Skip to comments.The Gleaners
Posted on 01/11/2013 12:17:05 PM PST by Kaslin
It is said history repeats itself, or at the very least echoes the past but while human behavior is range-bound circumstances have changed and may not be repeated. In the western world poverty as it was known for centuries will probably never been seen again. Interestingly, changes in technology and attitudes that have eradicated scenes like that in Jean-Francois Millet's The Gleaners have also eradicated something else.
Making its debut at the annual Salon of 1857 in Paris, the painting caused a stir among the rich and middle classes that saw it as an affront from someone enamored with Socialism. I must admit my impression of the painting doesn't speak to politics but to determination of humans. But my research of the work finds the focus mostly on symbolism that pitted the misfortunes of the poor against the indifferent malice of the rich. The three women were called representatives of The Three Fates of Poverty and The Three Fates of Pauperism.
The artist was lauded then and even now for employing light in an inverted manner to add a warm glow to the workers and give them a "noble dignity."
"Jean-François you are a Christian before you are an artist," is what the artist's grandmother reminded him early on and to which he tried to remain true.
He grew up in poverty not unlike those women in the painting, and settled on the land with his family later in life. As an artist he just had a novel idea to paint what he actually saw- let's call it realism. So yes, it's real these women are scrounging for scraps of wheat after the field has already been plowed by a team of men (in tents in the background) and animals. Yes, there is a man on a horse rising above it all that could be the owner of the field. Yes, there are mountains of wheat that suggest abundance.
It is easy to say this painting shows the exploitation of the poor through harsh work and meager rewards. But there is another message I see and a message that's fading quickly from the western world. It gets back to hard work and surviving with noble dignity. It's wonderful that man was given the gift of adaptability to environmental conditions and economic circumstances, the ability to change his fortunes and take flight limited only by fears or boundaries established by other men.
That's what makes the American story so wonderful. Many of those manmade boundaries were removed and the sky was the limit. Sure, poverty exists today but it's nothing like poverty known in the past or that haunted the era in which The Gleaners was painted. But along the way the ability to dig deep down isn't around like it was in the past. These days the idea is nobody should bend down to pick up crumbs when they can have them delivered on the first and fifteenth of each month. The west created giant welfare states in a bid to engine a sense of equality but somehow managed to only create an environment of sloth and entitlement.
The few critics to defend Millet's work as not political but instead a commentary of man based on tenets of Christianity reminded us the artist came from a belief system that extolled hard work and believed:
"In the sweat of thy brow thou earn thy bread."
The fairness of outcome wasn't paramount as the determination to survive by one's own hands.
The Three Fates are the Spinner, Weaver and Cutter of the thread of life. Our fates are often spun out of our control but only temporarily as we ultimately can be the weavers of our dreams and direct the thread that gives us life.
Stocks have been ho-hum this week but there is a stealthy rally gaining strength as more investors become convinced bonds have peaked. Raising interest rates at some point can create competition for stocks but not for the moment, and the 10-year crossing a 2.0% yield should reignite the cult of equities. It's not going to happen overnight and there are few questions from 2012 that were answered coming into 2013. Still, there is no doubt the bias has shifted to the upside for stocks even as the Street braces for a disappointing earnings season.
This provides a view into Charles' soul.
That true story demonstrated the character and reliability of a young widow who attracted the attention of Naomi's kinsman, Boaz, through her diligence and modest labors in gleaning sustenance from the barley harvest. Boaz was so impressed with her character that he married her, becoming a type of Christ, a kinsman-redeemer, and progenitor of David, the shepherd, son of Jesse.
Thanks for this thoughtful reminder of a worthwhile theme, which I think is less social in context than Biblical. A suggestion: read the Book of Ruth, the Gleaner, with this painting nearby and in mind, for a warm appreciation of both!
I don't see a "plowed field". Could the author have meant "already harvested"?
He must have. The landowner or tenant isn't plowing at this point in the production cycle: all the human laborers and draft animals are involved in the harvest.
In traditional societies, gleaning was a right guaranteed to the poor. It was unlawful (or at least seriously inappropriate) for a farmer to send his own laborers to pick up the bits the main harvesting process missed. So the poor - usually widows or abandoned women - had to work, but they were guaranteed there would be something for them.
Except Boaz told his laborers to leave extra for Ruth on purpose.
He did, but that was in excess of the traditional gleaning, because he knew who she was and how she was supporting her mother-in-law, his relative.
Back in the days when I read National Geographic, I read an article that was about hunting dogs and the author referred to, “braying hounds”, not likely a typo as he did it several times in the article.
I am sure that you know better but for the unaware, donkeys bray, hounds bay.
Probable the author of this article may be a fine art critic but what he knows about farming would fit in a thimble.
Yeah and he was kinda sweet on her too.
To end “overpopulation”, just eliminate welfare.
I remember this image used as the punchline for a joke about a skydiving mishap (”Cracked” Magazine?).
“I’ve found a piece of Pierre!”
“Oh, here’s some of him over here, too!”
Sorry. I wait and wait for these things to show up...
Lol - braying hounds!
Maybe the author got it right but an editor “fixed” it.
Yes, the author of the book made that clear.