This tondo of Saint Joseph relates to a series of paintings, of similar format, that were commissioned by Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni (1667-1740), the nephew of Pope Alexander VIII. This series consisted of Christ, the Virgin and the Apostles, and the commission, dating from 1713, was given to some of the leading painters in Rome at the time, including Trevisani, Giuseppe Ghezzi, Girolamo Pesci and Sebastiano Conca, among others. Now dispersed, three of the series are still to be found in the Vatican Museum, including Trevisani's Saint Peter, which is closely comparable to the present work. In spite of the fact that Saint Joseph would not normally be included in a series of Apostles, and although it has not been possible to identify the present work in the Cardinal's posthumous inventory (many works in the collection were sold or given away before his death in 1740) there are still compelling reasons for identifying this work as part of the series. In addition to the identical format and dimensions of the present work with the other canvases in the Ottoboni series, the survival of its original frame (see fig. 1), which is also identical to the other surviving frames from the group, make it highly likely that this picture formed part of the original commission, possibly in conjunction with the images of Christ, which was also executed by Trevisani, and that of the Virgin, by Morandi. Another picture from the series, Giuseppe Passeri's, Saint Matthew, still in its original frame, was sold at Christie's, Paris, 22 June 2006, lot 28.
We are grateful to Karin Wolfe for confirming the attribution to Trevisani on the basis of photographs; the picture will be included in her forthcoming catalogue raisonné of Trevisani's works.