19th July 2020
'proportions seemed to be wrong'
Nicky Gumbel tells of a book he read, by Pete Greig,
called 'The vision and the Vow'.
In it, an art critic, Robert Cumming,
was studying a beautiful painting
by the Italian Renaissance master Philippino Lippi
in the National Gallery, London.
The painting is a fifteenth-century illustration
of the Virgin Mary holding the infant Jesus on her lap,
with the saints Dominic and Jerome kneeling nearby.
As he studied the painting, he was troubled;
the colour and composition highlighted Lippi's exceptional skill
but the proportions seemed to be wrong.
The hills in the background seemed exaggerated,
as if they might topple out of the frame
and the two kneeling figures looked uncomfortable.
This painting had been criticised many times before by generations of art critics;
as superb as the painting was the proportions just were not right.
But as he looked Robert had a revelation;
it suddenly occurred to him that the painting
had never been intended to be hung in an art gallery;
it had been commissioned for a place of prayer.
Robert dropped to his knees before the painting,
there in the public gallery.
He suddenly saw what generations of art critics had missed.
From his new vantage point he found himself gazing at a perfectly proportioned work of art.
The mountains which had seemed to be intruding into the foreground
had moved naturally to the background,
while the saints seem settled - their awkwardness,
like the painting itself, turned to grace.
Mary now looked down lovingly directly on him
as he knelt at her feet between the two saints.
It was not the painting's perspective that was at fault,
it was the perspective of whose looking at it.
Robert Cumming, on bended knee,
found a beauty and perfection that Robert Cumming,
the proud art critic, and all preceding critics,
The painting only came alive to those on their knees in prayer.
Here is a lesson for all of us.
The right perspective is the position of worship.
Final thought. GODISNOWHERE. - What does it say?
God is nowhere or
God is now here
It's all a matter of perspective.