregoing discussion there are two possible alternative interpretations of St Joseph's foot deformity which must be addressed, both of which would treat this deformity as an occasion for mockery rather than meditation.

The first alternative is based on the observation that in European popular culture during the late medieval and early modern periods Joseph was often regarded as a comic figure--a clownish bumbler or a biblical analogue of the elderly cuckold who believes any story his young wife tells him to explain her unexpected pregnancy. (56) Since elements of this popular conception of Joseph sometimes appeared in pre-Tridentine works of art intended for pious audiences, (57) the question arises as to whether Joseph's foot deformity in the paintings examined above may have been understood primarily as a derisory reference to his age and incapacity.

The second alternative interpretation, at the opposite extreme from the first one, notes that gout in early modern culture was sometimes taken as 'the insignia of mature, sexually active males'. (58) This view had its origin in the ancient collection of medical aphorisms attributed to Hippocrates, where the author states that neither eunuchs nor pre-menopausal women suffer from gout, and that men are not subject to it until they have engaged in sexual intercourse. (59) Since any swelling of the extremities would have been interpreted by Renaissance viewers as 'gout', it is possible that Joseph's foot deformity may have been included in the three paintings as a hint of scepticism about his chastity.

While there is nothing to prevent a viewer from choosing to read either of these interpretations into the paintings in question, there is little or nothing in the pictures themselves to encourage such a reading. With regard to the first interpretation in particular, the fact that all stories of Joseph have him successfully undertaking many long journeys on foot with Mary and Jesus must count against the suggestion that his foot deformity signifies a generalized physical debility.

Moreover, there is a further point that counts against both of the alternative explanations, this time drawn from artistic evidence rather than beliefs about Joseph. In another painting by Raphael, the Virgin and Child with St John the Baptist (also known as La Belle Jardiniere), (60) the left foot of the infant John the Baptist is shown with an abnormality similar to Joseph's in the Marriage of the Virgin. (61) For the same artist to give the same kind of foot deformity to both the adult Joseph and the infant John the Baptist suggests that this feature should have a similar meaning in both cases. There is, however, no tradition of ridiculing John the Baptist, and the issues of cuckoldry, elderly debility, or covert sexual activity under the pretence of chastity are all irrelevant in the case of an infant. It seems implausible, therefore, that the infant St John's foot deformity refers to any of these issues, or that a similar foot deformity in pictures of St Joseph would normally have been understood by Renaissance viewers as alluding to them.

On the other hand, since St Joseph is not included in the Virgin and Child with St John the Baptist, which shows only the Virgin with the infants Jesus and John, it is entirely plausible that Raphael transferred the symbolism of Joseph's foot deformity to the infant St John in order to serve a similar purpose. (62) In this case it would foreshadow John's years of penitential wandering in the desert, from his youth until his beheading at the command of Herod. (63)

Although John's martyrdom is primarily associated with his execution, he was also considered to have spent his adolescence and adult life in exemplary penance. According to the fourteenth century Life of St John the Baptist (Vita di San Giovanni Battista), (64) a text which served as 'the fountainhead of the entire subsequent development of the iconography of the Infant St. John in the West', (65) the saint inflicted great suffering upon himself, even carrying his penitence to the extreme of 'subjecting himself to every torture of the Passion' short of death. (66) Part of this self-inflicted suffering involved prolonged walking in the desert, (67) so in Raphael's Virgin and Child with St John the Baptist the infant's foot deformity may therefore signify to the viewer that this walking would be done under the most difficult and painful circumstances.

VII. Conclusion

While it is clearly unwarranted to assume that every element in an Italian Renaissance picture must have some symbolic meaning, (68) in the three paintings which we have examined Joseph's foot deformity receives a consistency of treatment which suggests that its presence is something more than an artistic jeu d'esprit or an indecorous touch of naturalism to enhance the verisimilitude of the images.

Firstly, in all three cases it is Joseph's left foot which is shown as abnormal. His right foot could of course also be imagined to have a similar abnormality in each case, but it is not positioned in a way that allows one to see whether it does or not. In a fresco version of the Nativity by Martini, Joseph s right foot may possibly have a slight swelling at the relevant joint, but the delineation is unclear. (69) Should a definitive example of Joseph with a deformed right foot be identified in an art work from this period, that finding would reduce the significance of the distinction between the two sides of the body, but at the same time it would strengthen the case for understanding the presence of a tophus as an indicator of Joseph's suffering on his journeys.

Secondly, Joseph's left foot is always turned toward the viewer, so as to show the deformity from its most conspicuous angle. While in Martini's and Romano's works this placement of the left foot is part of a relaxed sitting position on Joseph's part, in Raphael's Marriage of the Virgin it puts the standing Joseph into a somewhat contrived posture, (70) as if he were deliberately extending his leg toward the viewer in order to display his abnormality--an ostentatio podagrae, as it were. We may perhaps understand this posture as Raphael's compromise between the need to show Joseph standing and facing Mary for the formal espousal ceremony, and the wish to highlight Joseph's deformed foot for symbolic purposes.

Thirdly, Joseph's left foot is always well-lit and receives additional emphasis from its relationship with one of the extremities of another person in the picture. In Martini's 1475 Nativity the proximity of the infant Christ s benedictory left hand is the indicator which draws added attention to Joseph's foot; while in the paintings of Raphael and Romano the left foot of an adult who is much younger than Joseph plays this role, by virtue of its position being similar to that of Joseph's left foot.

As the above summary indicates, there is a common pattern underlying the treatment of Joseph's deformed foot in all three of the paintings we have examined, notwithstanding individual variations such as whether Joseph is shown sitting or standing. We suggest that this pattern had a specific meaning which Renaissance viewers would have understood and that the use of it enabled the three artists in question to symbolize Joseph's physical suffering and martyrdom in scenes which, by the nature of their subject matter, did not directly show him undergoing hardship. We further suggest that this main conclusion about St Joseph is reinforced by our subsidiary argument that an analogous foot deformity served a similar purpose in one of Raphael's depictions of St John the Baptist.

School of Humanities, The University of New England

School of History and Philosophy, The University of New South Wales

(1) Miguel Falomir, 'The Court Portrait', in Renaissance Faces: Van Eyck to Titiani, eds Lorne Campbell and others (London: National Gallery Company, 2008), pp. 66-79 (p. 72).

(2) Charles Hope, 'Altarpieces and the Requirements of Patrons', in Christianity and the Renaissance: Image and Religious Imagination in the Quattrocento, eds Timothy Verdon and John Henderson (Syracuse NY: Syracuse University Press, 1990), pp. 535-71 (p. 554).

(3) Louise Marshall, 'Manipulating the Sacred: Image and Plague in Renaissance Italy', Renaissance Quarterly, 47 (1994), 485-532 (p. 505).

(4) Ralph Toledano, Francesco di Giorgio Martini, Pittore e scultore (Milano: Electa, 1987), pp. 92- 93; Piero Torriti, La Pinacoteca Nazionale di Siena. I dipinti (Genoa: Sagep Editrice, 1990), pp. 287, 289.

(5) Carolyn C. Wilson, St. Joseph in Italian Renaissance Society and Art: New Directions and Interpretations (Philadelphia: St. Joseph's University Press, 2001), p. 89.

(6) Martini's surviving works include Nativities dating from c. 1460 (Museo del Duomo, Chiusi); c. 1465 (Art Association Galleries, Atlanta); c. 1470 (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York); 1475 (Pinacoteca Nazionale, Siena); 1488-94 (Sant'Agostino, Siena); and 1490-95 (San Domenico, Siena) (Toledano, Francesco di Giorgio Martini, pp. 37, 49, 63, 92-93, 102-05, 111-16).

(7) Many reproductions of the painting omit this frame, but it is shown in Torriti, p. 289, and Luciano Bellosi, ed., Francesco di Giorgio e il Rinascimento a Siena 1450-1500 (Milano: Electa, 1993), p. 315.

(8) Wilson, St. Joseph, p. 89.

(9) A. W G. Poseq, 'Addenda to Left and Right in Raphael', Konsthistorisk Tidskrift / Journal of Art History, 68 (1999), 5-17 (pp. 5, 7).

(10) E. H. Bradford, 'The Human Foot in Art', American Journal of Orthopedic Surgery, [series 1] 10 (1897), 148-61.

(11) Jurg Meyer zur Capellen, Raphael: A Critical Catalogue of His Paintings.Vol. 1, The Beginnings in Umbria and Florence, ca. 1500-1508, trans. Stefan B. Polter (Landshut: Arcos, 2001), pp. 138-41; Carlo Bertelli, 'Raffaello Sanzio ... Lo sposalizio della Vergine', in Pinacoteca di Brera: Scuole dell'Italia centrale e meridionale (Milano: Electa, 1992), pp. 192-200.

(12) Louis Reau, Iconographie de l'art chretien, 3 vols (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1955-57), ii, p. 172; Carolyn C. Wilson, 'Some Further Evidence of St. Joseph's Cult in Renaissance Italy and Related St. Joseph Altarpieces', in Die Bedeutung des Heiligen Josef in der Heilsgeschichte. Akten des IX. Internationalen Symposions uber den Heiligen Josef, ed. Johannes Hattler, 2 vols (Kisslegg: FE-Medienverlag, 2006), ii, pp. 903-33 (p. 909).

(13) One interpretation holds that Joseph 'is depicted barefoot in accordance with the custom of oath-taking ceremonies at that time' (Alexander Rauch, 'Painting of the High Renaissance and Mannerism in Rome and Central Italy', in The Art of the Italian Renaissance: Architecture, Sculpture, Painting, Drawing, ed. Rolf Toman, trans. Deborah Ffoulkes and others (Koln: Ullmann, 2007), pp. 308-49 (p. 332)). Bare feet could also indicate poverty and humility as practised for example by St Francis, or penitence as practised for example by 'scalzo' or barefoot confraternities such as the Florentine 'company of S. Giovanni Battista detto lo Scalzo, [whose] members walked barefoot in procession in imitation of the Baptist's journey through the desert' (John Henderson, Piety and Charity in Late Medieval Florence (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994), p. 119). For other penitential confraternities which regularly processed barefoot see Ronald F. E. Weissman, Ritual Brotherhood in Renaissance Florence (New York: Academic Press, 1982), p. 82; and Brian S. Pullan, Rich and Poor in Renaissance Venice: The Social Institutions of a Catholic State, to 1620 (Cambridge: Blackwell, 1971), p. 39.

(14) Jacobus de Voragine, The Golden Legend: Readings on the Saints [1275], trans.William Granger Ryan, 2 vols (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993), ii, p. 153.

(15) Caen, Musee des Beaux Arts, 185 x 234 cm, 1502-04.

(16) Laura Baini, ed., Brera: Guide to the Pinacoteca, trans. Christopher Evans (Milano: Electa, 2005), p. 252; Vittoria Garibaldi, Perugino: Catologo completo (Firenze: Octavo, 1999), pp. 67-69, 136.

(17) The predella of Perugino's altarpiece for the church of Santa Maria Nuova in Fano (1497) includes a Marriage of the Virgin in which Joseph is shown barefoot (Garibaldi, Perugino, pp. 119-20). Another predella closely modelled on this work by Perugino's student Berto di Giovanni (fl. 1488-1529) similarly includes a Marriage of the Virgin (c. 1507) showing Joseph barefoot (Francesco F. Mancini, 'Berto di Giovanni ... Sposalizio della Vergine', in Pinacoteca di Brera, pp. 74-78.) Outside the orbit of Perugino, a fresco (1486-90) by Domenico Ghirlandaio (1449-94) showing the Marriage of the Virgin in the Tornabuoni Chapel, Santa Maria Novella, Florence, portrays Joseph as the only barefoot figure. In none of the above cases is Joseph shown with a foot deformity. Most other representations of this scene by Italian artists, from the time of Giotto (1267-1337) to the early sixteenth century, depict Joseph wearing sandals or shoes, if his feet are visible at all.

(18) Comparing Raphael's treatment of this figure with Perugino's, Crowe and Cavalcaselle complain that 'undue prominence was given to the disappointed suitor, whose action had been judiciously thrown into the background in the "Sposalizio" of Caen' (J. A. Crowe and G. B. Cavalcaselle, Raphael: His Life and Works, 2 vols (London: John Murray, 1882), 1, p. 167). This criticism, however, does not take into account the question of whether the young man's prominence might be important for the interpretation of the painting.

(19) Daniel Mimouni, Francis B. Mimouni, and Marc Mimouni, 'Polydactyly Reported by Raphael', British Medical Journal, 321 (2000), 1622.

(20) Bertelli, 'Raffaello Sanzio', p. 196.

(21) Michael Baxandall, Painting and Experience in Fifteenth Century Italy: A Primer in the Social History of Pictorial Style (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1972), p. 35.

(22) W. S. C. Copeman, A Short History of the Gout and the Rheumatic Diseases (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1964), pp. 2, 6.

(23) Petrarch (1304-74), for example, apparently identified an infection which he developed after a leg injury as a case of 'gout' (Thomas G. Benedek and Gerald P. Rodnan, 'Petrarch on Medicine and the Gout', Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 37 (1963), 397-416 (pp. 399-400, 415)).

(24) A well-documented copy of Raphael's Marriage of the Virgin was completed in 1606 by Giovanni Andrea Urbani for the Oratorio di San Giuseppe in Urbino, one of the many new establishments dedicated to St Joseph in the early Cinquecento (Meyer zur Cappellen, Vol. 1, p. 141). This painting, now on display in the Casa Natale di Raffaello in Urbino, was recently examined at close range by one of the present authors. It shows an undifferentiated swelling on Joseph's left foot with no features that would identify the anomaly as an extra toe. This point is relevant not because the copy is assumed to be an exact replica of the original, but because it shows that no matter what the fine detail of Joseph's foot deformity may be in Raphael's painting, to an early modern observer (such as, in this case, Urbani) that deformity would be interpreted as a gouty swelling.

(25) Mimouni, Mimouni, and Mimouni, 'Polydactyly Reported by Raphael'. For a discussion of the reasons why art works can rarely be taken as exact representations of the subject matter they depict, especially in a medical context, see P. Philippot, 'Stylistic and Documentary Understanding of Fine Arts', in Art, History and Antiquity of Rheumatic Diseases, ed. Thierry Appelboom (Brussels: Elsevier, 1987), pp. 12-16.

(26) Francis Russell, 'The Spinola "Holy Family" of Giulio Romano', Burlington Magazine, 124.950 (1982), 297-98; Mollie Holtman, ed., The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Collections (Malibu, CA: The J. Paul Getty Museum, 1997), p. 100.

(27) Russell, p. 298; Madrid, Museo del Prado, 200 x 145 cm, 1517; Jurg Meyer zur Capellen, Raphael: A Critical Catalogue of His Paintings. Vol. 2, The Roman Religious Paintings, ca. 1508-1520, trans. Stefan B. Polter (Landshut: Arcos, 2005), p. 245.

(28) Wilson, St.Joseph, pp. xix-xx.

(29) Sheila Schwartz, 'St. Joseph in Meister Bertram's Petri-Altar', Gesta, 24.2 (1985), 147-56 (p. 148).

(30) Wilson, St. Joseph, p. 20.

(31) In this work it was argued that St Joseph had received the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit, as enumerated in Isaiah 11.2-3, and many other blessings (Reau, Iconographie de l'art chretien, iii, p. 755; and Emile Male, L'art religieux apres le Concile de Trente (Paris: Armand Colin, 1932), p. 314).

(32) Wilson, 'Some Further Evidence', p. 903. See, for example, the Oratorio di San Giuseppe of Urbino, cited in n. 24 above.

(33) Wilson, St. Joseph, pp. 8-9.

(34) Wilson, 'Some Further Evidence', p. 904.

(35) Wilson, St Joseph, p. 59.

(36) Louis Gougaud, Devotional and Ascetic Practices in the Middle Ages, trans. L Gougaud and G. C. Bateman (London: Burns, Oates and Washbourne, 1927), pt. 2, ch. 4, 'The Desire for Martyrdom', pp. 205-23; Maurice Hassett, 'Martyr', in The Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. 9 (New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910) < cathen/09736b.htm>.

(37) This view is stressed, for example, in the Summa Theologica of St Antoninus of Florence (1389-1459) (Gougaud, p. 209); cf. Jessica A. Boon, 'The Agony of the Virgin: The Swoons and Crucifixion of Mary in Sixteenth Century Castilian Passion Treatises', Sixteenth Century Journal, 38 (2007), 3-25.

(38) Pseudo-Bonaventure, Meditations on the Life of Christ:An Illustrated Manuscript of the Fourteenth Century, trans. and ed. Isa Ragusa and Rosalie B. Green (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1961), pp. xxi-xxii, n. 2.

(39) Matthew 2.13-15.

(40) Ps-Bonaventure, p. 68.

(41) Wilson, St. Joseph, p. 59.

(42) Ps-Bonaventure, p. 68.

(43) Ps-Bonaventure, p. xxiii.

(44) Ps-Bonaventure, p. xxxviii; cf. Marilyn Aronberg Lavin, 'Giovannino Battista: A Study in Renaissance Religious Symbolism', Art Bulletin, 37 (1955), 85-101 (p. 90, n. 30).

(45) Ps-Bonaventure, p. xxii.

(46) Ps-Bonaventure, p. 14 (textual reference to the Golden Legend), p. 15 (manuscript illustration 10, showing suitors with rods and Joseph's rod in flower).

(47) The text of the Meditations calls attention to 'the roughness and length of the road' from Nazareth to Jerusalem and notes that the Virgin 'walked rapidly because she did not want to be long in the public view', which implies that Joseph also had to walk rapidly in order to keep up with her (pp. 21-22).

(48) Joseph's repose, however, may have more than one meaning in these and other pictures. Wilson argues that 'the correct and primary meaning of the traditional figures of Joseph shown asleep or lost in thought has been recognized as signaling his reception of God's word in dreams, [which is] a basis of his standing in grace and hence qualification as intercessor' (St. Joseph, p. 35; cf. Schwartz, 'St. Joseph', p. 148 and p. 154, n. 11).

(49) Holtman, The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook, p. 100.

(50) Wilson, St. Joseph, passim.

(51) Francesco Petrarca, Epistolae de Rebus Familiaribus et Variae, ed. Joseph Fracassetti, 3 vols (Firenze: Felice Le Monnier, 1859-63), i, p. 332. An abridged English translation of the relevant passage is printed in Benedek and Rodnan, 'Petrarch on Medicine and the Gout', p. 406. Cf. Petrarca, De Remediis Utriusque Fortunae (Roma: Biblioteca Italiana, 2004), lib. II, dial. 84, 'De Podagra' < view?docId=bibit000299/bibit000299.xml>.

(52) H. L. E. Luering, 'Foot', in International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, ed. James Orr, 5 vols (Chicago: Howard-Severance, 1915), ii, pp. 1125-26 < com/isbe/F/FOOT/>. Cf. the exegetic tradition according to which Christ's head signifies his divine majesty while his feet signify his human frailty (Leo Steinberg, The Sexuality of Christ in Renaissance Art and in Modern Oblivion, 2nd edn (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996), pp. 149-51).

(53) The Latin term humilis (humble, lowly) is etymologically related to humus (soil, earth). Cf. the image of Mary as the Madonna of Humility when she is portrayed sitting on the ground (Millard Meiss, Painting in Florence and Siena after the Black Death (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1951), Ch. 6, 'The Madonna of Humility', pp. 132-56).

(54) Poseq, Addenda to Left and Right in Raphael', p. 5; H. L. E. Luering, 'Left', in International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, iii, pp. 1864-65 < LEFT/>.

(55) Petrarca, 'De Podagra' (on the foot as the most ignoble part of the body); and Epistolae de Rebus Familiaribus, iii, pp. 89-90 (on the left side as less honourable than the right). Cf. Richard C. Trexler, Public Life in Renaissance Florence (New York: Academic Press, 1980), p. 117 (on the left side as less honourable than the right).

(56) Reau, Iconographie de l'art chretien, iii, pp. 753-54; Johan Huizinga, The Waning of the Middle Ages (NewYork: Doubleday Anchor, 1954), pp. 168-70.

(57) Louise O. Vasvari, 'Joseph on the Margin: The Merode Tryptic and Medieval Spectacle', Mediaevalia, 18 (1995), 164-89.

(58) Roy Porter, 'Gout: Framing and Fantasizing Disease', Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 68 (1994), 1-28 (p. 6).

(59) Hippocrates [attr.], Aphorisms, Book VI, nos 28-30, in Hippocrates, Vol. 4 / Heracleitus, trans. W. H. S. Jones (London: Heinemann, 1953), p. 187. Cf. S. Byl, 'Rheumatism and Gout in the Corpus Hippocraticum , in Art., History and Antiquity of Rheumatic Diseases, pp. 62-65 (p. 64) and 119-22 (p. 121, n. 41).

(60) Musee du Louvre, Paris, 122 x 80 cm, 1507; Meyer zur Capellen, Vol. 1, pp. 257-63.

(61) Mimouni, Mimouni, and Mimouni, 'Polydactyly Reported by Raphael'.

(62) The swelling at the side of the infant John's foot is a feature of the painting introduced at the preparatory stage and not as an afterthought. It is clearly visible in a compositional study for the Virgin and Child with St John the Baptist now in the Louvre Cabinet des Dessins (Meyer zur Capellen, Vol. 1, p. 261).

(63) Lavin, 'Giovannino Battista: A Study', p. 91.

(64) This account synthesized many earlier stories of the Baptist's life. Its translation into Italian from an anonymous, presumably Latin, version was previously thought to have been done by the Pisan Dominican friar, Domenico Cavalca (c. 1260-1342), but this attribution is no longer accepted (Lavin, 'Giovannino Battista: A Supplement', Art Bulletin, 43 (1961), 319-26 (pp. 320-21)).

(65) Lavin, p. 87.

(66) Lavin, pp. 91-92.

(67) Cf. the rationale for the practices of the confraternity of S. Giovanni Battista detto lo Scalzo, cited in n. 13 above.

(68) Hope, 'Altarpieces and the Requirements of Patrons', pp. 536, 547, 554; Creighton E. Gilbert, 'On Subject and Not-Subject in Italian Renaissance Pictures', Art Bulletin, 34 (1952), 202-16.

(69) Bichi Chapel, Sant'Agostino, Siena, 443 x 552 cm, 1488-94; Toledano, Francesco di Giorgio Martini, pp. 102-05.

(70) Cf. the criticism of Crowe and Cavalcaselle on this point (Raphael: His Life and Works, p. 165).
COPYRIGHT 2011 Australian and New Zealand Association for Medieval and Early Modern Studies
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2011 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Albury, W.R.; Weisz, G.M.
Article Type:Critical essay
Geographic Code:4EUIT
Date:Jan 1, 2011
Previous Article:Changing of the guard: governance, policing, masculinity, and class in the Porteous affair and Walter Scott's heart of Midlothian.
Next Article:Illustriousness in the farmhouse villa: reading virtue from a flemish veronese merchant family's history.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2019 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters