Sunday, March 5, 2017

Luke for Lent - Part 1 of 7

The Lenten season, a time for fasting and abstinence, can also be a time for prayer and reflection. As the Gospel According to Luke has many unique parables, teachings, and narrative episodes, Lent seems like the ideal time to have a look at a few paintings inspired by some of these passages.

Title: Annunciation to the Shepherds
Artist: Adam Pynacker
Medium: Oil on Panel
Size: 38.7 cm
Date: ca. 1640
Location: The Legion of Honor, San Francisco.

Luke 2:8-15: And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

Although the Nativity narrative is also found in Matthew, the details of each account differ. Unique to Luke is the inclusion on the annunciation to the shepherds. Whereas Matthew records the recognition of Jesus by Magi, men of high reputation and standing, Luke describes the visit of shepherds, people of low esteem. Because their work prevented them from keeping the ceremonial law, shepherds were a despised class. Often regarded as thieves, they were considered unreliable and not allowed to give evidence in court. This is the beauty of Luke's gospel: God puts equal importance on each of us no matter our present station. Note as well that the angel calls Jesus “Savior”, one of only two times this word is used in reference to Jesus in all four Gospels (cf. John 4:42), a most outstanding term to be used for a new baby.

Adam Pynacker (1622 - 1673) was a Dutch landscape painter, active mainly in Delft and in Amsterdam. Having spent some time in Italy, he was one of the outstanding Dutch exponents of Italianate landscapes. In 1658 he converted to Catholicism in order to marry Eva Maria de Geest, daughter of renowned Dutch painter Wybrand de Geest. Pynacker’s style resembles that of Jan Both and Jan Asselyn, but his mature work often has a distinctive and attractive silvery tonality all his own, perfect for capturing the nocturnal arrival of an angel of the Lord.

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