Friday, 28 September 2012

What's in a Picture?

Ruth is one of the books of the Bible that particularly appeals to me. It's a delightful short story - easy to read and with a down-to-earth quality to it that is immediately engaging. It seems to me to be obviously the work of a wise women. Even those who would argue with that must surely admit that Ruth provides a much needed woman's perspective when it comes to biblical voices.

A good choice, therefore, for a Quiet Day about pastoral ministry just before the admission and licensing of new Lay Pastoral Workers in the diocese in which I work. And the days I've spent researching Ruth haven't disappointed. I'll leave readers to judge for themselves whether the sermon created from this study was worth the effort - you can access it here (the Quiet Day addresses are rather more 'off the cuff' so I haven't posted them).
The reason behind this post, however, is the differences I've noticed in the ways a much loved Ruth poster of yester-year has been reproduced. A reputable art print company supplied me with a poster for the use of tomorrow's group. This is the image:
It's a reproduction of Ruth and Naomi, a painting from 1886 by Philip Hermogenes Calderon (1933-1898) in the collection of the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool. Except when I compare it to the gallery's own website (see National Art Collection) I realise the image I have has been changed: in particular sunshine appears in the top left, there are many more green plants among the rocks and on the hillside, the colour of the clothing of the lone figure has been changed, the race of the lone figure has been changed, and the head-wear of the taller one of the embracing couple has been changed. I think the changes make the image more immediately one of hope and new beginnings. The third person becomes an unnamed servant carrying her mistress' burden, Orpah is nowhere to be seen, and Ruth and Naomi are pulling apart prior to their walking on towards new life in Bethlehem (symbolised by sunlight). The Calderon original is all together more ambiguous - an ambiguity that did not fit the purpose of the Edwardian poster that adorned the walls of so many Christian homes.