Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Sermon of the Beatitudes

Title: The Sermon of the Beatitudes

Artist: James Tissot

Medium: Watercolor over graphite on gray wove paper

Size: 24.4 x 16.4 cm

Date: c. 1890

Location: Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, New York.


The Gospel of Matthew records the early ministry of Jesus in a matter-of-fact style. Chapter 4:23-25 reports, “And Jesus was going about all Galilee teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the reign, and healing every disease, and every malady among the people, and his fame went forth to all Syria, and they brought to him all having ailments, pressed with manifold sicknesses and pains, and demoniacs, and lunatics, and paralytics, and he healed them. And there followed him many multitudes from Galilee, and Decapolis, and Jerusalem, and Judea, and beyond the Jordan.”


These events lead up to one the most widely read passages of Christian scripture, when Jesus, having seen the multitudes that followed him, went up the side of a mountain to teach. The Sermon of the Beatitudes is full of Gods’ love and wisdom, and ends with the declaration “when Jesus ended these words, the multitudes were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as having authority, and not as the scribes.” Tissot’s depiction of Jesus as he is about to begin his sermon is both realistically accurate, rendering a rocky formation a speaker could use to have his voice heard by thousands, and has a keen spiritual feel as Jesus almost appears to be aloft, as though he is floating above the gathering multitude, prefiguring his own Ascension.


James Jacques Joseph Tissot (October 15, 1836 – August 8, 1902) was a French painter. After the death of his longtime companion Kathleen Newton in 1882, Tissot spent some time in Palestine. In Paris in 1896 he d├ębuted the series of 350 drawings of the life of Christ, and the following year found them on show in London. They were then published by the firm of Lemercier in Paris, who paid him 1,100,000 francs. The merits of Tissot's Bible illustrations lay in the care with which he studied the details of scenery rather than any religious sentimentality. He seemed to aim for accuracy, and, in his figures, for vivid realism, which was far removed from the conventional treatment of sacred types.

No comments:

Post a Comment