Juan de Valdés Leal, Joachim and the Angel, (1622–1690)

Man leans against tree gesturing toward floating figure with wings

Juan de Valdés Leal


Joachim and the Angel


Oil on canvas

57 3/4 x 82 3/8 in. (146.7 x 209.2 cm)

Meadows Museum, SMU, Dallas. Acquired by the Meadows Museum by exchange; MM.86.04

Hear a reading of the object label (1:05 minutes)

Object Label

Juan de Valdés Leal was an important painter in seventeenth-century Seville. As a contemporary of Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, Valdés Leal painted in a style that sets his paintings firmly apart from the Sevillian master’s more charming idealizations. This canvas, although somewhat darkened with age, preserves the fiery color, sketchy brushstrokes, and sharply flickering highlights characteristic of the artist’s dramatic approach to painting.

The work depicts the shepherd Joachim, who had been turned away from the temple because of his childless marriage, as he receives word from the archangel Gabriel that his wife, Anne, would soon miraculously conceive despite their old age. According to Apocryphal accounts, this child would be the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus. The scene at right foreshadows the moment of Mary’s conception when Joachim and Anne embraced to celebrate the angel’s prophesy. Although uncommon elsewhere in seventeenth-century European painting, this subject remained quite popular in Spain, where its relevance to the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception must have struck a responsive chord.

Hear SMU undergraduate student Johanna Pang read her original poem written in spring 2021 as part of the Meadows Museum's Poets Laureate program (0:50 minutes).

Poem Transcript

Joachim and the Angel                     

by Johanna Pang

His aged body sank against those stern faces

of rock long weathered, whose dust powdered

the terrain with a brownish hue.

It was then when the winged messenger came.

And what is white as heaven’s light?

The fingers of Joachim must have felt the ripple

of robe dancing in the wind

as Gabriel beckoned his eyes to follow along

those steps of airy ascent.

What vision was shared to fortify the soul

against the pain of hope?

When Joachim’s gaze returns to you,

beyond the frame and across the room,

he sees Mary robed in blue.