The Silent Knight

A History of St. Joseph as Depicted in Art

$18.95

About this item

Images of St Joseph are ubiquitous in the modern Catholic devotional landscape with his statues and figurines standing sentinel in every church and creche, but this was not always the case. The husband of Mary and foster father of Jesus spent the first centuries of Christian art as a great absentee, unaccounted for in visual representations of Christ’s birth and infancy.

The Silent Knight explores and chronicles the remarkable rise of Joseph’s iconography through masterpieces by some of history’s greatest artists. The first depictions of Joseph appeared in the fifth century, gradually evolving as the Church grew, accompanying the faithful through the vicissitudes of ecclesiastical history. Josephine imagery adapted at various times to provide inspirational role models for fathers, husbands, workers, the moribund, and even the pope, depending on the circumstances, leading to a striking variety of depictions in the history of art.

Each chapter of this book reveals a different facet of Joseph, contextualized in the history, spirituality, or controversy of the age, and demonstrates how artists applied their creative talents to communicate Joseph’s intercessory power to their audiences. Through the words and prayers of Saints Bernard of Clairvaux, Francis of Assisi, Bridget of Sweden, Francis de Sales, Teresa of Avila, Pius IX, and John Paul II, readers will learn how devotion to Joseph expanded in both the breadth of his intercessory powers and his geographical area of influence, galvanizing painters and sculptors to produce fascinating innovations in his iconography.

This richly illustrated book will guide readers through a spectacular gallery of images by Raphael, Michelangelo, Murillo, Giotto, Caravaggio, El Greco, and more, illustrating how each one of these creative geniuses chose to highlight the increasing number of attributes ascribed to this silent saint. Written to celebrate the Year of St Joseph declared by Pope Francis, The Silent Knight aims to deepen the faithful’s knowledge, appreciation, and devotion to this eminent Patron of the Universal Church through the extraordinary beauty that he has inspired.

Igor Babailov photo

"This book by Liz Lev is a fabulous insight into the story of St. Joseph, an inspiring ‘portrait in words’ of an iconic saint, a journey into the chronology of depictions of him in art throughout the centuries, and a passionate reminder of him as a timeless subject of divine inspiration to the artists of today."

Igor Babailov
Vatican Papal Artist
George Weigel photo

"No one helps us 'see' a painting, sculpture. mosaic, or tapestry quite like Elizabeth Lev, whose unique aesthetic insight brings the elusive St. Joseph vibrantly alive in this wonderful book."

George Weigel
Senior Fellow, Ethics and Public Policy Center
Mons. Timothy Verdon photo

"In her accessible, conversational style Elizabeth Lev has brought together centuries of theological, devotional, and artistic reflection on St. Joseph, the foster father of Christ and chaste companion of the Virgin Mary, in a handsomely illustrated volume that students of Catholic culture will read with joy."

Mons. Timothy Verdon
Director, Florence Cathedral Museum
Steve Ray photo

"Not only rich with resplendent artwork, The Silent Knight is also replete with historical documentation and commentary. This will be a treasured volume for art lovers, theologians, scholars, novices and all who love a good read."

Steve Ray
CatholicConvert.com
  • Pages: 256
  • Format(s): Paperback, eBook
  • ISBN: 978-1-64413-574-7
  • Product Code: 5747
  • Availability: In Stock
  • Publication Date: December 14, 2021
  • Categories: By title, New Releases, Saints and Angels
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St. Joseph is brought into a glorious, well-deserved spotlight!
Dr. Lev consistently reveals the importance to detail and this book is no exception! From the beautiful, carefully chosen paintings, to the feel of its rich pages, this collection is a work to behold. As a gifted storyteller and historian, she walks the reader though the evolution in Joseph’s presence, and how he was used by the Church to influence thought. We see Joseph reflecting the importance of marriage, masculinity, fatherhood, and even death, amongst other causes. By her meticulous work, Dr. Lev has given me a better understanding of these pieces and a deeper devotion to this beloved, humble saint!
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"Go to Joseph!"
Elizabeth Lev has written a blockbuster love letter to the best of men, Joseph of Nazareth. Her book is a magisterial survey of the many renderings of St. Joseph by his artistic admirers through the centuries. In language learned but lively, she traces his image in Christian art from antiquity, carefully noting and exploring its many iterations. The plates chosen to illustrate her text are riveting, a gorgeous complement to her larger effort. Her work is all the more engaging in that we have no contemporary description of Joseph’s appearance, though the first chapters of Matthew and Luke tell us a few things about him: that he was a Jew of the House of David, “a just man,” a contemplative of sorts, faithful to God’s commands, protective of his family, resourceful, itinerant, a carpenter. Notably, Joseph says nothing in the Gospel narratives, leading to Ms. Lev’s ingenious title, “The Silent Knight.” Throughout this extraordinary study, the author takes us firmly in hand, guiding us through the many representations of Joseph beginning with the birth of Christ, where Joseph is initially missing from the scene, then gradually allowed to make his entrance, at first barely discernible, then off to the side; and only much later as a full member of the Nativity team., All in all, she argues that the various images of Joseph — old man, bridegroom, husband, father, caretaker, laborer— were devised in answer to theological problems, or to address other pressing needs of the Church. According to the author, they were intended to instruct the faithful and inspire their devotion. For example, why was Joseph absent from the earliest depictions of the Nativity? Answer: To illustrate the essential teaching that Joseph was not the father of Jesus, who was born of the Virgin Mary. Similarly, when Joseph later appears, he is often represented as a very old man, old enough to have had children prior to his marriage to Mary (accounting for Jesus’ “brothers” mentioned in Scripture) as well as old enough to have lost any desire for marital relations. In her final chapter, Ms. Lev returns to the subject of chastity, taking up the question of Joseph’s manhood, manhood simply, and here her language soars! Faithful to the magisterium, she concludes that Joseph was chaste throughout his life, yet “a model of manhood despite and even because of his chastity[.]”(198). Joseph emerges as a strong and vigorous hero who “chose chastity in his marriage to [the] woman he loved[.]”(88). The most manly of men, indeed, the best of “fathers,” may be celibate. Joseph’s erotic longings are understood to have been in the service of beauty, goodness, and truth, in a word, to Christ Himself. This “chaste, hard-working, faithful man”(2) is finally offered not just as a saint for discrete pockets of the faithful — husbands or laborers or travelers — but as a saint for all of us, a foster father, the best of men. “Ite ad Joseph!”
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Liz Lev does it again
This little book gave me a greater appreciation for St. Joseph and helped me to better understand his place in history over the last 2,000 years of Christianity. From his absence in art of the early years, to his modeling of Peter & the Pope in medieval years, to his current example of masculinity to our postmodern culture, Liz Lev has once again demonstrated her theological and artistic genius in a very enjoyable book.
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Brilliant book on St. Joseph & art depicting him
Liz Lev has written another brilliant book following her hugely successful prior work entitled: How Catholic Art Saved the Faith: The Triumph of Beauty and Truth in Counter-Reformation Art. This book on St. Joseph is equally informative, captivating, and beautifully written. Frankly, it is a MUST READ for anyone interested in St. Joseph. Richly illustrated with Lev's usual insightful and richly researched commentary, the book is nonetheless immensely readable. It's a page turner. I have had the pleasure of enjoying Lev's company as a tourist in many spots around Italy, and reading this book was as fun and thrilling as having Lev charm you in person. I could not recommend it more highly to anyone interested in learning more about St. Joseph as well as the art that has depicted him over the centuries.
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Fascinating examination of the emergence of St. Joseph in Renaissance art
Elizabeth Lev has gifted us with another scholarly masterpiece, written in her characteristic accessible and engaging style, which takes the reader on a fascinating journey through church history, its conflicts and crises, and its refinements of teaching surrounding the figure of St. Joseph. The images are compelling and Lev's analysis is gripping. I especially appreciated her examination of Caravaggio’s Rest on the Flight into Egypt, with its innovative focus on Joseph instead of only Mary and Jesus. The book weaves art history together with political, ecclesiastical, and social developments through the lens of a single saint, who grew from being largely absent from early Christian art to the beloved patron of the universal church.
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