Marinus van Reymerswaele: The Unjust Steward
ArtWay Visual Meditation 27 August 2023
Marinus van Reymerswaele: Parable of the Unjust Steward
Mending the Relationship
by Patrick van der Vorst
This painting by Dutch Renaissance painter, Marinus van Reymerswaele from around 1540, depicts a scene from the parable of the dishonest servant in Luke chapter 16. To the reader’s surprise we hear that ‘the master praised the dishonest steward for his astuteness’ (Luke 16:8). We can see the servant on the right, dressed almost as lavishly as his master. This is the artist's way to convey that the servant had probably been stealing money from his master. The servant is explaining what exactly he has been up to. Both hands are gesturing actively, showing that he is in mid flow of explaining things. Behind him on the right we see him talking to his master’s debtors one by one. Paperwork is being exchanged stating how each one's debt has been reduced and settled. Similar paperwork can be found in the master’s office on the left.
The expression on the master’s face is one of surprise, yet delight. He is pointing one hand at his working desk, the other towards the servant. To us, the servant’s conduct is reprehensible, as he has defrauded his master. But whether or not his actions were reprehensible or not is not the point of the parable; the point is that the master commends his servant not for his honesty but for his initiative. The servant knew he was in big trouble and about to lose his job, so he took initiative and acted to mend his relationship with his master. His decisiveness in a moment of crisis to restore relations with his master is what is being celebrated here.
In a world where we are surrounded with so many distractions, we can easily put things off and have a too-casual attitude in our faith. Today we are being prompted to shift ourselves into our next faith gear and kick into action to improve the relationship with our Master too.
Parable of the Unjust Steward: Painted circa 1540; Oil on panel; Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria.
Marinus van Reymerswaele (c. 1490 – c. 1546) was a Dutch painter, born in Reimerswaal in Zeeland in the Northern Netherlands. He was mainly known for his genre scenes and religious compositions. After studying in Leuven and training and working as an artist in Antwerp, he returned later to work in his native Northern Netherlands. He operated a large workshop which produced many versions of mainly four themes: the tax collectors, the money changer and his wife, the calling of Saint Matthew and St. Jerome in his study. He died in Goes around 1546.
Patrick van der Vorst is a former Director of Sotheby’s Europe. He worked at Sotheby’s in Bond Street, London, from 1995 till 2010, as an auctioneer and Head of the Furniture Department. He left the company to set up his own online art valuation company, ValueMyStuff.com, often referred to in the press as the Antiques Roadshow online. With over 500,000 customers he sold the company in 2018 to pave the way to start seminary in September 2019. He joined the Pontifical Beda College in Rome for the Diocese of Westminster, London. He launched the www.Christian.Art website in the period after having left the art world and before starting seminary. In his daily reflections Patrick combines his knowledge of the arts, together with his personal journey to the priesthood. Patrick was ordained in Rome in June 2022 to the Diaconate. The mission of Christian Art is to offer a daily Gospel Reading paired with a related work of art and a short reflection. Its goal is to help people grow closer to God through the magnificent pairing of art and the Christian faith. https://christian.art
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