“The Pilgrims of Emmaus” Through the Eyes of the Masters

If you tuned in for yesterday’s thrilling episode of  Bad Church Art and the Tasteless Vatican II Boomer Twits Who Inflict It Upon Us, you got to see the masterwork which will be glaring at me from my pew missal holder (and possibly yours) for the next year, causing little cartoon hate lines to radiate from my head. The artist is Alfred Manessier, and here are two of his other works. I’m going to hold back the titles till later to give you the frission of delight when you discover what they’re supposed to convey.









Moving on, then, to the subject of yesterday, which is Massenet’s painting “The Pilgrims of Emmaus.”  I am not alone in my disdain for the piece.

The Curmudgeonly Catholic said: “I can see this portraying the pilgrims of Emmaus – right after they were nailed by a 2005 Peterbilt tractor going 20 miles over the speed limit.”

“Mama of many nerdlings” said that her daughter with Aspergers thought it was a Magic Eye painting which went horribly wrong. I wondered if there was something to this, so I held it up to my face Magic Eye-style, and she’s right. If you squint, you can almost see the Spirit of Vatican II!

Interestingly, my son (quoted in the original post) is also an aspie, and was also extremely disturbed by the image, to the point that he reversed all the books in the pew racks so he didn’t have to look at. So now it’s pretty clear that OCP not only hates art and music, but people with Aspergers as well, and maybe puppies.

Here on Patheos, the good Deacon deemed it “just bad-ass ugly,” while The Anchoress, at a rare loss for words, simply said, “Oh, for crying out loud!” Joanna McPortland, however, wins the quip contest: “I knew it was a bad cubist-knockoff Emmaus right away. Apparently the artist wants us to know Him in the breaking of the planes.”

But it didn’t have to be so. “The Pilgrims of Emmaus” is a popular subject for art, and has been for some time. A trio of talentless hacks named  Titian, Rembrandt, and Veronese tackled the same image. Let’s see what they were able to do with it:

Titian, “Supper at Emmaus”

Rembrandt, “Supper at Emmaus”

Veronese, “Supper at Emmaus”

Caravaggio painted it twice: 

OCP sought out an abstract piece of art that they had to know would be unappealing and confusing to the majority of people who would see it.

The question is: why? Is it that they have no taste?

Well, yes, that’s part of it. A great swath of modern art is little more than a scam perpetrated by the collaboration of untalented, nihilistic, and radically politicized artists and a self-selecting critical elite. It is theory uber alles: concept is everything. People have lost any sense of what good is. This isn’t a mindless railing against modern art. Some can be quite fine. However, most is (as Charles Ryder observed to Cordelia) complete bosh.

But there’s more to it than the complete collapse of aesthetic sensibilities in the modern age. Someone truly interested in conveying a message of faith to as many people as possible using the visual arts would have picked something else. Someone more interested in  showing off their own progressive artistic credentials, however, would pick this.

Do they really believe the church of the masses will look at that and be uplifted, or even recognize it? Or are they just trying to impress us with their “mature” understanding of modern art? Are they collaborating with us to further the gospel in the world, or are they trying to impose their vision of the Church: modernist, progressive, elitist, ugly? Given the near-monopoly of OCP products, it’s not a minor question.

And now, let’s return to the Manessier masterpieces at the top of this post. Did you guess?

My daughter guessed (for the one on the left) “Lines on Thrown Up Cafeteria Lunch” and (for the one on the right) “Squished Bugs in Melted Skittles.”

Silly girl! The one on the left is “The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ” and the one on the right is “The Apparition of Mary Magdalene.”


I dunno.

I just-


The Earliest Known Depiction of Witches On Brooms, and What It Tells Us About Evil
Exorcising A Possessed Statue of The Virgin Mary and Child
Tarzan: The Russ Manning Newspaper Strips Vol. One [Review]
The Best Deal In Comics
About Thomas L. McDonald

Thomas L. McDonald writes about technology, theology, history, games, and shiny things. Details of his rather uneventful life as a professional writer and magazine editor can be found in the About tab.

  • http://egregioustwaddle.blogspot.com/ Joanne K McPortland

    Scary. I got the one on the left. I did think the one on the right was Pentecost, but then I looked at it sideways in a mirror and of course it was Mrs. Jesus.

    I have to quibble only a little. All art is modern art at some point, and Caravaggio (the second is my favorite of the “traditional” Emmaus paintings) shocked and appalled quite a few in his day. That being said, art-as-evangelization—which a bulletin cover might well be considered—should probably reach for a wider appeal than art-as-personal-revelation. There’s something to be said for a nonrepresentational approach to mysteries too large to be encompassed, but I understand most folks are not going to be saying good things about it. :)

  • http://www.godandthemachine.com Thomas L. McDonald

    I won’t disagree with the non-representational part, but there are good ways to do it and bad. My favorite religious painting of all time manages to achieve a sense of wonder by what it doesn’t show: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/ac/Henry_Ossawa_Tanner_-_The_Annunciation.jpg

    And my main gripe is that religious art for the masses has always been grounded in pedagogy. In that location (on a missal cover) it’s catechetical, and one thing I know as a catechist: your catechesis should not require its own catechesis in order to be understood.

  • https://foothills.wjduquette.com/blog Will Duquette

    Perhaps it will amuse you to know that the banner ad that came up at the top of the page was for Home Depot: low prices on toilets.

  • Smelt

    And it shouldn’t hurt your eyes. There is nothing beautiful there.

  • http://www.godandthemachine.com Thomas L. McDonald

    I don’t think I could flush a whole one. Maybe I could leave it on the tank in case we run low on TP

  • Dale Price

    Really? Those are supposed to be the subjects?

    Better titles:

    Left: “Fix The Screen Door Already.”

    Right: “Technicolor Yawn No. 5.”

  • http://www.godandthemachine.com Thomas L. McDonald

    As Dave Barry says, “I’m not making this up.”

  • mama of many nerdlings

    The vision of Mary Magdalene? Scripture doesn’t tell us that the great Mary Magdelene needed bifocals but now we know. It makes som e kind of sense if she needs corrective lenses and was sataring at a WKmart Advertisement for Christmas decorations.

  • Dale Price

    My wife just saw them, and said she thought the one on the right was an artistic re-visioning of the Paris metro map.

    She is on to something.


  • mama of many nerdlings

    If she were staring at a Walmart or Kamrt advertisement for Christmas decorations. Sorry about my wonky spelling. still recovering from a stroke and my left hand doesn’t always do what I want it to do.

  • mavis

    Never mind there have been worse in other denominations which shall be nameless. in other countries also nameless.
    I M H O of course and beauty is in the eye of the beholder
    Rest your eyes on this
    and look at St Nicholas …feast day Dec 6th.

  • mavis

    Or if that is too commercial

    http://www.stnicholascenter.org/pages/wonderworker/ I just like the other better :-)