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The subject of this painting is taken from the Old Testament Book of Ruth. The youthful widowed Moabite Ruth is gleaning (gathering up corn left after the harvest) to support her widowed mother-in-law, Naomi. The landowner Boaz has heard of her situation, and impressed by her devotion has instructed his workers to leave lots of corn for her to gather. Ruth and Boaz eventually married, and King David, Mary, Joseph and Jesus were among their descendants.
The picture was painted in Munich, based on drawings Schnorr von Carolsfeld had made a few years earlier in Italy. He had spent ten years in Italy, and was a leading figure in a group of German and Austrian artists named the Nazarenes who sought to return modern painting to the purity of form and spiritual values that they saw in Renaissance art. The colours here are pure and clear and the painting is very highly finished, giving it a porcelain-like quality.
The subject of this painting is taken from the Old Testament Book of Ruth. The youthful widowed Moabite Ruth is gleaning (gathering up corn left after the harvest) to support her widowed mother-in-law, Naomi. The landowner Boaz has come to show his admiration for her support for her family. He has heard of her situation and instructed his workers to leave lots of corn for her to gather. He encourages her to work in his fields throughout the harvest.
Behind Ruth a woman cuts corn with a scythe and watches the conversation. Other workers tie the sheaves while another group of figures – one of them drinking from a flagon – rest in the shade of some trees in the distance. On the far left are the walls of Bethlehem. Ruth holds out a handful of corn to Boaz, whose palm is open in a rhetorical gesture to show that he is speaking to her. The colours are pure and clear and the painting is very precise and highly finished, giving it a polished, porcelain-like quality.
Naomi told Ruth that Boaz was a close relative, who under Jewish law had the right to marry her now that she was widowed. They eventually married, and King David, Mary, Joseph and Jesus were among their descendants. Ruth’s meeting with Boaz has been regarded as a prefiguration of the Annunciation.
Based on drawings made a few years earlier in Italy, the picture was actually painted in Munich, where from 1828 Schnorr von Carolsfeld was a painter at the court of King Ludwig of Bavaria. Schnorr had spent ten years in Italy, and was a leading figure in a group of German and Austrian artists called the Nazarenes, who sought to invest modern painting with the purity of form and spiritual values that they saw in Renaissance and Northern European art. Their inspiration was the art of Perugino, Pintoricchio, Francia and the young Raphael. The group was named after an early Christian sect made up of Christ’s first followers who came from Nazareth – Jesus’s home town. It was founded by Johann Friedrich Overbeck (1789–1869) and Franz Pforr (1788–1812) and later joined by Peter von Cornelius (1784–1867). The artists were originally called the Brotherhood of Saint Luke (after the patron saint of artists) but came to be known as the Nazarenes because of their religious devotion. In England the Nazarenes were part of the inspiration for the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, formed in 1848, which widely admired Schnorr’s prints.
The picture was engraved as Plate 85 of Schnorr’s best-known work, the collection of prints known as the Bilderbibel or ‘Bible in Pictures’.
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