Thursday, August 20, 2009

Wander Home

He lets us wander so we will know what it means to come home.
- Marilynne Robinson, Home, p. 102


  1. Arnold,

    Great picture and great quote! I studied this picture a bit while reading Nouwen's "Return of the Prodigal Son," and I found something interesting: if you look closely, it appears that Rembrandt may have overlaid an image of the elder brother kneeling down and stabbing his brother in the leg! I'm not sure if anyone has ever noticed or commented on this feature of the painting, but I see it clearly whenever I look at Nowen's book cover. Notice the placement of the knife on the returning son's belt (it doubles as his own knife - used for survival during his wanderings - and his brother's knife, used to attack him. So, if I'm correct, BOTH of them have a knife, which is telling of the elder brother's condition - he's more like the younger brother than he realizes). And notice the way the robes and shadows are situated . . . do you see it, too, or am I crazy?


  2. I'm not sure. I guess this calls for a pilgrimage to The Hermitage in St. Petersburg, so we can examine the original. Reproductions just won't do.

  3. Being a life long passionate Rembrandt afficionado, I can't personally image him composing such a overtly melodramatic painting so late in his career (older brother stabbing). His paintings are psychologically complex, but typically more sublte.

    I have never see the original, but have seen maybe hundreds of reproductions of this painting. They vary so greatly that I wouldn't trust the cover of Nouwen's book too much(which by the way, I consider my favorite Christian book of all time and read it at least once a year!).

    It is an intersting theory, but I find the mystery of the older brother (whoever he is back there) in this painting much more compelling and "Rembrandtish".

    Now I do agree that the knife on the young brother has significance (as does every square inch of a Rem composition) and does visually tie into the older brother to the left, but I need to get back to work...

    Anyway you look at it, it is a stunningly beautiful gesture to God, and one of the greatest works of art EVER!


  4. Ron -
    Yes, it is beautiful. I looked at several other artists' depictions when putting this blog post together, but nothing else I found was as good. It's almost as if this is the definitive work on the Prodigal, and now everyone should just give up and go paint something else.

  5. This picture is on the cover of Kenneth Bailey's book entitled The Cross and the Prodigal. The book, and the material presented by Dr. Bailey, was amazing, transformational for me (a Christian for 30 years). I highly recommend it. Also, see a website for a great summary of the points made by Dr. Bailey in this and other of his books.

  6. "Kimmer" -

    Thanks for the thoughts. Your husband's site looks good...I plan to explore more of it soon.