3rd September 2018

Not Just a Painted Picture 

“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.”
Proverbs 25:11 (KJV)

As I write this I have before me a picture of an oil painting. It’s not something I would want on my wall, which is probably just as well since it was sold last year for £341 million. The experts now say that it is almost certainly the original of 20 copies made of the same painting at the time by students of the master. This is how they learned their craft back then, by copying the colour, the brush strokes, the style of their teacher. It’s The Saviour of the World reputedly originally painted by Leonardo da Vinci back somewhere around 1510.

It’s tiny for a renaissance masterpiece, barely 18 inches by 28 inches tall painted on a walnut panel. Yes, the experts now agree that it was “almost certainly” painted by the master, but it has been repaired, restored, over-painted and touched up so much that, really, not much of the original remains.

Leonardo perfected the technique of sfumato, which means ‘smokey’ and is emblematic of its softer, slightly blurred, vaguer style—probably a revolt from the precision styles of previous centuries. This too, is seen as something which smacks of authenticity. The paints and pigments are ‘right’ for the artist and time, too.

But then Leonardo was a scientist, credited with inventing the concept of the submarine and helicopter. And the orb in the picture as painted lacks his scientific insight into how an image would be distorted seen through solid glass.

Already, however, its estimated worth has doubled; today it’s worth $1 million a square inch, and, frankly, all that proves once again is that the art market is out of control. It might sound a bit po-faced and snooty, looking at this picture, but as Christians we need to realise we can stand apart from all the hubris. Christ is the Saviour of the world, and we are permitted to know the real him, not a painted portrait, to call him friend and brother, and above all to realise that we are at one with him, dwelling as he does within each of us through the Holy Spirit.

That’s the real value, the exalted worth which is the only one of true value. The fate of this painting is probably to be locked away in a humidity-controlled, temperature-controlled vault somewhere, where its owner can gaze on it in solitary isolation. Our God, in contrast, is to be shared, to become, indeed is already, the real and only Saviour of the world.

Holy Father, thank you that we are permitted to know the real Jesus, not the faded image of a painting that has been ‘touched up’ so many times. What we have has real provenance, and lives identified positively as our elder brother. In Jesus’ name we pray.

Study by John Stettaford


About the Author:
John Stettaford is an Elder in the Reading Congregation of the Worldwide Church of God UK.

Local Congregation:
Worldwide Church of God Reading
Prospect School, Room A1 (Main Building)
Honey End Lane
RG30 4EL

Meeting Time:
Saturday 11am

Local Congregational Contact:
John Stettaford
Phone: 01923-241426
Email: pastor@wcg-reading.org.uk