Today’s Gospel in Art – If you wish to be perfect, go and sell what you own | ICN – Independent Catholic News


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Nameless and Friendless, 'The rich man's wealth is his strong city, etc.' - Proverbs, x, 15',  by Emily Mary Osborn © Tate Gallery,

Nameless and Friendless, 'The rich man's wealth is his strong city, etc.' - Proverbs, x, 15', by Emily Mary Osborn © Tate Gallery,

Source: Christian Art

Gospel of 16th August 2021 - Matthew 19: 16-22

There was a man who came to Jesus and asked, 'Master, what good deed must I do to possess eternal life?' Jesus said to him, 'Why do you ask me about what is good? There is one alone who is good. But if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.' He said, 'Which?' 'These:' Jesus replied 'You must not kill. You must not commit adultery. You must not bring false witness. Honour your father and mother, and: you must love your neighbour as yourself.' The young man said to him, 'I have kept all these. What more do I need to do?' Jesus said, 'If you wish to be perfect, go and sell what you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.' But when the young man heard these words he went away sad, for he was a man of great wealth.

Reflection on the Painting

The young man who came to see Jesus in today's reading had everything he wanted. He was successful, wealthy and probably had a very good comfortable life. Yet something was missing and he knew it. That is why he went to see Jesus. He wanted to address that sense of lacking something. When Jesus asked him to give himself wholeheartedly to God and sell everything he had, the young man walked away saddened. Why was he filled with sadness rather than with joy? Probably because he was too attached to all the worldly goods. The young man's heart wanted to hang on to possessions rather than be all-giving and and all-trusting in God.

In our own lives this 'selling all that we have' can mean so many different things: distancing oneself from friendships which aren't healthy; changing a lifestyle; taking up different, more nurturing hobbies; getting involved with charity work… Today's reading asks for a radical life style change if we truly want to follow Christ. Whatever may be in the way of our getting closer to Jesus, has to be addressed and sold off or shaken off…

…and selling in the literal sense for the young man may well have included selling some precious objects as depicted in this charming painting by Emily Mary Osborn. Osborn was one of the most important artists associated with the campaign for women's rights in the nineteenth century. Daughter of a clergyman, she specialised in figurative subjects of 'unpretending character' as they called it at the time. Our painting titled 'Nameless and Friendless' addresses the predicament of the single woman in the modern metropolis during the mid 19th century when this was painted (1857). The woman is fragile. She is an orphaned (as suggested by her black dress), struggling female artist, accompanied by a young man, probably her brother. She is staring at the empty chair: she's lost people she was close to. She now is offering the art dealer one of her paintings, trying to sell it to earn some money. The dealer is disdainful and reflective in his expression. A gallery assistant is literally and figuratively looking down upon the woman from his ladder. Two men on the left are eying up the lady, whilst they are holding a drawing of a ballerina with bare legs, the painter therefore subtlety suggesting that if she doesn't sell the painting, other sad choices may face the impoverished young woman.

The lady in our painting had to sell in order to survive; the rich young man in our reading was asked to sell to survive too… spiritually… but he walked away, saddened.


Today's story -

Christian Art -

Tags: Christian Art, Patrick van der Vorst, Emily Mary Osborn

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