Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Feeding of the 5,000

Title: The Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes

Artist: Tintoretto (Jacopo Robusti)

Medium: Oil on Canvas

Size: 154.9 x 407.7 cm

Date: c 1545–50

Location: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

The fourth miracle account that displays Jesus' power over nature is recorded in John 6:1-13. This miracle is known as The Feeding of the 5,000, or often the Miracle of the Five Loaves and Two Fish.

Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick. Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. The Jewish Passover Festival was near. When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish. When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.

This large and long horizontal canvas is characteristic of the laterali used to decorate Venetian chapels, especially those maintained by confraternities devoted to the Eucharist, known as Scuole del Sacramento. Painted about 1545–50, the present picture was designed by Tintoretto and executed, like many of his larger paintings, in part by the artist and in part by members of his workshop. The painting shows Christ handing Saint Andrew one of the five loaves and two fishes to be distributed to the multitude.

Tintoretto (September, 1518 – May, 1594) also known as Jacopo Robusti or Jacopo Comin, was an Italian painter and a notable exponent of the Venetian Renaissance school. His father, Giovanni, was a dyer, or tintore; hence the son got the nickname of Tintoretto, little dyer, or dyer's boy. Like Titian, Tintoretto kept a huge workshop, his chief assistants being his sons Domenico and Marco, and his daughter Marietta. Domenico became his foreman and is said to have painted many portraits, although none can be attributed to him with certainty.

Title: The Miracle of the loaves and fishes

Artist: Giacomo Cavedone

Medium: Chalk, ink, wash & oil on paper

Size: 37 x 24 cm

Date: c.1611-14

Location: Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.

Giacomo Cavedone (1577–1660) also called Giacomo Cavedoni, was an Italian Baroque painter of the Bolognese School. He was born in Sassuolo, near Modena, and was able to obtain a three year stipend to apprentice with Bernadino Baldi and Annibale Carracci. After Annibale's departure for Rome in 1595, Cavedone became one of Ludovico Carracci's primary assistants. His art is notable for his singular fusion of Annibale, and Ludovico Carracci's teachings to achieve a robust personal style. His career as a painter was cut short, however, by a set of misfortunes, including a 1623 fall from a church scaffold and the death of his wife and children from the plague. He lived in great poverty until his death in 1660.

The Miracle of the loaves and fishes occurs in the Gospel of John immediately after Jesus has spoken of Moses (John 5:45-47), and performs a sign that might be expected of a new Prophet like Moses: providing manna. Further connection to the Old Testament is provided by reference to “barley loaves”, reminiscent of 2 Kings 4:42-44, where Elisha multiplies such loaves. Indeed, even Philip’s and Andrew’s skepticism mirrors that of Elisha’s disciples. When Jesus asks Philip where to buy bread for these people to eat, Philip has already concluded it is impossible, he can think only in terms of "how." But in fact it is a test. A correct answer, in keeping with faithful responses earlier in the Gospel, might be something like, "Lord, you know." Or perhaps, "You, Lord, are able to provide." But even Philip has yet grasp the full significance of his earlier confession (John 1:45) that Jesus is "the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote".

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