Monday, April 09, 2007


Rex and I developed an interest in paintings and we had two favorite painters, Michelangelo Merisi who died in 1610 and Jan Vermeer who was born in 1632. When I say they were favorite, I mean that we made an effort to see as many of their paintings as possible. Today, Mimi posted a version of the Supper At Emmaus by Merisi, showing a male waiter (possibly a butler?) In the picture at the right, the server is a woman. Too bad it's a forgery and not by Vermeer. I have seen almost all of the genuine Vermeers, and although I have absolutely no formal training in art, I still have a good eye and I cannot understand how Bredius was able to authenticate this painting as a Vermeer. Of course I have not seen the original, so I mustn't be too judgemental.

At MadPriest's (I won't even dignify his rabbity defacement of the Emmaus by more than mentioning it) there was a rabbity Venus which counterlight spotted as based on a Lotto in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I stopped haunting the Met in1975, so I didn't recognize this 1986 purchase. I note it is a gift of Mrs. Charles Wrightsman, who also gave (with her husband,) this Vermeer,

which was on loan to the Met when Rex was alive) so he saw it. (Liz and I have seen at least two Vermeers that Rex never saw (although he saw some that Liz has not seen, but I digress.)

Several years ago I heard a sermon, I forget who was the preacher but I think I may have heard it at Riverside Church on an Easter afternoon, -- a sermon in which it pointed out that we do not know the genders of the two who were walking to Emmaus so possibly they were a man and wife. In paintings they are always portrayed as two men. Since one has a presumably male name, Cleopas, it is unlikely that they were two women.

I didn't mention in my earlier posts this weekend that during the past week (Holy Week, ) I have been reading Is the Bible True? by David Robert Ord and Robert B. Coote. One of the points the authors make is that the gospels are written largely in what now seems to be trendily called "tensive language," rather than "steno language." Simply put, what this means is that the truth of the stories in the Bible does not depend on whether they are factual but rather on their meaning. Thus, it doesn't really make sense to inquire into "what really happened" as if the story was a description of an event that could have been caught on camera.

I close with the suggestion that the forged Vermeer, because it is a forgery, offers a particular insight into the meaning of the Emmaus story and the knowledge of the Resurrection for us today. We can only tell the story as we have received it and filtered it through our own experience and interpretive biases.


I am writing this at the desk in my mother's apartment and I just looked up and saw a print of another Dutch painting, Rembrandt's 1640 Company of Frans Banning Cocq. The story of this painting and its name (to which I merely allude) goes to illustrate the poiunt I am trying to make.


Grandmère Mimi said...

Allen, I love "Supper at Emmaus" by Michelangelo Merisi or Caravaggio. I saw it a couple of times when I was in London.

When I was putting up the post and saw the painting and the words from Luke together, I was incredibly moved - moved enough to write a poem, which I almost never do, except for haiku or limericks.

I did not like seeing the painting defaced at MadPriest's place, but you can't imagine how the numbers of the hits on my blog went up.

I could not agree more that the truths in the Bible are not necessarily about facts.

beyond the dimensions said...

great blog!