According to the book of Matthew, at the time of the Nativity, Mary’s husband, Joseph, had four dreams in which an angel explains Jesus’ miraculous birth and warns of impending danger. The story was a popular subject for Italian artists in the 1600s. This sheet is a quickly printed—and apparently unique—working proof for a print Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione was working on. He simply made it to check his progress on the image. Since it was just for his own use, he printed it on a piece of scrap paper. But what’s on the back is equally fascinating: sketches of Rembrandt prints he had been copying.
Image: Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione, Italian, 1609–1664. (recto) The Dream of Joseph (working proof), mid-1630s, etching.