Monday, November 8, 2010

Christ Calming the Storm

Title: Christ Asleep during the Tempest

Artist: Eugene Delacroix

Medium: Oil on canvas

Size: 50.8 x 61 cm

Date: c 1853

Location: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

The third miracle account that displays Jesus' power over nature is recorded in Matthew 8:23-27. It is known as Christ Calming the Storm.

Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”

Delacroix painted fourteen variations of this New Testament lesson in faith. In the earlier works, the seascape is more prominent; in the later ones, as here, Christ's bark occupies a more significant place. After Vincent van Gogh saw this version in Paris in 1886, he wrote, "The 'Christ in the Boat'—I am speaking here of the sketch in blue and green with touches of violet, red and a little citron-yellow for the nimbus, the halo—speaks a symbolic language through color alone."

Ferdinand Victor Eugene Delacroix (April 1798 – August 1863) was a French Romantic artist regarded from the outset of his career as a leader of the French Romantic school. In 1815 he entered the studio of the neoclassical painter Pierre Narcisse Guérin, where he met Théodore Géricault, a romantic painter by whom he was much influenced. Delacroix took for his inspiration the art of Rubens and painters of the Venetian Renaissance, with an attendant emphasis on color and movement rather than clarity of outline and carefully modeled form. Delacroix's use of expressive brushstrokes and his study of the optical effects of color profoundly shaped the work of the Impressionists, while his passion for the exotic inspired the artists of the Symbolist movement.

Title: Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee

Artist: Ludolf Backhuysen

Medium: Oil on Canvas

Size: 58.4 x 72.4 cm

Date: 1695

Location: Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indiana.

If the disciples thought the boat might sink with Jesus aboard, it was because they did not understand Jesus' identity. His power over the sea, however, forces them to grapple afresh with that question. Faith in Jesus' authority flows from conviction concerning his true identity. In biblical tradition it was God whom the seas obeyed, as in Psalm 89:9 “You rule over the surging sea; when its waves mount up, you still them”. The astonishment of Jesus' disciples is therefore understandable. Their cry for Jesus to save them reflects one sense of the Greek term save ("deliver safely") but probably also alludes on a literary level to Jesus' broader mission.

Ludolf Backhuysen (or Bakhuizen ) (December, 1630 – November, 1708) was a German-born painter who was the leading painter of seascapes in Amsterdam during the last quarter of the 17th century. His compositions, which are numerous, are nearly all variations of one subject, the sea, and in a style peculiarly his own, marked by intense realism or faithful imitation of nature. His earliest biographer declared that he was "taught by nature" and reported that he often put to sea when a storm threatened in order observe the changing conditions of sky and water.

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