The month of November brought both highs and lows for Canadian artist Timothy Schmalz.
On Friday, November 29, I told you how the Pope had blessed “Homeless Jesus”, a life-size sculpture by Schmalz depicting a barefoot, blanket-shrouded Christ, asleep on a park bench. Pope Francis blessed the statue on the steps of St. Peter’s Basilica following the Wednesday General Audience on November 20.
And now the bad news: On Saturday afternoon, November 30, another of Schmalz’ works was stolen from the Church of St. Stephen-in-the-Fields in Kensington Market, a historic neighborhood in downtown Toronto.
“Whatsoever You Do”, the stolen work, depicted Christ as a beggar slumped on the ground, holding out a nail-printed hand. Drawn from the Beatitudes, it spoke of how Christ is revealed in the marginalized among us—the poor, the hungry, the imprisoned.
When “Homeless Jesus” was recognized and blessed by Pope Francis, the rest of Schmalz’ works increased in value. Reverend Maggie Helwig, pastor of St. Stephen-in-the-Fields Anglican Church, thought that thieves knew that “Whatsoever You Do” had increased in value, and this motivated them to steal the work from its spot at the front of her church.
In an interview with the Toronto Star, Helwig expressed her disappointment: “The biggest concern for me is that we have lots of homeless and marginalized people around this church, and this was the first depiction of Jesus they could relate to. It’s not so much a theft from the church as a theft from the community.”
Helwig believes that no art dealer will accept the work, because news of the theft has already spread in the art community. She hopes that the persons responsible for taking the statue will either return it or leave it somewhere so that it can be reclaimed by the church.
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Here, a fascinating mini-documentary about the artist, Timothy P. Schmalz, and the method used to create his vibrant bronze sculptures. It’s a little long (12 minutes) but it’s fascinating.