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Ramblings Loosely Related to Art History #1: Jesus the Gingy 'Jew Boy' Joiner

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Blog entry by naomi weiss posted 08-17-2009 10:01 AM 2169 reads 0 times favorited 18 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Ramblings Loosely Related to Art History series Part 2: The Carpenter and the Shadow of Death »

Millais 1849-1850
Christ in the House of His Parents”—John Everett Millais (1829-1896)
Link
This painting, or rather the harsh criticism it received, was the catalyst for Ruskin’s relationship with John Everett Millais, and pitted him against the Royal Society (people like Dickens who really liked Joshua Reynolds). Click here= for his letter to The Times which established the relationship between Ruskin and the Pre-Raphaelites in the Victorian consciousness.

Most woodworkers would probably admire the way Millais painted the shavings on the floor of Joseph’s shop (with nary a handplane in sight…). In fact, Dickens did concede that ‘it is particularly gratifying to observe that such objects as the shavings which are strewn on the carpenter’s floor are admirably painted.’ However, Dickens did go on to make futher comments, which, while hilarious at times were not particularly generous to Millais. For the more complete text of his critique, click here.

Unfortunately, not all critics have an interest in woodworking, and many were certainly not impressed with the realism of Millais’s carpentry shop:

But this painful display of anatomical knowledge, and studious vulgarity of portraying the youthful Saviour as a red-headed Jew boy, and the sublime personage of the virgin a sore-heeled, ugly, every-day sempstress, will in no way tend to the consummation so devoutly to be wished—click here for the rest

To add insult to injury, the model for the virgin, or ‘sore-heeled, ugly, everyday sempstress’ was actually Millais’s mother! Oh no he didn't!

Side note (or endnote, rather): After receiving a comment on previous post that an appended comic depicting Jesus as a carpenter may have been offensive to Christian readers (so far, no complaints) i went off in search of paintings which portrayed Jesus as a woodworker. This is the first instalment of some rather interesting results.

-- 'Humility is a duty in great ones, as well as in idiots'--Jeremy Taylor



18 comments so far

View 's profile

593 posts in 3440 days


#1 posted 08-17-2009 10:59 AM

Naomi, If you want a piece of advice from somebody who has been around here for a bit longer, the religious posts don’t suit an international forum like this very well.

It’s not about Christians only. There are people from all over the world and from all confessions, including atheists. If one doesn’t agree with those beliefs, it’s bad enough with all the projects that are of religious content that can’t be avoided to add even more.

Of course, it’s your blog and you can do whatever you like but those contents are always prone to disagreements and it is good to know it beforehand.

People tend to be nice here and might not complain but, believe me, plenty would dislike it.

On the other hand, I just peeked at the cartoon and loved it!

By the way, I wasn’t able to distinguish which tool has the bald guy in his right hand but you are right, it really doesn’t look like a roman handplane in any case. Not even like one of those.

Have a nice day

View naomi weiss's profile

naomi weiss

206 posts in 2861 days


#2 posted 08-17-2009 12:04 PM

Hi, Jojo. Thanks for the heads-up. I hear what you’re saying about religious stuff. Still, i don’t think this post is as intrusive as a giant inlaid cross (and ppl who make them don’t intend them to be, which is something to consider, as well…). I have to say, that i don’t want to get into an all-out confrontation with anybody, but i think when ppl ignore religious issues, the problem gets bigger (i am thinking of Dutch tolerance, which was really just turning a blind eye and inviting all the problems that exist there currently, which make me quite upset). And, i really think that those differences enrich us and enhance the common object of ppl’s worship. What i am saying is pretty obvious—i know your caution is more about fundamentalists who don’t agree with peaceful coexistence, so again, i appreciate your concern and friendly heads-up.
The post isn’t so much geared towards religion as it is towards woodworking in painting. And since much art is religious iconography, that’s where it’s to be find.
I’m glad you liked the comic—i thought it was cute! If anything, the Victorian reactions to the painting are anti-Semitic (art history in general is a bit of an awkward field in this respect). And since they are also interesting and a part of the art history, i felt that it would maybe be less awkward if i put them forward, since i am Jewish.
Re the painting: the bald guy (Joseph?)—i thought maybe he had a handplane, but Wikipedia says he’s inspecting Jesus’ wounds…I will see if i can zoom in somehow.
Thanks again for your comments and feedback, Jojo. Hope you get some good shop time!

-- 'Humility is a duty in great ones, as well as in idiots'--Jeremy Taylor

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Russel

2199 posts in 3407 days


#3 posted 08-17-2009 01:04 PM

I’ve seen this painting before, but was unaware of any controversy. The only comment I had heard was in regards to how European the shop and people appeared. But then, I haven’t actually done any research.

-- Working at Woodworking http://www.VillageLaneFurniture.com

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patron

13538 posts in 2809 days


#4 posted 08-17-2009 02:01 PM

as i understand this period in history ,
travel was almost impossible for most ,
(except for merchants and soldiers ) .
in order to get their views accepted ,
the scribes , ( any religious devote , from any religion ),
the only ones that could write ,
were like p.r. guys , and as nobody
would believe tall tales from “over there ” ,
so things were depicted in everyday ways .

in todays world, that would be depicted
as this scene in front of a unisaw,
with a 14” bandsaw and longbed jointer
and 15’ planer , with a pickup truck
out side the shop , with maybe a computer
tucked in a corner , next to a spray rig .
and mom would be saying ,
“please wear your googles and earmuffs , son ,
you have much to do yet .”

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View 's profile

593 posts in 3440 days


#5 posted 08-17-2009 02:36 PM

”Still, i don’t think this post is as intrusive as a giant inlaid cross”

Agree on that.

”your caution is more about fundamentalists who don’t agree with peaceful coexistence”

Not only that (I guess I look at it from the comfortable and safe point of view that gives living in a more peaceful society) but also directed towards not harming other people’s sensibilities.

”Re the painting: the bald guy (Joseph?)—i thought maybe he had a handplane, but Wikipedia says he’s inspecting Jesus’ wounds…I will see if i can zoom in somehow.”

I don’t know the bald guy’s name but, in any case, what I see among the three hands looks to me like some sort of a wooden upright handle.

On the other hand, I don’t think his bench is really suited to handplanning, those flimsy legs can barely support the weight of the top with those massive aprons by themselves!

View Charles Maxwell's profile

Charles Maxwell

1081 posts in 3275 days


#6 posted 08-17-2009 02:56 PM

Naomi: From one student of art to another….i love the post! keep chargin! I clicked through to your blog and found a ‘boyz candy store.’ bookmarked! Thanks.

-- Max the "night janitor" at www.hardwoodclocks.com

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depictureboy

420 posts in 3110 days


#7 posted 08-17-2009 03:37 PM

it a shame that political correctness has to get in the way of your sharing a clearly woodworking topic with us. I always found it interesting how the renaissance and pre-renaissance painters depicted the Family as European…but like you said back in those days everybody wanted to worship Him jsut not acknowledge that he was of Jewish decent.

I agree with what patron said too, that if we had the same mentality today(and obviously some people do) we would see it dipicted as a fully automated shop….

I hated Art History classes in school, but they never tied in with stuff I liked. Please keep posting these Naomi.

-- If you can't build it, code it. If you can't code it, build it. But always ALWAYS take a picture.

View Bob #2's profile

Bob #2

3809 posts in 3489 days


#8 posted 08-17-2009 04:31 PM

This seems to be an example of art trying to imitate life.
There is obviosly very little historic information in a depiction painted from anecdotes 1850 years later.
The artist seems to have a foot fetish as well.

Bob

-- A mind, like a home, is furnished by its owner

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depictureboy

420 posts in 3110 days


#9 posted 08-17-2009 05:14 PM

Actually bob, if i remember my AH…this was a period of time when the artists were REALLY trying for and were expected to display anatomical correctness almost to a medical diagnostic level. I am actually surprised there are clothes at all…..

-- If you can't build it, code it. If you can't code it, build it. But always ALWAYS take a picture.

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Bob #2

3809 posts in 3489 days


#10 posted 08-17-2009 05:26 PM

Pictureboy, perhaps evidence of sandals would be in order then.
Also the “frame saw’ on the wall is inaccurate for the period . <g>
If we were to stand the”sempstress” on her feet it appears that she might top out at 6”5”.

bob

-- A mind, like a home, is furnished by its owner

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depictureboy

420 posts in 3110 days


#11 posted 08-17-2009 05:34 PM

you missed the discussion above about the reason the image uses “modern elements”. As was discussed if the same image was done today in the same ‘style’ there would be powertools and automobiles in the image. I said trying to …i didnt always say they succeeded.

-- If you can't build it, code it. If you can't code it, build it. But always ALWAYS take a picture.

View naomi weiss's profile

naomi weiss

206 posts in 2861 days


#12 posted 08-17-2009 05:44 PM

Russell—yes, there was a lot of controversy around this painting; from what i have read, it seems to have become a symbol or posterboy for the Pre-Raphaelites, and people in the Royal Academy of the Arts tried to block these artists wherever possible. Apparently, Ruskin himself was not crazy about this particular painting, but he still went to bat for them, which is pretty nice.

Patron/David—I totally agree. It would be interesting to look at much more current depictions of JC and his family. I guess it’s marketing. German Jesus was hot and looked like Brad Pitt, and i am sure there was a hot Denzel-type of black Jesus, etc etc. Makes for an interesting study about worship and projection. And maybe even idolatry. Well…i guess i know what my next mini project is…

Jojo—i am glad there are no hard feelings or anything. That aspect of Japanese culture, of privacy and propriety, has often been compared to English social behaviours. Something about islanders, they say. After a few years in England and returning to Israel, i certainly miss it! And you’re right about the bench—ridonculous!

Max—Thanks so much—you made my day!

Depictureboy—You also made my day! About the PC stuff, i don’t think Jojo was taking objection, but rather trying to warn me about the possibility of someone being offended or taking issue with the content. Yes, that would be so off base, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen—ppl are off base the whole time. It’s good to have a little warning. That said, it’s good to have warning cos i plan on writing what i want to write anyway! ;-)
Your comment about art history classes also makes me think about the way classes are taught. The Talmud says, ‘teach a student according to his/her way’—so i supposes it should be possible to find something for everyone. And don’t worry, i have another CRAZY jesus woodworking painting to share with you all.

Bob—i always wonder about anachronism back then and if they were really that narrow-sighted and hadn’t a clue about reality in the bible (some Ultra-Orthodox Jews actually think that they are dressing like Moses and the Children of Israel in the dessert! They have no idea that they are dressing like Polish gentile nobility of the 18th and 19th century. Why anyone would think that fur hats are suitable attire in the dessert is beyond me, but it just goes to show you what ppl can be conditioned to think…) or if they intentionally used anachronism as a way of illustrating the enduring relevance of Scripture…I never noticed the foot fetish! Hilarious! Although, i did hear someone speak about fetishism in Victorian England and apparently Dickens had some crazy hair fetish…were you alluding to that stuff?

As for realism and painting, i’ve also heard it said that ‘carpenter’ is a Talmudic term for teacher, so Jesus may not have even been a carpenter. He could have been a plumber. ;-)

-- 'Humility is a duty in great ones, as well as in idiots'--Jeremy Taylor

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Bob #2

3809 posts in 3489 days


#13 posted 08-17-2009 05:45 PM

So… what is the artist trying to convey?

-- A mind, like a home, is furnished by its owner

View naomi weiss's profile

naomi weiss

206 posts in 2861 days


#14 posted 08-17-2009 05:48 PM

I think he is trying to get at how JC and family were ppl; maybe he’s sick of all the serene depictions of saints. Perhaps Millais likes the idea of a good day’s work. I am projecting here, but religion that values the earthly component of our existence is (to me) more appealing.Of course, stressing the humanity of JC can get you into deep shit with certain religious authorities, and that is why the painting generated tension then, and is generating a bit now! And that’s what makes it powerful and exciting…

-- 'Humility is a duty in great ones, as well as in idiots'--Jeremy Taylor

View depictureboy's profile

depictureboy

420 posts in 3110 days


#15 posted 08-17-2009 06:14 PM

“Of course, stressing the humanity of JC can get you into deep shit with certain religious authorities, and that is why the painting generated tension then, and is generating a bit now! And that’s what makes it powerful and exciting…”

yea..but i dont think a person would get into as much with JC as with the big M…

-- If you can't build it, code it. If you can't code it, build it. But always ALWAYS take a picture.

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