Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Engagement of the Virgin

Title: The Engagement of the Virgin
Artist: Michael Pacher
Medium: Oil on wood
Size: 113 x 139.5 cm
Date: 1495-98
Location: Österreichische Galerie, Vienna.

Matthew 1:24-25: Joseph woke up. He did what the angel of the Lord commanded him to do. He took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until after she gave birth to a son. And Joseph gave him the name Jesus.

Luke focuses on God's revelation to Mary, whereas Matthew focuses on the revelation to Joseph. We should also observe that the circumstances under which Joseph was planning to divorce Mary were hardly light. Jewish and Roman law both demanded that a man divorce his wife if she were guilty of adultery. To fail to do so would violate law and custom, would bring enduring reproach on his household and would constitute embracing as wife one who had betrayed him in the worst manner conceivable in his culture. Roman law actually treated a husband who failed to divorce an unfaithful wife as a panderer exploiting his wife as a prostitute! But Joseph values commitment to God above his own honor.

Michael Pacher (c. 1435—August 1498) was an Austrian Tyrolean painter and sculptor active during the last quarter of the 15th century. Pacher was one of the earliest artists to introduce the principles of Renaissance painting into Germany. He was a comprehensive artist with a broad range of skills: sculpting, painting, and architecture of complex wood and stone. He painted structures for altarpieces on a scale unparalleled in North European art. His influence is primarily North Italian, and his work shares characteristics with that of painters such as Andrea Mantegna; however, German influences are also evident in his work, especially in his wood sculpture. He was most active from 1462 until his death.

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