Sunday, September 1, 2019

Luke 15.1-10: Two

Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? (Luke 15:1-10) Images that incorporate this text usually show just that. One sheep down in a ravine with a shepherd hovering close by, reaching down with a crooked shepherd's staff ready to crook the handle around the sheep's neck and pull it up to the ledge where the shepherd is waiting. So it is with the two paintings here. Neither moves beyond illustration of the setting of the story: shepherd, staff, sheep, clouds in sky, mountain, reaching.

It is when the two paintings get together that something interesting becomes apparent. What do you see?
(Left) Unable to identify artist or collection of this painting. Please email if you can help. 
(Right) Alford U. Soord. The Lost Sheep. Many different versions (including prints) of this painting exist. 
One version is at the Church of St. Barnabas, Homerton, East London.
Though some things are similar, two differences emerge. One is the depiction of the sheep. In the image on the left, the sheep is black, perpetuating the symbolism of the sinner as a "black sheep." The Soord painting does not include that stereotype.

That one lost obvious is that sheep? Does the "lostness" show up on the outside of the animal in addition to the sheep physically being absent? Does the stereotype want us to imagine the shepherd finally finding the lost sheep and exasperatedly saying, "I might have known that you would be the lost one"? 

The second difference is the point of view. In Soord's painting we are looking over the shoulder of the shepherd. We see past the shepherd across the seemingly bottomless valley to the mountains beyond, seeing the bird flying in the the space in between. In the painting on the left, we are parallel not to the shepherd but to the sheep. We are looking up into the face of the shepherd. 

That point of view offers us the thought that perhaps there was another lost sheep. And maybe that other lost us.

For thoughts on the lost coins, click here
For another look at found sheep, see Art&Faith Matters on Facebook.

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