Allegory of Justice and Peace,
Painting by Corrado Giaquinto (1703-1766),
Painted between 1753 and 1754,
Oil on canvas
© Museo del Prado, Madrid
A peace the world cannot give is my gift to you
Jesus said to his disciples:
‘Peace I bequeath to you, my own peace I give you, a peace the world cannot give, this is my gift to you.
Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. You heard me say: I am going away, and shall return. If you loved me you would have been glad to know that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.
I have told you this now before it happens, so that when it does happen you may believe. I shall not talk with you any longer, because the prince of this world is on his way. He has no power over me, but the world must be brought to know that I love the Father and that I am doing exactly what the Father told me.’
Reflection on the painting
This allegorical painting by Corrado Giaquinto depicts Justice and Peace. The painter's patron, the Spanish king Ferdinand IV of the House of Bourbon, who credited himself with bringing peace to his kingdom and ruling it justly, commissioned the work to convey that he was a just and peace-loving ruler. We see two women, Justice and Peace, embracing each other.
Justice manifests her great authority with a crown and sceptre. She is also inspired by the Holy Spirit in the form of a white dove. Further symbols are present alluding to Justice. We can see an ostrich to her right, whose symmetrical feathers signify fairness. A sword is lying on the ground underneath her feet, referring to the separation of good from evil, an act further evoked by the scales next to the sword
The figure of Peace is dressed in pink and is holding an olive branch. She has a horn of plenty by her feet, showing what can happen to a country when there is peace. This sense of abundance is further shown by the cherub carrying a fresh bunch of harvested wheat. The lion and the lamb symbolise strength and meekness. Specifically, these animals refer to the characterisations of Christ as the Lion of Judah and the Lamb of God.
However in today’s Gospel reading Christ is talking of a different kind of peace, a peace that extends far beyond any earthly peace that we know. ‘A peace the world cannot give is my gift to you’ Jesus says. Peace for Jesus is not simply the absence of violence such as that depicted in our painting at the bottom left. Peace for Jesus (and his gift to us) is something much more positive, much deeper: it is not something temporal and external… it is eternal and internal !
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