MISERY MEETS MERCY: ‘The Woman Taken in Adultery’ by Rembrandt (1644)

 As the nineteen year old protégé sits across the river-bank in the Dutch city of Leiden, he arduously strains to get to the heart of the biblical moment through his art. His first painting was ‘The Stoning of Stephen’ dated 1625. Then on there was no looking back. His unique, uncompromising and innovative style brought the Bible to life.

‘The Bible was real to Rembrandt: a real book about real people…His Jesus is a Jew, and not a particularly handsome one. His apostles are men who fear when they should be brave and sleep when they should stay awake, rough and rustic men, unsophisticated, often slow to catch on, men who show not the slightest hint of sainthood. His patriarchs are as flawed, as conniving, as prone to mistake and subject to weakness as the Bible reports them to have been.’

– John Durham ‘The Biblical Rembrandt ’

Rembrandt called a spade a spade through his fierce and yet gentle strokes of paint. To the modern eye his distortions and abstractions may appear dull and husky but when peered through the window of one’s soul, the painting introduces us to the genius of the ‘painter of painters.’ The mystery and magic in his art can be explored through the painting in consideration.

Titled ‘The Woman Taken in Adultery’, the painting was executed in 1644 and is now housed at the National Gallery in London. The subject draws inspiration from the Gospel of John chapter 8, verses 1 – 11. A woman caught in adultery by a group of ‘pious Pharisees and scribes’ is dragged and casted before Christ. Indeed a clever attempt to kill a ‘mocking bird’ and a scapegoat by a single stone.

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