The 7 Deadly Sins and 4 last Things,
Painting by Hieronymus Bosch (1450-1516),
Oil on panel,
Painted circa 1480
© Prado Museum, Madrid
I have not come to call the virtuous, but sinners
Jesus noticed a tax collector, Levi by name, sitting by the customs house, and said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And leaving everything he got up and followed him.
In his honour Levi held a great reception in his house, and with them at table was a large gathering of tax collectors and others. The Pharisees and their scribes complained to his disciples and said, ‘Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?’ Jesus said to them in reply, ‘It is not those who are well who need the doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the virtuous, but sinners to repentance.’
Reflection on the painting
In our Gospel reading of today, Jesus makes clear that he has come for everyone, for all sinners. Our painting by Flemish artist Hieronymus Bosch, painted circa 1480, illustrates seven deadly sins. The larger circle in the middle of the painting depicts these seven deadly sins:
- wrath at the bottom of our illustration, then (proceeding clockwise)
Bosch uses scenes from daily life to illustrate these sins in a very tangible and direct way with which people could easily identify. Unlike other artists active at the time, he didn't use allegorical illustrations of the sins but went for very visual, straightforward depictions.
The centre of that roundel is composed as the Eye of God, of which the pupil of the eye is Jesus Christ himself emerging from the tomb. The composition of this roundel works almost as a wheel of fortune or a darts board. It enhances the feeling of randomness of our sins and how exposed all of us are to sin.
The four roundels in each corner represent the four last things in with which we are all confronted: death (top left); judgement (bottom right); heaven (top right) and hell (bottom left).
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Readings related to Luke 5:27-32
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