Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Jesus Washing Peter's Feet

Title: Jesus Washing Peter's Feet

Artist: Ford Madox Brown

Medium: Oil on canvas

Size: 116.8 x 133.3 cm

Date: 1852-6

Location: Tate Britain, London.

Just before the Passover Feast, Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. He knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God. So, as recorded in John 13:4-10, he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples' feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, "Lord, are you going to wash my feet?" Jesus replied, "You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand." Peter said, "No, you shall never wash my feet." Jesus answered, "Unless I wash you, you have no part with me." Simon Peter replied, "Then, Lord, not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!" Jesus answered, "A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean.”

The Lord knew his time on earth was ending. This was the last time he would be with all his disciples. What does John say was on his mind? His love for his disciples. And out of love he taught them one last lesson - humility. Humility and service to others is the evidence of love.

This painting of Jesus washing Peter’s feet has an unusually low viewpoint and compressed space. When first displayed, however, critics objected to the picture’s coarseness – it originally depicted Jesus only semi-clad. Though this was how Jesus was described in the Gospel, it caused an outcry when it was first exhibited and it remained unsold for several years until Brown reworked the figure in robes.

Ford Madox Brown (16 April 1821 – 6 October 1893) was an English painter of moral and historical subjects, notable for his distinctively graphic and often Hogarthian version of the Pre-Raphaelite style. Brown was an individualist and a man of prickly temperament, and his paintings, though displaying dedicated craftsmanship and brilliant coloring, have been criticized as having too heavy an emphasis on social idealism.

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