The Testing of the Suitors of the Holy Virgin (L'épreuve des prétendants au mariage de la sainte Vierge)
Drawing on a story from the apocryphal Protoevangelion of James, Tissot depicts the expectant mood in the Temple as eligible bachelors await the sign that will determine the identity of the Holy Virgin’s betrothed.
In Tissot’s image, the high priest emerges from an inner sanctuary into a richly appointed area with patterned rugs and marble columns to give each man a staff. Ranging in age from fresh-faced youths to white-bearded old men, the suitors look expectantly at the priest as he raises his hands to the heavens in prayer.
Reserving the conclusion of the episode for his commentary, Tissot recounts that when the reluctant suitor Joseph received his staff, a dove sprang forth and soared up to heaven, heralding the carpenter’s role as earthly father to Jesus.
The young boy seen in profile in the right foreground makes frequent appearances throughout the chronological span of the narrative, from the Holy Childhood to the Passion, signaling the artist’s interest in populating his images with quintessential ethnic “types” found in the region (see illustration). The boy’s sidelong glance toward the picture plane and the vacant wedge in the left foreground of the scene, which suggests an unimpeded avenue of access, draw the viewer into the event, underscoring Tissot’s aim to make his viewers witnesses to the narrative.
Opaque watercolor over graphite on gray wove paper
Image: 7 1/2 x 9 1/16 in. (19.1 x 23 cm)
Sheet: 7 1/2 x 9 1/16 in. (19.1 x 23 cm)
Frame: 15 x 20 x 1 1/2 in. (38.1 x 50.8 x 3.8 cm) (show scale)
Signed bottom left: "J.J. Tissot"
This item is not on view
Purchased by public subscription
No known copyright restrictions
This work may be in the public domain in the United States. Works created by United States and non-United States nationals published prior to 1923 are in the public domain, subject to the terms of any applicable treaty or agreement.
You may download and use Brooklyn Museum images of this work. Please include caption information from this page and credit the Brooklyn Museum. If you need a high resolution file, please fill out our online application form
The Museum does not warrant that the use of this work will not infringe on the rights of third parties, such as artists or artists' heirs holding the rights to the work. It is your responsibility to determine and satisfy copyright or other use restrictions before copying, transmitting, or making other use of protected items beyond that allowed by "fair use," as such term is understood under the United States Copyright Act.
The Brooklyn Museum makes no representations or warranties with respect to the application or terms of any international agreement governing copyright protection in the United States for works created by foreign nationals.
For further information about copyright, we recommend resources at the United States Library of Congress
, Cornell University
, Copyright and Cultural Institutions: Guidelines for U.S. Libraries, Archives, and Museums
, and Copyright Watch
For more information about the Museum's rights project, including how rights types are assigned, please see our blog posts on copyright
If you have any information regarding this work and rights to it, please contact email@example.com
James Tissot (French, 1836-1902). The Testing of the Suitors of the Holy Virgin (L'épreuve des prétendants au mariage de la sainte Vierge), 1886-1894. Opaque watercolor over graphite on gray wove paper, Image: 7 1/2 x 9 1/16 in. (19.1 x 23 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Purchased by public subscription, 00.159.14 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 00.159.14_PS1.jpg)
overall, 00.159.14_PS1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2006
"CUR" at the beginning of an image file name means that the image was created by a curatorial staff member. These study images may be digital point-and-shoot photographs, when we don\'t yet have high-quality studio photography, or they may be scans of older negatives, slides, or photographic prints, providing historical documentation of the object.
Not every record you will find here is complete. More information is available for some works than for others, and some entries have been updated more recently. Records are frequently reviewed and revised, and we welcome
any additional information you might have.