Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Christ Washing the Apostles Feet

Title: Christ Washing the Apostles Feet
Artist: Dirck van Baburen
Medium: Oil on canvas
Size: 199 x 297 cm
Date: c. 1616
Location: Staatliche Museen, Berlin.

John 13:1-17 It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” Peter said, “No, you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” Simon Peter replied, “Then, Lord, not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean. When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

Baburen's broadly narrative Christ Washing the Apostles Feet typifies the Utrecht School formulaic, stages approach. St Peter's pose, as he protests that Christ should not lower himself to such a humble role, anticipates the violently active figures Bernini sculpted on some of his Roman fountain bases.

Dirck van Baburen (c. 1595 – February 1624) was a Dutch painter who was a leading member of the Utrecht school. After studying painting with a portraitist and history painter in Utrecht, Baburen traveled to Rome about 1612 where he was influenced by the dramatic chiaroscuro style of the Italian painter Caravaggio. His most important Italian commission was the decoration of a chapel in the Church of San Pietro in Montorio, Rome (1615-20).

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