Nothing is known about the original location of Bergant’s painting St Joseph. It came to the National Gallery from Polhov Gradec, where it had been in private ownership. Given its relatively small format, the painting could have belonged on the altar table of one of the churches in the area. It may even have formed part of a private collection in a castle or country mansion.
St Joseph became the patron saint of the Habsburg hereditary lands, which included Carniola, in the last quarter of the seventeenth century. His cult spread in particular among the Discalced Augustinians of Ljubljana, who even maintained a Brotherhood of St Joseph. In 1763 Bergant painted Our Lady of Consolation for the order. Considered an “image of grace”, the work is today lost.
Bergant’s characteristic softness underlines the especially warm relationship between Joseph and the almost entirely naked, mischievously smiling baby Jesus, in a similar way to images of Our Lady of Good Counsel. For this reason, we can understand this painting as a true pendant to these images.