“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-


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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.