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.


Zantingh, Petra - VM - Marleen Hengelaar

Petra Zantingh: Watchful Trees

A Cup with Thorns

by Marleen Hengelaar-Rookmaaker

During Jesus’ last Passover meal an ominous tone prevails. Jesus warns his disciples: “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.” “Surely not I, Lord?” they all wonder. As customary they end the meal by singing ‘the hymn’, the Hallel which consists of Psalms 113-118, songs of praise, gratitude and confidence in God's covenant and redemption.

The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me? It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in humans.

After this Jesus and his disciples go out to the Mount of Olives. Once there, Jesus takes Peter, James and John with him and begins to be deeply grieved and agitated. “Remain here, pray for me, stay awake with me,” he pleads. Then he prays: “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me.” Jesus himself puts the image of the cup central in Matthew 26 to describe the terror facing him. Petra Zantingh’s Watchful Trees shows us this cup, entwined with a crown of thorns – thorns referring to the curse in Genesis 3. How bitterly painful to drink from a cup with sharp prickles like this.

The cup could refer to the cup of God’s wrath or judgement, but here I see it as the cup of Christ’s calling that he has willingly agreed to drink. Did you notice the ear of the cup in the painting? A calling asks for listening and obedience, for acceptance of the suffering that comes with a life’s task. Underneath the cup it is dark; there is even a hint of a snake. Yet higher up there are greens with a suggestion of leaves. The cup itself is bright and white, almost shiny at the top. And do we see a hint of a person, of Christ’s face shimmering behind the cup? It is through drinking this cup that Jesus gives himself to us, filling the cup with the wine of his blood.

When Jesus returns to his beloved disciples, he finds them sleeping. Maybe the four cups of wine of the Passover meal got the better of them. They seem to be ‘in the dark’ about their master’s life’s work. It must have made Jesus feel very lonely in his mission. The miserable betrayal by his best friends has begun. Thank God he is not really alone. The creation and the Creator are watching over him.


Petra Zantingh: Watchful Trees, 2019, ink, watercolour, graphite, medium on wood panel. 132 x 61 cm. 

Petra Zantingh: “Working in mixed media, I combine graphite, water-based pigments, and inks to prepared wood panels and seal them with UV varnish, wax, or acrylic mediums. This approach to painting is unpredictable and allows for a unique flow and rhythm of colour and texture that bring the subject matter and themes together. As the water evaporates the pigment is left on the surface and creates mysterious designs and marks and I layer those to further craft the painting.” Zantingh has a MA in Art in Education from Concordia University (Montréal, QC, Canada). She is interested in discovering how teaching art influences her own practice and in turn her work benefits those she teaches. Her lesson plans are kept in sketchbooks to allow the visual to take precedence over the text. She teaches at Redeemer University College (Hamilton/Ancaster, ON, Canada) ( in the Art and Education departments, at Visual Arts Mississauga ( and at Indwell (

Marleen Hengelaar-Rookmaaker is editor-in-chief of ArtWay.

ArtWay Visual Meditation February 14, 2021