Rare Antique Saint Joseph Statue with Christ Child, India (9518BMEL) $4800


H: 29.5”  W: 7.75”  D: 5.25” | FOR SHIPPING INFORMATION CONTACT US AT 213-568-3030

This magnificent 19th century Kerala, South Indian carving highlights the extraordinary abilities of local artists to combine Indian with western artistic styles and techniques. Joseph stands slightly elongated in an altered European contrapposto pose, depicted as light-skinned, blue-eyed, bearded man with western features. Likewise the infant Christ with blue eyes has a child’s smile, hands are crossed at the chest, dressed in a flowing white garment.The combined  tenderness, softness, and strength make this a powerful and vibrant yet highly approachable image.


This special and important carving of Joseph with the Christ child from Kerala reflects a blend of Portuguese and European traditions with the indigenous traditions of South India. Christian missionaries built churches in Kerala from 1510 (St. Francis Church in Kochi) through the18th century and brought with them European carvings, paintings, and other large and detailed religious items to decorate them which were available for Indian artists to study and earn what was required for them to fulfill western Christianity commissions. While the iconography, dress, and the postures of figures were western, the simplicity and candor of the work, the direct portrayal of the figures, and the figures’ natural, unpretentious, and human characteristics replicate  tradition Indian-carvings. Religious pieces like this were completed by highly skilled, talented, and experienced artists who were already doing outstanding work for Indian Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain patrons, and many  statues were exported back to Europe where they were readily accepted and admired. Although Asian religious items like this were stylistically different from those brought by the missionaries, they successfully blended  European inspiration and subject matter with the skill, techniques, practices, and expertise of local carvers.   Joseph here stands upright and slightly elongated in an altered European contrapposto pose portrayed as a light-skinned, blue-eyed, bearded man with western features. With his left hand he effortlessly holds the blue-eyed infant Christ who is dressed in a long blue biblical tunic reaching his bare feet with gold borders at the neck and below the chest. Joseph, his earthly father and the patron saint of workers, wears a burnt-umber shawl tied over his left shoulder that covers most of the tunic and falls in beautifully carved, long, and deep pleat patterns and undulating ends to the right foot. With a thoughtful expression he holds his right arm up with an empty hand that may have held lilies that sometimes appeared in images as Christian-symbolism for  purity.  This lovely simple portrayal is a modest, very human representation conveying a substantial yet straight forward spiritual presence.This magnificent piece is in excellent condition and is part of the VA Collection of Christian-Art.


artsandculture.com, Christianity in Asia: Sacred Art and Visual Splendour, National Heritage Board, Singapore

asianartnewspaper.com, Nations with Asian Art at Least Some Roads Lead to Rome

ucanews.com, The Portuguese Colony of Christian Imagination in India


Additional information

Place of Origin



Antique (1200-1920)


19-20th Century

Materials and Technique


Dimensions (inches)

Ht: 29.5” W: 7.75” D: 5.25”

Dimensions (metric)

Ht: 36.83cm W: 16.51cm D: 13.97cm


10lbs 9oz


Excellent, fine patina demonstrating age and use

Item Number


Shipping Box Size