This beautifully preserved devotional painting by Giuseppe Antonio Petrini was probably painted at the request of a private client, no later than the first years of the 1720s, as Laura Damiani noted when the picture was exhibited in 1991 (loc. cit.). It shows Saint Joseph lovingly arranging a blanket across the newborn Christ Child, who lies on a bed of straw. The composition is bold and experimental: the scene is pared back to its essentials – the head and hands of the saint and the head of the sleeping child – and the elevated viewpoint and tight format reinforces the intimacy of the scene.
The use of a wooden panel is unique in Petrini’s oeuvre. The hard, smooth surface of the support coupled with the remarkable state of the painting’s preservation allows for a full appreciation of the artist’s lively, expressive use of oil. His vigorous brushstrokes form a dense impasto and read almost as a pictorial drawing. His choice of a rich, black backdrop serves to accentuate the brilliant array of browns and ochres used to described the figures of the saint and the sleeping baby.