Ilse Ketelaars - S331345 The etching ‘Christus geneest de zieken’ which translates into ‘Christ healing the sick’ by Rembrandt van Rijn, a world famous Dutch artist, was made c.1643. This work illustrates several events out of the gospel of Matthew, chapter 19 (New Testament). I chose this work because it was created during a important period in the Netherlands, namely during the seventeenth century which is also called the Golden age. Another motive for my selection lies in the fact that this work of art combines religion and ‘alternative’ medicine, which is closely related to this first module.
As described before the etching was made in the Dutch Golden age, during this period Dutch trade, science, and art were among the most acclaimed in the world. Different causes can be found for this grand florescence, among the most important are: the establishment of the VOC; and the high level of tolerance among the Dutch population. This climate of tolerance also included religious tolerance which was established partially through Renaissance Humanism. Nevertheless, only the Dutch Reformed Protestants profited directly from the Golden Age. As we can see in the etching religion and medicine were seen as two related elements, Christ is able to heal sick individuals on earth. Related to the interview with Erik Borgman it can be said that during the time this work was made, the perspective that Christianity should be present in the here and now was established. Human suffering on earth was no longer necessary to come closer to God in heaven, holding on to traditions and church visits became more essential.
In his text God and Grace of Body, Brown touches upon the individuality of a person versus his role within a group as a social being. In the etching, Christ is surrounded by a group of people, and is not involved with only one sick individual. Therefore the group can be seen as the body of all religious people. The message of this might be that religious individuals belong first and foremost to the body of the group, and being an individual (being your own body) takes second place.
Rembrandt molded his work out of his own experiences, thus, the deception of a biblical scene, in this case the gospel of Matthew, was formed out of his own understanding of the text. He probably used observations from the Amsterdam’s Jewish population. From the 1640’s onwards the work of Rembrandt became more somber, possible related to family tragedies. His work became more about deeper inner emotions, and biblical scene were mostly based on the New Testament while in previous periods Rembrandt’s work was predominantly based on the Old Testament.