The Dream of St Joseph, a painting created by Georges de La Tour in approximately 1640, is now displayed at Musee des Beaux-Arts in Nantes, France. La Tour employed the use of clair-obscur to produce a sense of three-dimensionality in his works. The painting illustrates St. Joseph’s encounter with an angel who delivers a message to him in a dream. La Tour’s tenebrist paintings are defined by a solitary, intense light source that is frequently surrounded by cast shadows. Other paintings of de La Tour, such as The Education of the Virgin and The Penitent Magdalene, are tenebrist as well. Although the painting is religious in nature, La Tour portrays it in a serene, personal, and often commonplace setting.
The Dream of St Joseph is an oil painting on canvas, with a religious component. La Tour’s impressive clair-obscur experience brings the painting’s figures to life, creating a sense of three-dimensionality that draws the viewer in. In the painting, St. Joseph appears to be resting, with an angel hovering over him with a message that is unknown. The surrounding cast of dark shadows helps to create a sense of intensity, which is a common feature of La Tour’s tenebrist work. Despite the painting’s religious content, delicacy and intimacy prevail as La Tour merges familiar daily elements into the storyline.
The Dream of St Joseph, completed in 1640, is a prime example of Georges de La Tour’s incredible painting skills. La Tour’s mastering of clair-obscur provides depth in his paintings with a singular, powerful light source, often surrounded by cast shadows, which remains a critical aspect of his tenebrist paintings, including The Education of the Virgin and The Penitent Magdalene. This painting depicts St. Joseph in a tranquil dream-state, receiving a message from an angel. La Tour portrays the scene with quiet, personal finesse, despite the painting’s religious motif. The painting’s calming atmosphere induces feelings of tranquillity and serenity, making it a true masterpiece of art.