Sunday, April 16, 2017

Luke for Lent - Part 7 of 7

Title: Friend of the Humble (Supper at Emmaus)
Artist: Léon-Augustin Lhermitte
Medium: Oil on canvas
Size: 156 x 223 cm
Date: 1892
Location: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Luke 24: 28-35 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognised him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognised by them when he broke the bread.

For these disciples, their faces downcast, hope had been buried in the tomb provided by Joseph. But despite their heavy hearts, these disciples do one thing right in this story — something so apparently insignificant it would be easy to miss. They offer hospitality to Jesus: “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening.” As Jesus sits at the table, takes the bread, blesses it, breaks it and gives it to them, their eyes were opened. Jesus blesses their small act of generosity with the revelation of his presence. It is in the intimacy of fellowship, in the breaking of the bread, that they at last recognise him, and their perplexity over recent events is removed. It is through sitting with Jesus and listening to him that we get to know him.

Léon Augustin Lhermitte (1844 – 1925) was a French realist painter and etcher whose primary subject matter was rural scenes depicting peasants at work. He was a student of Lecoq de Boisbaudran, and gained recognition after his show in the Paris Salon in 1864. Lhermitte’s innovative use of pastels won him the admiration of his contemporaries, including Vincent van Gogh, and his many awards include the French Legion of Honour (1884) and the Grand Prize at the Exposition Universelle in 1889.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Luke for Lent - Part 6 of 7

Title: The Three Crosses
Artist: Peter Paul Rubens
Medium: Oil on panel
Size: 60.5 x 96 cm
Date: ca. 1620
Location: Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam

Luke 23:39-43 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

The faith of the thief on the cross is often dismissed, for he has the equivalent of a deathbed conversion. But the testimony he gives in his last moments is a most eloquent evidence of faith. He addresses his colleague first, expresses the injustice of the entire crucifixion by exclaiming, "We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong." Then, anticipating the restoration and resurrection, the thief turns to Jesus with words full of faith, and asks to be included. This man, despite a life full of sin, comes to Jesus, and seeks forgiveness in his last mortal moments. He confesses his guilt and casts himself on Jesus' mercy and saving power. Ironically, though dying amidst mocking, Jesus has saved while on the cross. The request of the taunts has been granted to one who learned to believe. Luke could not have painted a clearer portrait of God's grace…

Peter Paul Rubens (1577 – 1640) was a Flemish/Netherlandish draughtsman and painter, widely considered as the most notable artist of Flemish Baroque art school. A proponent of an extravagant Baroque style that emphasised movement, colour, and sensuality, Rubens is well known for his Counter-Reformation altarpieces, portraits, landscapes, and history paintings of mythological and allegorical subjects. Art experts have pointed out that Rubens did not intend the three towering crosses in this painting to have such a dramatic impact. It was only later that his original panel was mounted in a larger one. However, the work was reproduced in its present form during his lifetime, so the idea of portraying Christ’s death so bleakly is certainly authentic and came from Rubens’s circle.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Luke for Lent - Part 5 of 7

Title: Christ before Herod Antipas
Artist: Nicolaus Knüpfer
Medium: Oil on Panel
Size: 46 x 61 cm
Date: tbd
Location: Szépmûvészeti Múzeum, Budapest

Luke 23:8-12: When Herod saw Jesus, he was greatly pleased, because for a long time he had been wanting to see him. From what he had heard about him, he hoped to see him perform a sign of some sort. He plied him with many questions, but Jesus gave him no answer. The chief priests and the teachers of the law were standing there, vehemently accusing him. Then Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him. Dressing him in an elegant robe, they sent him back to Pilate. That day Herod and Pilate became friends—before this they had been enemies.

Christ being sent to Herod Antipas for judgement is an episode that occurs only in the Gospel of Luke. Herod would have had heard many things of Jesus in Galilee, where his miracles had for a great while been all the talk of the country; and he longed to see him, not for any affection he had for him or his doctrine like Zacchaeus, but purely out of curiosity. He hoped to see some miracle done by him, but Jesus would not gratify him with the performance of even a single miracle. The poorest beggar that asked a miracle for the relief of his necessity was never denied; but this proud prince, that asked a miracle merely for his own amusement, is denied. Herod thought, now that he had him in bonds, he might command a miracle, but to Jesus miracles must not be made cheap, nor Omnipotence be at the beck of any earthly potentate.

Nicolaus Knüpfer (ca. 1603 - 1655) was a Dutch painter of German origin. After initial training in Leipzig and elsewhere, in 1630 Knüpfer moved to Utrecht, where he studied with Mannerist painter Abraham Bloemaert. Knüpfer specialised in history paintings, producing works based on stories from the Bible, from Greek and Roman history and from mythology. In his own day, Knüpfer enjoyed considerable fame and was frequently commissioned by patrons. Typical of his style is the loose brushwork, the liveliness of the depictions and the rich palette, all of which can be seen in this painting of Christ before Herod Antipas. The wall with the low door, closing off the space, looks like a stage set. The curtains and the stage raised by three steps on the right and extending to the plane of the painting are theatrical. The king, leaning back on his throne, is shrieking with laughter and the soldier on one knee, dressing Jesus in a white mantle, has his back to us. His hulking comrade, leaning on his stave, calls through the door to recruit more spectators for Jesus' derision.