Josefa de Ayala, the daughter of the painter Baltazar Gomes Figueira, was born in Seville in 1630. She came to Portugal in 1634, when her father returned with his family to the small town of Óbidos where he was born. The fame and esteem in which Josefa’s work was held have continued over time, so that a large amount of her work has survived. Such a situation is quite unusual among Portuguese artists, and particularly so for a woman who was confined to the limited space of a small town like Óbidos, where she remained almost the whole of her life. Nonetheless, she successfully became the most effective and most highly reputed exponent of the Portuguese Baroque, in the cycle that began immediately after the restoration of Portugal from Spanish rule.
Her practice of painting small formats in the initial phase of her career gave Josefa a sense of detail and developed her understanding of the need for precise finishing, features that caused her to stand out from the other painters of her time.
The image of Joseph walking alongside the Child Jesus, his son, is undoubtedly a reference to Carmelite piety, which considered the father as the first among all of Christ’s followers.