Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Wedding at Cana

Title: The Marriage at Cana

Artist: Jan Cornelisz Vermeyen

Medium: Oil on panel

Size: 66 x 85 cm

Date: c. 1530

Location: Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

The second miracle account that displays Jesus' power over nature is recorded in John 2:1-10. It is known as the Wedding at Cana, or Turning Water into Wine.

On the third day there was a wedding celebration in the village of Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the celebration. The wine supply ran out during the festivities, so Jesus’ mother told him, “They have no more wine.” Jesus replied, “Dear woman, that’s not our problem. My time has not yet come.” But his mother told the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Standing nearby were six stone water jars, used for Jewish ceremonial washing. Each could hold twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus told the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” When the jars had been filled, he said, “Now dip some out, and take it to the master of ceremonies.” So the servants followed his instructions. When the master of ceremonies tasted the water that was now wine, not knowing where it had come from (though, of course, the servants knew), he called the bridegroom over. “A host always serves the best wine first,” he said. “Then, when everyone has had a lot to drink, he brings out the less expensive wine. But you have kept the best until now!”

The subject of this candle-lit scene of a group of people sitting at table is probably a moment that preceded the miracle: the calling of St John the Evangelist during the wedding feast at Cana. According to a late-medieval tradition, the wedding feast at Cana celebrated the marriage of John the Evangelist and Mary Magdalene. Seated in the centre behind the table are the beardless John and his bride, with the apostles Peter and Andrew to the left of them, at the moment when the meal is being served. In the foreground the Virgin Mary turns to her right and grasps the shoulder of the servant who tells her that there is no wine. The way in which Vermeyen depicts the scene as viewed from above with the figures closely packed around the circular table is highly original. The lighting of the faces and figures is capricious and imparts remarkable liveliness to the scene. According to tradition, John, followed by Mary Magdalene, opted for a spiritual rather than a physical marriage.

Jan Cornelisz Vermeyen (Beverwijk c. 1503 - Brussels 1559) was a Netherlandish painter and tapestry designer, probably a pupil of Mabuse. About 1525 he became Court Painter to Margaret of Austria, regent of the Netherlands at Mechelen and in 1535 he accompanied the Emperor Charles V to Tunis. This journey supplied him with scenes for later works, including tapestries designed 1545/48 for the Regent, Mary of Hungary.

Title: Wedding Feast at Cana

Artist: Louis Kahan

Medium: Oil on canvas

Size: tbd

Date: 1949

Location: tbd

Louis Kahan (1905-2002), was an Australian artist born in Vienna, who’s long and distinguished career spanned most of the twentieth century. The range and scope of his oeuvre defies categorization and covers a wide variety of media, encompassing painting, printmaking, design and stained glass. In 1993 his contribution to Australian cultural life was recognized when he was made an Officer in the Order of Australia (AO).

The Gospel of John says the mother of Jesus was at the wedding and that Jesus and his disciples were also invited, perhaps implying that they got into town at the last minute and were invited to come along. Their unexpected presence at the wedding may account for the wine shortage. When the wine runs out Jesus responds to his mother’s request with a cryptic saying, literally "what [is there] to me and to you?" It occurs a number of times in the New Testament (Mt 8:29; Mk 1:24; 5:7; Lk 8:28). Here, the idiom "what [is there] to me and to you?" expresses distance, but not disdain. It is part of the larger theme that Jesus is guided by his heavenly Father and not by the agenda of any human beings, even his family. However, the main point of this episode is that it reveals Jesus' glory. More specifically, the promised time of restoration is expressed in the imagery of marriage and of an abundance of wine. Here indeed is the one they have been waiting for. He himself is the good wine that has been kept back until now.

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