not interested

nature, theology Add comments

I’m still looking at various pictures and trying to come to terms with what they say about the theme. This one by Botticelli stood out to me when I began to think about the wise men:

Adoration by Botticelli

Generally, these kinds of pictures tend to slip away from my interest pretty quick. It’s quite clear the artist is portraying a scene not too far from his own situation in life. Fawning nobleman crowd around a decrepit building, ruins in the distance. I feel like I am looking at a scene from the early Italian renaissance, and not so much feel any sort of connection, or even consideration of Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus.

There are a lot of paintings like this, and so it’s easy to move past and gaze at another painting with more insight. Yet, in my wanderings I kept coming back to this one. I would dismiss it, then feel it tugging at me once more. All because of one man.

That guy in the lower right corner.

What is that expression? He’s there, but he’s aloof, not joining in with the prattle of the other young men, offering nothing to the focus of the scene.

Something is going on with him. Like he’s been caught in the view of this scene and wished he wasn’t. There’s a lot of bother going on, so he’s playing his role. But he would rather be elsewhere.

Maybe it’s boredom. This baby king business isn’t all that interesting.

Or maybe that look is something more. The magi had been to Herod’s before this. Herod sent them on their way to Bethlehem, trusting them to return with a report. But if you know Herod, he was a man who trusted no one. So, he sends a spy to follow the fellows.

What would that servant do when the magi have found their baby? Watch, take notes, stay on the edge of the crowd.

That’s the look I see with this guy. It’s more sinister than boredom.

When I think about the slaughter of the innocents that comes later in the story, I begin to think about this guy. He led the force back to kill the baby, and when they couldn’t identify the right one, they killed them all.

Or maybe it’s not all that sinister. Maybe he’s like a lot of us. Distracted by life, but wondering what’s going on. Interested enough to show up, not so interested as to join in with the worship. He’ll wait and see what happens. Totally noncommittal before the now acknowledged King of the Jews.

I am intrigued by him because he has a story of some kind. Whether sinister or mundane, he stands out precisely because he seems so out of place with his lack of developed interest — so out of place that he draws the eye away from what should be the focus of the painting, on the Holy Family.

He is intriguing because he seems to mock the whole point of painting a scene like this to begin with.

Odd thing that. Odd characters make for interesting considerations I suppose.

One Response to “not interested”

  1. Wren Says:

    I like reading the backstory of paintings. I like to find out what the artist was thinking when he/she painted it. So what was Boticelli thinking when he painted that guy?