Parable of the Lost Drachma| Art for Proper 19

Luke 15:8 “Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it?

Parable of the Lost Drachma
FETTI, Domenico
(b. ca. 1589, Roma, d. 1623, Venezia)
Parable of the Lost Drachma
c. 1618
Oil on wood, 75 x 44 cm
 Gemäldegalerie, Dresden
Click image for more information.

Commentary by Hovak Najarian

Parable of the Lost Drachma, oil on wood, c. 1618, Domenico Fetti, c. 1589-1623

During the Italian Renaissance of the fifteenth century, neither a painting’s subject nor its style reflected the physical surroundings and day to day lives of common people. Domestic scenes or work activities were not of interest to wealthy patrons or Church figures who commissioned art; there would be no reflective glory for them from such works. In the sixteenth century, however, artists expanded their range of subjects and explored new visual effects. One outcome was “naturalism.” An artist such as Caravaggio was known to cast a person he met at a tavern in the role of a biblical figure. They were not “cleaned up” for their role. In Northern Italy a trend toward naturalism also emerged and may be seen in Domenico Fetti’s “Parable of the Lost Drachma.”

After studying painting in Rome, Fetti, at the age of twenty-four moved to northern Italy to work at the court of Vincenzo Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua. The Duke was a noted collector of art and while in Mantua, Fetti’s work continued to develop. He was influenced by a variety of sources; among them were the naturalism of Caravaggio, the use of warm colors by nearby masters in Venice, and the works of Rubens. While he worked for the Duke, the subjects of his paintings often were parables that took place in domestic scenes. The “Parable of the Lost Drachma” illustrates the story of a poor woman who possessed only ten drachmae (Greek coins of small value used during the time of Christ). When one was lost she was desperate to find it. She lit a lamp, swept and searched the house thoroughly, and was delighted when the coin was found. In her excitement she called together friends and neighbors to share her good news.

Fetti’s painting depicts a small room furnished sparsely. The only light source is the woman’s small oil lamp and all shadows emanate from it. Indications of her poverty can be seen in the loose stone tiles on the floor and a portion of the upper wall that is in need of repair. The scene depicted by Fetti takes place during the process of the woman’s hunt for the small coin. She has looked under a chair in the corner and left it on its side. In the left foreground, a stool has been toppled, indicating she has looked under it as well. She searched under the loose floor stones and looked in her trunk; pieces of cloth were taken out and then left on the floor as she went elsewhere to look. In paintings of this parable by other artists, the woman often is shown sweeping with a broom but Fetti has chosen instead to show us her meager furnishing and the places she has searched.

After nine years in Mantua, Fetti moved to Venice to continue his career. He was an exceptional painter but he died at the age of thirty-four and we do not know what else he might have accomplished.

Hovak Najarian © 2013

Allegory of Government: Wisdom Defeating Discord, Art for B Proper 19

Proverbs 1:20-33
Wisdom cries out in the street;
in the squares she raises her voice.
At the busiest corner she cries out;
at the entrance of the city gates she speaks:
“How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple?
How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing
and fools hate knowledge?

Allegory of Government: Wisdom Defeating Discord
Jacob de Wit
(b. 1695, Amsterdam, d. 1754, Amsterdam)
Allegory of Government: Wisdom Defeating Discord
1738
Oil on canvas, 51 x 39 cm
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Click image for more information.

Commentary by Hovak Najarian
(Previous post September 16, 2012)

In ancient Greece, the numerous gods that were created had varying attributes and personalities. Their activities explained elements of the physical world and provided reasons for things that were imagined. Among them was Athena, a goddess acclaimed for her wisdom. In addition, she was the goddess of war and a protector of cities (the city of Athens was named for her). Also, there were gods and goddesses that caused strife. Eris was a schemer and known to the Romans as “Discord.” In an infamous event she set up a conflict that led to the Trojan War. Starting in the fifteenth century, these gods and goddesses were again depicted in art; often their deeds were presented as allegories (a representation of an idea in visual form).

Dutch artist, Jacob de Wit’s fresco, Allegory of Government: Wisdom Defeating Discord, was painted on the ceiling of Aldermen’s Hall (a meeting hall for the city’s governing body) in The Hague. The painting is in the delicate Rococo style of the early eighteenth century but in subject matter it anticipates the use of art to promote moral values as seen later in neoclassicism. In de Wit’s allegory, the figures of Athena (Wisdom) and Eris (Discord) are depicted in a battle. Wisdom is wearing a helmet and holding a shield and spear as she drives away Discord, the bringer of strife. The fresco’s message is: Following the example of Athena, a responsible alderman should make wise judgments and be protective of the city.

In this ceiling fresco, action is taking place overhead in a mythical world. We are very aware that we are looking at a painting that simulates the effect of clouds and figures, yet de Wit creates an illusion that the ceiling isn’t there; as if we are looking directly into the sky. We tend to suspend reality and move from actual space – the space we are in – into a pictorial space that takes us into another realm. Our vantage point is from below this scene but several figures are viewing this battle from within the painting itself. Among them in the distance is Zeus who has arrived to observe the outcome.

Note

De Wit’s fresco of “Wisdom Defeating Discord” had to be removed because of its poor condition. Only photographs and a preparatory study now exist.

In our lives, the horizon is part of our consciousness and we seek balance or equilibrium in visual relationships. We are conscious, too, of the pull of gravity which creates a need for verticality and stability in upright forms. Because of this we are more comfortable with paintings that are rectangular in shape (and level on the wall). An oval carpet on the floor or an oval shaped painting on a ceiling, however, does not affect our sense of balance.

De Wit’s allegory is a call for wisdom in government. The following is an invitation to individuals:

“Wisdom has built her house, she has set up her seven pillars. She has slaughtered her beasts, she has mixed her wine, she has also set her table. She has sent her maids to call from the highest places in the town, ‘Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!’ To him who is without sense she says, ‘Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed. Leave simpleness, and live, and walk in the way of insight.’” (Proverbs 9:1-6)

______________

© 2012 Hovak Najarian

Drowning of the Pharaoh’s Host in the Red Sea / Joseph Receives His Father and Brothers in Egypt| Art for A Proper 19

Exodus 14:30–31 Thus the LORD saved Israel that day from the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. Israel saw the great work that the LORD did against the Egyptians. So the people feared the LORD and believed in the LORD and in his servant Moses.

Drowning of the Pharaoh's Host in the Red Sea
TIZIANO Vecellio
Drowning of the Pharaoh’s Host in the Red Sea
1515-17
Woodcut in twelve blocks, 12,5 x 221,5 cm
British Museum, London
Click image for more information.
Click for artist bio.

Genesis 50:19 But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid! Am I in the place of God?

Joseph Receives His Father and Brothers in Egypt
BRAY, Salomon de
Joseph Receives His Father and Brothers in Egypt
1655
Oil on canvas, 112 x 88 cm
Private collection
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Click for artist bio.

Copies by the artist’s sons.

Joseph Receiving His Father and Brothers in Egypt
BRAY, Jan de
Joseph Receiving His Father and Brothers in Egypt
1655
Chalk and wash, 288 x 232 mm
Private collectionClick image for more information.
Click for artist bio.

Joseph Receiving His Father and Brothers in Egypt
BRAY, Joseph de
Joseph Receiving His Father and Brothers in Egypt
1655
Chalk, 236 x 172 mm
Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels

Click image for more information.
Click for artist bio.

B Proper 19 Art for September 16 2012

WIT, Jacob de
(b. 1695, Amsterdam, d. 1754, Amsterdam)
Click to open Web Gallery of Art Artist Biography and to explore other works by this artist.

Allegory of Government: Wisdom Defeating Discord
1738
Oil on canvas, 51 x 39 cm
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Click to open Web Gallery of Art commentary page. Click image for large view.

Related art commentary by Hovak Najarian.

Allegory of Government: Wisdom Defeating Discord, 1738, Fresco, Jacob de Wit (1695-1754)

Commentary by Hovak Najarian

Related post B Proper 19 Art for September 16 2012
In ancient Greece, the numerous gods that were created had varying attributes and personalities. Their activities explained elements of the physical world and provided reasons for things that were imagined. Among them was Athena, a goddess acclaimed for her wisdom. In addition, she was the goddess of war and a protector of cities (the city of Athens was named for her). Also, there were gods and goddesses that caused strife. Eris was a schemer and known to the Romans as “Discord.” In an infamous event she set up a conflict that led to the Trojan War. Starting in the fifteenth century, these gods and goddesses were again depicted in art; often their deeds were presented as allegories (a representation of an idea in visual form).

Dutch artist, Jacob de Wit’s fresco, Allegory of Government: Wisdom Defeating Discord, was painted on the ceiling of Aldermen’s Hall (a meeting hall for the city’s governing body) in The Hague. The painting is in the delicate Rococo style of the early eighteenth century but in subject matter it anticipates the use of art to promote moral values as seen later in neoclassicism. In de Wit’s allegory, the figures of Athena (Wisdom) and Eris (Discord) are depicted in a battle. Wisdom is wearing a helmet and holding a shield and spear as she drives away Discord, the bringer of strife. The fresco’s message is: Following the example of Athena, a responsible alderman should make wise judgments and be protective of the city.

In this ceiling fresco, action is taking place overhead in a mythical world. We are very aware that we are looking at a painting that simulates the effect of clouds and figures, yet de Wit creates an illusion that the ceiling isn’t there; as if we are looking directly into the sky. We tend to suspend reality and move from actual space – the space we are in – into a pictorial space that takes us into another realm. Our vantage point is from below this scene but several figures are viewing this battle from within the painting itself. Among them in the distance is Zeus who has arrived to observe the outcome.

Note

De Wit’s fresco of “Wisdom Defeating Discord” had to be removed because of its poor condition. Only photographs and a preparatory study now exist.

In our lives, the horizon is part of our consciousness and we seek balance or equilibrium in visual relationships. We are conscious, too, of the pull of gravity which creates a need for verticality and stability in upright forms. Because of this we are more comfortable with paintings that are rectangular in shape (and level on the wall). An oval carpet on the floor or an oval shaped painting on a ceiling, however, does not affect our sense of balance.

De Wit’s allegory is a call for wisdom in government. The following is an invitation to individuals:

“Wisdom has built her house, she has set up her seven pillars. She has slaughtered her beasts, she has mixed her wine, she has also set her table. She has sent her maids to call from the highest places in the town, ‘Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!’ To him who is without sense she says, ‘Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed. Leave simpleness, and live, and walk in the way of insight.’” (Proverbs 9:1-6)

______________

© 2012 Hovak Najarian