Amidst swirling draperies, Saint Joseph holds the infant Jesus upon a tasseled cushion. Joseph is modeled with subtle twists in his body, amplified by his buoyant and billowing tunic and cloak. Even his curly hair flutters with a life of its own. Fashioned from white-bodied earthenware, known as creamware, the figures are painted with lustrous jewel-like colors. Their theatricality is characteristic of Baroque sculpture.
Athough most depictions present Saint Joseph as elderly, he is portrayed here as a youthful and handsome father. Inspired by the new focus on Jesus' human and family life and encouraged by the philosophies of the Counter-Reformation, the cult of Saint Joseph became more popular in the second half of the 1700s, when this sculpture was made.
The subject and composition of this work are identical to those of a life-size marble of 1790 to 1791 by the Neapolitan sculptor Giuseppe Sanmartino in the Taranto Cathedral. Sanmartino produced a number of terracotta sketches for his large-scale sculpture; this small-scale ceramic group by Gennaro Laudato probably copied one of these and was intended as a collector's object or devotional piece.