THE SALVATION STORY: The Parable of the Wicked Tenants by Maarten Van Valckenborch

Time crept, Time strolled, Time ran, Time flew, Time gone!

The inherent, invisible, uncertain and ubiquitous feature of Time has always fascinated the human mind. It caused a visualization of seasons and months that commonly featured as ‘calendar art’. Over the years calendar art has been swayed by genres like landscapes, portraits, historical, religious, allegorical and mythological themes.

From within this context looms forth our painter and painting in consideration. Maarten Van Valckenborch, a Flemish Renaissance artist, was born in Leuven in 1535. In his ‘cycle of seasons’ Maarten presents 11 paintings (December missing). These paintings include illustrations from the New Testament in connection to the labours of the month.

Come October, Maarten paints the ‘Parable of the Wicked Tenants.’ (Matthew 21: 33 – 43). We are visually introduced to a lush green vineyard planted by a landowner. ‘He put a fence around it, dug a hole for the wine press and built a watch tower.’ As depicted in the top left corner of the painting, ‘he leased the vineyard to the tenants and then went to a distant country.’ All was well until harvest!

With autumn came the rich produce. However the scandalous tenants refused to give the rightful share to the landowner. They ‘beat, killed and stoned’ his slaves. In this circumstance, ideally, the landowner should have sent troops of armed slaves to enforce his rights and punish the wicked tenants. But he mercifully does the unthinkable. He sends his son thinking, ‘they will respect him.’

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