Thursday, April 9, 2009

"Jesus Washing Peter's Feet"

Ford Madox Brown. Jesus Washing Peter's Feet. 1852-1856. Tate Gallery, London.

This is one of my favorite paintings, partly because I relate so much to Peter, who's always getting everything wrong. Like, he's the disciple who cuts off the soldier's ear when the Romans come to arrest Jesus (not that many hours after this foot washing).

You can just hear Jesus sigh, are they ever going to get this?
Talk about not getting the response you were hoping for.

Here Peter is looking all grumpy because he doesn't think it's proper that Jesus should take the role of a slave or lowly servant, foot washing being, of course, a demeaning task. But when Jesus explains it is necessary, then Peter gets all overenthusiastic and says Jesus should wash more of him too.

Peter is an idiot, and I am right there with him.


deanna said...

Grumpy Peter. So human. What a comfort. :o)

Anonymous said...

Idiot?...or sensualist--the quintessential pragmatist, as in : "if it feels good, do more of it!"? Or all of the above or none?

Of my mini-obsession with the Pre-Raphaelites, Ford Madox Brown is about my favorite, because he jutted the real/surreal side of human experience into his works so jarringly. I'm pretty sure the model he used for Jesus in this painting is the same as the male--(and, perhaps the female, also; the two faces are uncannily similar)--subject in "The Last of England". I don't know, but maybe that ship is headed for the Antipodes...? Ford Madox Brown seems like the Heironymus Bosch of the P-R-ites to me, because of his palette, as well as his visions of hell on earth. Now, inspired once again by your shared stream of consciousness, Frescadita, I will probably take some time in my days to research--or, at least, Google several times--Ford Madox Brown and others! Thank goodness I have a few days off work!
Happy Spring and all the Rest!


Hey, guess what the veriword is to send this: patsuppr!

fresca said...

I find him a comfort too, Deanna.

Stef: Ah, "idiot" is too harsh, of course--I just meant he is like me, all too human, prone to misunderstanding, overshooting the mark, and betrayal of love.

Yeah, FMB has made Jesus very female here. (He reminds me of a Pre-R Guenevire.) The way his hair falls to one side, exposing the nape of his neck, the way he serves, the way he is draped, all read as "feminine" in Western art historical terms. Strong too, the way he holds Peter's heavy foot, and you can see his carpenter's biceps. So he is really a wonderful blend of human strengths---both tender and assured.

Yes, SPRING!!! I'm all for it!

Jennifer said...

I agree, Jesus has sexy arms! ANd I do love Peter's grump here. I remember very well one of those moments when I realized how nicely the Bible captures human personality here and there, when Peter denies Jesus for the third time and the cock crows and his heart just breaks. I felt so terribly for the poor man, and so sure I would have done the same.

fresca said...

Like the "Kookaburra" poem by Mary Oliver you posted, Jen--in humans hearts are procrastination and cowardice. Sigh.