As I have mentioned before, readers of this site write to me from time to time asking for help in identifying icons, and I am happy to help them as possible. Today I received a question about an icon one seldom sees.

It depicts Mary, Jesus, and Joseph at the time when Jesus was still young. It is not the usual type — not the version called “The Three Joys.” This one is rather different in that it depicts the family working in Joseph’s carpentry shop. Mary sits spinning wool, Joseph is cutting a board, and the youthful Jesus is cutting a slot into a beam. It is easily distinguished from the “Three Joys” icon (which was also based on a Western prototype) in that the “Three Joys” includes the youthful John the Baptist, and neither Mary, Joseph, Jesus, nor John is laboring.

Physical Labor of the Holy Family

This particular example of the “Physical Labor”…

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