By Bob Booth
A painting by Tintoretto on the subject of the presentation of Christ in the Temple, hangs in the Gallerie dell’Accademia in Venice. I have often contemplated the image with its strong composition and unusual viewpoint.
The admired painting however became a bit of an obstacle when I decided to attempt the same subject. It became an unhelpful pre-conception, with the danger that I would only be able to produce something derived from that beautiful work.
I looked back at the text of Luke 2.22-35. The question as always was ‘What makes a significant idea?’ My experience is that you need to start as you mean to go on. You can’t begin with some tired contrived idea and then clothe it with charisma.
In some way the answer to my own question is that significant ideas do not come from yourself, and do not belong to you, and therefore cannot be manipulated by you for some secondary end.
On this occasion my reading on the subject of the Presentation took me to Malachi 3: 1-5 as set by the prayer book for that festival.
“Suddenly the Lord whom you seek will come to his temple……he is like a refiner’s fire…refining and purifying.”
This notion of an image was just enough to start. Some colour and a simple circular composition was the vague idea, but I felt a sense of exciting possibilities.
The reading form Malachi seems to be about a coming reformer who would return God’s people to the purity of their faith by his fiery stand against corruption. However as the work developed, I noticed a significant element that I had not expected. The refiner sees his own reflection in the pure molten gold, and I was reminded of the baptism of Jesus, and the words ‘This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased’
The presentation of Christ in the temple in the context of this painting was about the innocent, the wounded, beginning the long painful work of reconciliation for the joy of loving, and the beauty.By Trinity Paintbox