Sunday, July 14, 2019

Amos 8.1-12: A Basket of Fruit

The fruits of summer are enticing. Peaches are at their peak in July and August (in the northern hemisphere). Watermelons, blueberries, and raspberries are all part of summer. Those may not have been the exact fruits that Amos saw, but the result would have been the same: just looking at the fruit would give you a taste of summer (Amos 8:1-12). 

Students (and teachers!) know that as those fruits ripen it means that summer is moving on toward fall. It's not always a great feeling. You wish for what has passed. You want more time to do the things you haven't yet done over summer vacation. You do your best to live in the moment, not thinking about the change of seasons that is to come. 

Amos' vision is that feeling exponentially increased. The end is near, alright. But it isn't the end of summer vacation. It's way more serious than that. The end has come upon my people Israel, God says. It won't be pretty. 

A basket or bowl of fruit is a typical painting subject. And sometimes it's just a bowl of fruit. But for other artists (notably of the Dutch school) the bowl of fruit becomes a symbol with similar overtones to the Amos story. 

The basket of fruit here is by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. Known for creating paintings with dramatic lights and darks, the artist has used none of that here. the basket sits against a neutral background on what appears to be a wooden shelf. Historians aren't sure why the painting was made. Was it to prove the artist's ability to paint realistically (notice the small shadow under the basket indicating it is jutting out slightly over the edge of the shelf)? Was it for a particular spot in the artist's house - or a patron's house? Was it meant to be hung on a wall or above a door, perhaps? Maybe the shelf under the basket mimicked an actual shelf or door molding. 
Caravaggio. Basket of Fruit. 1597-1600. Oil on canvas. Milan: Pinacotheca Ambrosiana.
Though the basket looks like you could reach into the painting and choose a piece of fruit to eat, you might not want to choose the apple. If you look closely you can see that a worm has been there before you. Even in this beautiful assemblage of fruit, the end is coming. Leaves are starting to wither, and some bear holes that indicate insects of some kind have been here. 

The end has come upon my people Israel, God says. If you look closely, you can see it coming. 

For thoughts on Luke 10:38-42, click here

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