Quality is the first norm for art, but its final norm is love and truth, the enriching of human life, the deepening of our vision.

Year B, Epiphany 8

Egbert Modderman: Caring for the Sick

Friendship without Illusions

by Wim Eikelboom

A friend in need is a friend indeed. This well-known saying is portrayed in this painting. Four young men are carrying their paralysed friend to someone who can heal him. The paralysed man has probably been living with the results of polio since childhood. 

The painting immediately catches our attention. It is a penetrating, intense image: four men of about the same age who are carrying a defenseless, naked person, covered by a cloth. Various emotions can be discerned on the faces of the four men. They all look a little bit dejected. One is thinking: what on earth are we doing here? We can also perceive a hopeful resolve. Resolute faith is visible, but traces of doubt and resignation also lie hidden in the faces of the foremost friends.

The painting has the visual impact of Caravaggio’s work, an artist who inspired a great deal of baroque art and who painted biblical scenes on immensely large canvases. This New-Testament scene (Matthew 9:1-9; Mark 2:1-12; Luke 5: 17-26) was chosen and put on canvas by the 28-year-old artist Egbert Modderman from Groningen, The Netherlands. He studied at the Florence Art Academy in Italy. There he learned the artistic techniques that allow him to walk in the footsteps of legendary masters such as Caravaggio. Modderman likewise chooses to make paintings of considerable dimensions, on which he positions true-to-life, life-sized people.

The young master from Groningen is inspired by Bible stories which he brings into the present day. We see people of today in snapshots of ancient biblical history. There is something else that is special in Modderman: he chooses scenes and moments that have seldom or never been immortalized in the course of the history of art. In this case, the moment when the friends let down their mate through a hole in the roof is more often portrayed. The scene chosen here is perhaps filled with more suspense, because the four friends are at the beginning of their act of faith. They have heard about a rabbi with healing powers and want to get near him with their paralysed friend, whatever the cost.

This painting about friendship without illusions is part of a series about works of mercy, commissioned by the Martini Church in Groningen. In a certain sense it functions as a moral and spiritual mirror: what would I do if my friend was lying on his bed with an incurable disease? Would I have enough faith to take unusual steps?


Egbert Modderman: Caring for the Sick, 2018, 300 x 140 cm, oil on canvas.

Egbert Modderman (1989 Groningen) studied at the Minerva Academy in Groningen, NL and took a course of painting lessons at the Classical Academy in Groningen and in 2015 at the Florence Academy of Art. His debut was in 2017 with an exhibition in the Martini Church in Groningen with the title ‘The Beauty of Religion.’ About his work he says: “I try to show human stories from the Bible and the Christian tradition in a universal, dramatic style with timeless human emotions.” 

Wim Eikelboom is the chairman of the board of ArtWay, journalist, and art lover. In daily life he works as a broadcasting co-ordinator with NPO Radio 1 (a part of the Netherlands Public Broadcasting system).

ArtWay Visual Meditation January 6, 2019

For more materials for Epiphany, click here (at the bottom of the list)


- June 2024: Year B, Proper 18 (Revised Common Lectionary)
- April 2024: EASTER - Lynn Aldrich: Grid Buster
- January 2024: James Janknegt: The Rich Man and Lazarus
- December 2023: Rembrandt van Rijn: The Annunciation
- October 2023: Sunday Christ the King
- April 2023: Year A, Proper 17
- February 2023: Lent: James Janknegt: The Rich Man and Lazarus
- November 2022: Christmas - Brian Kershisnik: Nativity
- October 2022: Reformation Day: Luther and Durer
- June 2022: Michaelmas, September 29
- March 2022: Lent
- January 2022: The Speck and the Log
- November 2021: Advent - Care for the Earth
- September 2021: Year B, Proper 25
- May 2021: Year B, Proper 18 (Revised Common Lectionary)
- April 2021: Tim Rollins and K.O.S.: Seven Last Words of Christ
- February 2021: Year B, Lent 6: The Ointment of Nard by Arcabas
- December 2020: Advent: Butterfly
- August 2020: Year A, 21st Sunday after Pentecost: Psalm 1
- June 2020: A Year, 10th Sunday of the Summer
- May 2020: Pentecost: Donna Shasteen
- April 2020: The Scene in the Kitchen; Christ at Emmaus
- March 2020: The Seven Last Words of Christ
- January 2020: Year A, Epiphany 3
- November 2019: Edward Hicks: The Peaceable Kingdom
- October 2019: Reformation Day: Luther and Durer
- August 2019: Ordinary Time
- March 2019: Aaron Douglas & James Johnson: Listen Lord
- January 2019: The Speck and the Log
- December 2018: Botticelli: Madonna and Child, with Saints
- November 2018: Gor Chahal and Jan Krist
- August 2018: Year A, Autumn Sunday 8, Parable of the Talents
- May 2018: Ernst Barlach: The Believer
- March 2018: Easter: Grid Buster
- March 2018: Good Friday: I am Thirsty
- February 2018: Lent: The Rich Man and Lazarus
- January 2018: Third Sunday after Epiphany, Year B
- November 2017: Advent - Johannes Vermeer: Woman with Balance
- September 2017: A year, 6th Sunday of the Autumn
- August 2017: A Year, 10th Sunday of the Summer
- May 2017: Pentecost: Images for the Holy Spirit
- April 2017: Fra Angelico: Christ in Limbo
- February 2017: Roger Wagner: Lazarus (Psalm 49)
- January 2017: Gislebertus: The Dream of the Three Kings
- November 2016: Advent: Butterfly
- November 2016: Reformation Day: Luther and Durer
- September 2016: Reformation Day: Luther and Durer
- January 2016: 25 January - Caravaggio: The Conversion of Saul
- December 2015: Meditating on the Life of Christ
- November 2015: Gor Chahal and Jan Krist
- October 2015: Reformation Day: Luther and Durer
- August 2015: Ordinary Time
- June 2015: Van Gogh: The Sower
- February 2015: Jesus and the Samaritan Woman
- December 2010: Advent - Until He Comes!