Juan de Valdés Leal
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)
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).
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.