Peter Paul Rubens: Feast in the House of Simon the Pharisee (1618-1620)


(Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia)

A painting by the Flemish artist Peter Paul Rubens (1577 – 1640). As we speak we are in the middle of the Holy Week, the week before Easter. Today is Wednesday and is sometimes called ' Spy Wednesday' - according to the bible on this day Judas arranged his betrayal of Jesus with the high priests (Matthew 26:14-25). Also on this day was the feast in the House of Simon the Pharisee as shown on this painting (Luke 7:36-50). According to the story Christ and his disciples were invited by Simon the Pharisee for a diner at his house. During the feast a unknown woman 'who lived a sinful life' with alabaster jar of expensive perfume came to the house, the woman is usually identified as Mary Magdalene. The woman then started weeping as she stood behind Christ and she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped the feet of Christ with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them (Luke 7:38). Simon the Pharisee criticized Christ for allowing a sinful woman to touch him and for allowing the waste of a valuable perfume. Christ responded to Simon with "“Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” (Luke 7:44-47). To the sinful woman Christ responded with the words "Your sins are forgiven, ...., Your faith has saved you; go in peace” (Luke 7:48-50). Rubens has divided the painting in two part: on the left is Simon the Pharisee with the 'material values and religious dogmatism' - his part is very busy and full of movement. On the right is Christ - he represents a world of sympathy, charity and goodness, his side is calm. Painting from 1618-1620.

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