Thursday, November 11, 2010

Feeding of the 4000

Title: Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes

Artist: Giovanni Lanfranco

Medium: Oil on canvas

Size: 229 x 426 cm

Date: 1620-23

Location: National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin.

The sixth miracle account that displays Jesus' power over nature is recorded in Mark 8:1-9. This miracle is known as Feeding of the 4000, or Miracle of the Seven Loaves and Fishes.

During those days another large crowd gathered. Since they had nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, because some of them have come a long distance.” His disciples answered, “But where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?” Jesus asked, “How many loaves do you have?” They replied, “Seven.” He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. When he had taken the seven loaves and given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people, and they did so. They had a few small fish as well; he gave thanks for them also and told the disciples to distribute them. The people ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. About four thousand were present. After he had sent them away, he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the region of Dalmanutha.

Lanfranco’s ‘Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes’ was commissioned for the Blessed Sacrament chapel in the Basilica of Saint Paul Fuori le Mura, outside Rome. Lanfranco made eight canvases for this chapel on the theme of the Eucharist. This scene of the miracle is seen in perspective from below, therefore the painting was intended to hang high. The wonderfully bright Jesus stands out against the darker tones of the people who have come to hear the Messiah. Jesus shows the loaves to the people, reassuring them. All the figures are drawn in a different pose, some with theatrical movements of head and hands. The gestures remain believable however, a tour-de-force in such anecdotal painting.

Giovanni Lanfranco (January 1582 - November 1647) was an Italian painter of the Baroque period. His talent for drawing allowed him to begin an apprenticeship with the Bolognese artist Agostino Carracci, brother of Annibale Carracci, working alongside fellow Parmese Sisto Badalocchio in the local Farnese palaces. When Agostino died in 1602, both young artists moved to Annibale's large and prominent Roman workshop. Lanfranco painted many religious decorations for churches and palaces in Rome.

Title: Loaves and Fishes

Artist: Cornelius Edmund Sullivan

Medium: Oil on canvas

Size: 150 x 240 cm

Date: c. 2000

Location: Private collection

This miracle is similar to that of feeding the five thousand, and yet there are very significant differences. The ground of Jesus’ compassion in the first miracle was "the fact that the people are like sheep without a shepherd"; whereas, in this, "it is the fact that they have been so long without food." Perhaps the most significant difference of all is that this miracle took place among the Gentiles, whereas those fed in the other were principally Jews. This key fact explains why two such miracles were performed, showing God's fairness in dealing with Gentiles as he had dealt with the chosen people. Christ is the bread of life for all, not merely for Jews alone.

Cornelius Edmund Sullivan is an American painter, sculptor and printmaker. For many years he was an Artist in Residence for the City of Cambridge, MA School Department. At the same time he served as the elected Artist's Representative to The Board of Directors of The Boston Center for the Arts and was a Master Etching Printer at Impressions Workshop Atelier in Boston. His works are in many private collections and in universities and museums. More of his work can be seen on his website

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