Artist Missing the Point

So I’m flipping through an online Book of Hour in the Library of Congress’s collection. One of the standard items is the seven penitential psalms. Traditionally, these were ascribed to David as part of his remorse over the seduction of Bathsheba, the killing of Uriah the Hittite, and the subsequent death of David’s son.

The introductory image to the seven penitential psalms is a full frontal nude of Bathsheba in her bath with David looking on.

Call me crazy, but it seems like the illustrator is kind of missing the point and, were this my devotional book, I might have some trouble staying focused on my psalter…

12 Replies to “Artist Missing the Point”

  1. A quick look at the Mystery Plays can tell you that the medieval mind usually found a way to get what it needed/wanted, and didn’t hesitate for a moment to use ecclesiastical materia to do it!

  2. But maybe that is the point, we’re no different from David, and the picture would be a regular reminder of our shared weakness, certainly giving the penitential psalms a more immediate and personally applicable sensibility.

  3. I can only add from another angle on things, and I know I am not the only gay man to have written this, especially of later childhood and early puberty–the literature is filled with this observation: The near nude corpus or image of Jesus on the cross found in many churches has at time been a distraction, an observation both deeply resisted and entertained. Nudity as it shows up in Western traditions is a part of a fleshly catholic inheritance, and keeps before us the ambiguities and joys and sorrows of being human.

  4. Pictures of St. Stephen could be a problem, and, unlike most representations of Christ on the Cross, it certainly seems to me that they were generally deliberately painted to be so.

  5. Oh how silly of me. As I was typing my comment, I was thinking that I need to call my friend Stephen. St. Sebastian, of course, is the one I meant.

  6. Christopher makes an interesting point for young people growing up in Catholic parishes where images might present a distraction. In Protestant situations, such as the small United Methodist congregation which formed me in the faith, young people often like to be either in the choir or in the balcony, from where one may gaze upon the distracting loveliness of actual humanity. No judgement call here, just an observation.

  7. Sin would have us believe that we are reading the same thing over and that we won’t get anything out of it. However, the Bible isn’t a novel. It is a set of real life examples for us to learn from. It is amazing how spending just a few weeks in the real world can help you better understand a scripture that you read. Look forward to reading the scriptures and find new ways of looking at them. You will be happily surprised. Trust me. Thanks.

Comments are closed.