Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Miraculous Draught of Fishes

Title: The Miraculous Draught of Fishes

Artist: Peter Paul Rubens

Medium: Black chalk, pen and oil on paper, stuck on canvas

Size: 55 x 85 cm

Date: 1618-19

Location: National gallery, London.

The Miracles of Jesus are the supernatural deeds believed by many Christians to have been performed by Jesus Christ in the course of his ministry. These miracles are sometimes categorized into four groups: cures, exorcisms, resurrection of the dead and control over nature. The Gospels include eight pre-resurrection accounts concerning Jesus' power over nature. The first such account, as recorded in Luke 5:1-11, is The Miracle Draught of Fishes.

Jesus was standing on the shore of Lake Gennesaret, teaching the people as they crowded around him to hear God's message. Near the shore he saw two boats left there by some fishermen who had gone to wash their nets. Jesus got into the boat that belonged to Simon and asked him to row it out a little way from the shore. Then Jesus sat down in the boat to teach the crowd. When Jesus had finished speaking, he told Simon, "Row the boat out into the deep water and let your nets down to catch some fish." "Master," Simon answered, "we have worked hard all night long and have not caught a thing. But if you tell me to, I will let the nets down." They did it and caught so many fish that their nets began ripping apart. Then they signaled for their partners in the other boat to come and help them. The men came, and together they filled the two boats so full that they both began to sink. When Simon Peter saw this happen, he knelt down in front of Jesus and said, "Lord, don't come near me! I am a sinner." Peter and everyone with him were completely surprised at all the fish they had caught. His partners James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were surprised too. Jesus told Simon, "Don't be afraid! From now on you will bring in people instead of fish." The men pulled their boats up on the shore. Then they left everything and went with Jesus.

Sir Peter Paul Rubens (June 1577 – May 1640) was a prolific seventeenth-century Flemish painter, and a proponent of an extravagant Baroque style that emphasized movement, color, and sensuality. Not only was he an enormously successful painter whose workshop produced a staggering number of works; but he also played an important diplomatic role in 17th-century European politics. Rubens's major business was altarpieces, particularly suitable for an artist who enjoyed working on a grand scale. The central part of the design for his The Miraculous Draught of Fishes shares imagery with the central panel of a triptych in Notre Dame au delĂ  de la Dyle, Malines, painted by Rubens in 1617-19.

Title: Miraculous Catch

Artist: Anton Losenko

Medium: Oil on Linen

Size: 159.5 X 194 cm

Date: 1762

Location: Russian State Museum, Saint Petersburg.

Anton Pavlovich Losenko (August 1737 - December 1773) was born to the family of a Ukrainian cossack. Soon he became an orphan and at the age of seven was sent to a Court Choir in Saint Petersburg. In 1753, as he had lost his voice but had shown talent for painting, he was sent for apprenticeship to the artist Ivan Argunov. In 1758, after five and a half years of apprenticeship, he was admitted to the Imperial Academy of Arts.

Losenko depicts the Miraculous Catch as it is hauled ashore where people have gathered in order to witness the miracle. Peter has fallen down to one elbow before Christ to proclaim “I am a sinner”, as James, John and the others drag in the nets. This event signifies not only what disciples are called to do, but who the disciples are as they do it. Simon Peter and Jesus represent different sides of the theology that undergirds the community Jesus is forging. Simon, for his part, knows that he is a sinner who is not worthy to experience the benefits of God's power and presence - there is no presumption that God owes him anything. Jesus, exemplifying God's grace, makes it clear that such a humble approach to God is exactly what God will use. Losenko’s skillful blending of stoic classicism and realism, was powerful enough to make an impression on Catherine II of Russia, who acquired this picture for the emperor hermitage.

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