Jesus For the Wine! Er… Win!

It is officially Christmas season. I know this because of the Christmas gnomes about my house, my kids’ willingness to do extra chores (albeit for cash), and the influx of parties. Next weekend is the pinnacle of my party-goings, but the girls all have their own parties this year too. Hockey parties, school parties, friend parties. Parties, parties, parties.

Sunday, my pastor did a message about how easy it is to miss Jesus in the chaos of the season. So. Lest you think I am missing our Savior in all the celebrating, let me do this blog post on one giant party that Jesus attended. You know the one- the wedding feast in Cana. Here is Paolo Veronese’s painting of the soiree:

The painting hangs in the Louvre now as one of its biggest pieces, but it was originally commissioned by monks to hang in their church in Venice. (An aside: monks must have had a ton of money. They also commissioned The Last Supper for their dining hall in Milan. Shoulda been a monk- cha-ching!) The monks gave Veronese a couple stipulations for the painting. For instance, they required he use ultramarine, a deep-blue pigment made from a semi-precious rock. I’m not certain, but I’m guessing that’s what he used for Jesus’ robe.

This is clearly a painting after the Renaissance’s very heart. The architecture is textbook Renaissance, the instruments are textbook Renaissance. And speaking of textbooks, you might recognize the guests from your history books: Titian is playing the violin, Mary I of England is in attendance, as is Francis I of France, and a bunch of Veronese’s artsy colleagues. Among the 130 people at the feast are Mary, Jesus, and some Apostles. Jesus is situated under the butcher’s block, foreshadowing his future sacrifice. That day though? He was a hero! Running out of wine at a wedding was a huge faux pas, so Mary called on her son to fix the problem, which he did- changing water to red wine. Reportedly, guests were shocked, exclaiming, “Cana you believe this guy?!”

The Wedding Feast at Cana hung in Venice for years, until Napoleon’s army plundered it. And this is the heartbreaking part of the story. It was a huge piece, so to get it to Paris they CUT IT IN HALF. Like a bunch of idiots. The painting took quite a beating over the next several years, and spent a good amount of time boxed up in storage, only to be stolen again by the Nazis. Eventually, it would up at the Louvre, thank goodness.

The Louvre restored the painting (which, ohmygoodness, was an art scandal in and of itself) with only two disasters (water splattered on it from a leak in the ceiling. Then, when they were hanging it, a support beam failed puncturing the top half.) The painting persevered, though! And that? Is nothing short of a miracle.

Revealing Venus

Last week I let a stranger look down my pants. I was at a meeting where a lady complimented my pants and asked where I bought them. I couldn’t remember, nor did I remember the brand, so in a moment of embarrassing boldness I solved the problem: “Here! See if you can read the label!” Thusly, I pulled the back of my pants open for her to peek in.

I’m certain she wasn’t that curious about the pants. But she politely looked and noted the label.

That’s nothing compared to some of the world’s most famous paintings. Here is a favorite that exposes more than just lower back, tops of undies, while still maintaining some modesty.

The Birth of Venus. The birth of seashells as modes of transportation.

Have I already posted about this picture? It seems like I would have by now. Venus is being blown ashore by a couple lesser gods in her seashell, which is also how I like to arrive places. Botticelli painted this for someone in the Medici family (but who?! We just don’t know.) We do know it was likely painted to be hung over a marital bed, which is how Botticelli got away with the scandal of painting a naked woman. It actually wasn’t seen by the public for 50 years after he painted it. 

Not to harp on the nudity, but it really was scandalous for its time. Botticelli had other controversial paintings, but burned them with his own two hands when Dominican friar Girolamo Savonarola guilted him into it. I’m so thankful The Birth of Venus was spared. I’m also thankful Savonarola wasn’t at my meeting last week.