Dream Vision | Art for Proper 25

Joel 2:28-29 Then afterward I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female slaves, in those days, I will pour out my spirit.

Dream Vision
DÜRER, Albrecht
(b. 1471, Nürnberg, d. 1528, Nürnberg)
Dream Vision
Watercolour on paper, 30 x 43 cm
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
Click image for more information.

Commentary by Hovak Najarian

Dream Vision, Watercolor, 1525, Albrecht Durer, 1471-1528

Dreams are not part of our physical world and often their images have no reference to anything we remember having seen or experienced. When a dream is vivid we tend to remember it and wonder if it had meaning. Yet, we tend to be skeptical of those who interpret dreams in other than general terms. It seems reasonable, however, that there are times when the content of a dream (e.g. recurring dreams) may be related to events in a life; especially if an event weighs heavily on a person’s mind. Those who look for meaning believe a great deluge and flood, as in the dream experienced by Albrecht Durer, is related to unexpressed fears and emotional turmoil. Whether or not Durer’s dream was rooted in fear is not known but there was a great deal of turmoil in Germany during the later part of his life.

Durer’s dream came at a time when he was much immersed in the work and teachings of Martin Luther. In 1525, Durer’s native, Nuremburg, became a Protestant city and this resulted in great anger from the Roman Church. Durer’s frightening dream took place that very same year. Upon awakening, he recalled the dream in writing and recorded it in a watercolor study called “Dream Vision.” His written account tells of an intense experience that left him trembling. Three years later, Durer died and Martin Luther wrote:

It is natural and right to weep for so excellent a man – still you should rather think him blessed, as one whom Christ has taken in the fullness of his wisdom and by a happy death from these most troublesome times, and perhaps from times even more troublesome which are to come, lest one who was worthy to look on nothing but excellence, should be forced to behold things most vile.

Dreams come in a variety of forms and, unlike the one experienced by Durer, many are pleasant. Often the term “dream” itself is used with positive associations and as a metaphor for a conscious desire; we may wish for a “dream” job, vacation, or home. On a conscious level, dreams also are visualizations of possibilities. Airplanes became a reality because humans observed birds and dreamed of flying. Because we dreamed, men walked on the moon.

The Book of Joel cites blessings that were to be bestowed on Israel. In addition to material blessings, God promised a special gift – the gift of the spirit, of dreams and visions; “And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions” (Joel 2:28). Revelation, enlightenment, and wondrous achievements have been the result of this gift.

Hovak Najarian © 2013

Christ Healing the Blind | Art for Proper 25B

Mark 10:46 They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside.

Christ Healing the Blind
Christ Healing the Blind, c. 1570’s,
El Greco, 1541-1614
Oil on canvas, 119 x 146 cm
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New YorkClick image for more information and two earlier versions by El Greco.

Commentary by Hovak Najarian

Domenikos Theotokopoulos, of Greek descent, was born on the island of Crete at a time when it was a Venetian colony. He began his career as an icon painter but while a young man he went to Venice to study painting with Titian, one of the great masters of the sixteenth century. He then moved to Rome, opened a workshop, and became familiar with the work of artists associated with the Renaissance and Mannerism. Next on his itinerary was Madrid where he hoped to work at the Spanish court. The king did not like his work, however, and after receiving a commission for a group of paintings at a church in Toledo, he decided to stay there and make it his home. In Spain, he became known simply as The Greek – “El Greco.”

While in Italy, El Greco painted three versions of Christ Healing the Blind; the one shown above was his last one. It has a few unfinished areas and was taken with him to Spain – perhaps to finish it there. At that time he was influenced by the artists of Venice and, inasmuch as this painting was not quite complete and not signed, historians first attributed it to two highly regarded Venetian painters. It was thought to be a Tintoretto and later, the work of Veronese. In 1958 it was determined to be the work of El Greco.

This painting is not from a specific biblical text but is a synthesis of several accounts of Christ healing the blind. The man pointing upward at the far left has had his sight restored and is telling about the experience to the people gathered. Another man is kneeling and his eyes are being touched by Christ. In El Greco’s first painting of this subject, he placed a dog in the central foreground sniffing the belongings of the man being healed. That space was left empty in the second version but in this, his third interpretation, the central foreground has been given over to a man and woman witnessing the miracle and gesturing in awe. Because of a likeness between the man in the foreground and the man being healed, it has been suggested the two figures in the foreground are the blind man’s parents. The men grouped together at the far right of the painting are believed to be Pharisees airing their criticism because the healing was carried out on the Sabbath.

El Greco’s greatest success and the development of his artistic style came during his years in Spain. Although he lived in Toledo until the time of his death, he remained emotionally close to his Greek heritage. When adding his signature to a painting, he always signed his given name in Greek and sometimes followed with, “from Crete.”


El Greco’s life and work spans the time between Mannerism and the Baroque period. After the Venetian influence diminished, his style became so distinctive and personal that it defies categorization. His work is now regarded to be an early manifestation of “expressionism.”

Elongated figures are a characteristic of El Greco’s work in Spain. It has been suggested astigmatism was the cause. That is inaccurate. If average sized figures looked elongated to him, he would see the figures elongated in his paintings as well, yet to us, they would appear to be average in size.

Joshua / The Lacemaker| Art for A Proper 25

Exodus 34:9 Joshua son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom,

after 1650
White marble, height 180 cm
O.-L. Vrouwekathedraal, Antwerp
Click image for more information.

Psalm 90:17 Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and prosper for us the work of our hands — O prosper the work of our hands!

The Lacemaker
VERMEER, Johannes
The Lacemaker
Oil on canvas transferred to panel, 23.9 x 20.5 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris
Click image for more information.
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