After six years of expansion and renovations, the Harvard Art Museums—all three now united under one roof—reopened last weekend. I visited this Saturday in what was one of the most enjoyable mornings I’ve spent since moving to Boston. Their collection is spectacular. Since I can’t possibly recap all the standouts, I’ll focus on just a few that feature Jesus. These are not necessarily the most famous pieces from the collection but are some of the ones that engaged me the most—in terms of either iconographic content or devotional inspiration.
Unless otherwise indicated, all photos are by the Harvard Art Museums; click on the image to be led to its webpage.
The Triumph of the Innocents is a really unique visual retelling of the Flight to Egypt, showing the spirits of the “Holy Innocents”—the Bethlehemite babes who were slaughtered by Herod in a desperate attempt to protect his rule—leading the way. There’s so much here—the visionary bubbles filled with scenes of the messianic kingdom, the prefiguring gestures of the children, the theme of resurrection—that I think I’ll shelve the exposition of this piece for another post, perhaps for the Holy Innocents’ feast day, which is coming up next month.
This pair of images was painted in the Netherlands by Aelbert Bouts, from the famous Bouts line of painters. The Man of Sorrows and the Mother of Sorrows (Latin: Mater Dolorosa) were frequently paired together, so as to urge devotees to reflect on both the suffering of Christ and that of his mother. I found it really easy to enter into these two paintings; they drew me to worship, there in that gallery walkway. Continue reading