Friday, 18 February 2011

Les Ambassadors

Yesterday, before meeting my wife, I had a spare half hour while up by Trafalgar Square so I went into the National Gallery to look at some of my favourite paintings.  Among them is this, The Ambassadors by Hans Holbein the Younger:


Most people are fascinated by the elongated skull across the front signifying mortality but I want to draw your attention to this detail from top left:

Peering out from behind the drape is a crucifix.  I have heard a modern art expert say this shows that the scientific world represented by the ambassadors with their scientific instruments and books has eclipsed religion but I prefer an earlier interpretation.  Very close examination of the painting reveals one broken lute string:

This, to me, signifies the brokenness of the world and so the crucifix is there to remind us that for all their finery and learning the subjects of the painting are themselves subject to God.

Today science has moved on dramatically from the date of this painting but we do well to remember that behind everything is the love of God as shown by His death on the cross.

1 comment:

JMFG said...

Agree. Thank you for this.