Anonymous: The tree of Jesse (1500)

(Rijksmuseum Twente, Enschede, The Netherlands)

A painting by an anonymous German artist. This painting depicts the ancestors of Christ by a tree which rises from Jesse of Bethlehem, the father of King David. The scene comes from the book of Isaiah 11 1-10. and states that the Messiah (= Christ) will come from the family of Jesse. The tree springs from the body of Jesse and ascends, branching to either side. Situated in the branches are the various ancestors of Jesse (only king David with his harp is recognizable). Traditionally the top of the tree has Mary with Christ but the painting was cut at some time so the top half of the tree is missing. Jesse himself is sleeping on a throne and is flanked by Isaiah with several female saints. On the left side of Jesse is saint Ursula of Cologne who spreads her cloak over 10 virgins (this is a reference to her legend). On the right side is Mary Magdalene, saint Barbara of Nicomedia and Saint Catherine of Alexandria. These female saints were probably added on the request of the donor. Painting from around 1500.