(click to enlarge)
Oil on canvas
Who doesn't like tigers?
The painting depicts the young Jesus assisting Joseph in his workshop. Joseph is making a door, which is laid on his carpentry work-table. Jesus has cut his hand on an exposed nail, leading to a sign of the stigmata, prefiguring the crucifixion. As Saint Anne removes the nail with a pair of pincers, his concerned mother Mary offers her cheek for a kiss while Joseph examines his wounded hand. The young John the Baptist brings in water to wash the wound, prefiguring his later baptism of Christ. An assistant of Joseph's, representing potential future Apostles watches these events. In the background various objects are used to further point up the theological significance of the subject. A ladder, referring to Jacob's ladder is visible leaning against the back wall; a dove standing for the Holy Spirit rests on it. Other carpentry implements refer to the Holy Trinity. . . . The sheep in the fold in the background represent the future Christian flock.
Oh heart! oh blood that freezes, blood that burns!
For whole centuries of folly, noise and sin!
Shut them in,
With their triumphs and their glories and the rest!
Love is best.
All things are vain that wax and wane,
For which we waste our breath;
Love only doth not wane and is not vain,
Love only outlives death.
A problem picture is a genre of art popular in the late Victorian era, characterised by a deliberately ambiguous narrative that can be interpreted in several different ways, or which portrays an unresolved dilemma. . . . The viewer of the picture is invited to speculate about several different possible explanations of the scene.
It depicts a pair of young lovers in an embrace. The familiar subject is given a dramatic twist because the "embrace" is in fact an attempt by the girl to get her beloved to wear a white armband, declaring his allegiance to Roman Catholicism. The young man gently pulls the armband off with the same hand with which he embraces the girl. The incident refers to the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre in 1572 when French Protestants (Huguenots) were massacred in Paris, leading to other massacres elsewhere in France. A small number of Protestants escaped from the city by wearing white armbands.The painting is so bittersweet. Doesn't it make your heart ache just to look at them? Is that a good thing or a bad thing? I can't decide if I like to be left wondering or not . . .