The Merciful Knight,
Painted by Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones (1833-1898),
Painted circa 1863,
Watercolour with bodycolour on paper
© Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, UK


The Merciful Knight,
Painted by Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones (1833-1898),
Painted circa 1863,
Watercolour with bodycolour on paper
© Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, UK


Gospel of 14 March 2022

Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate

Luke 6:36-38

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate. Do not judge, and you will not be judged yourselves; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned yourselves; grant pardon, and you will be pardoned. Give, and there will be gifts for you: a full measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be poured into your lap; because the amount you measure out is the amount you will be given back.’

Reflection on the Watercolour on Paper

The opening words of our Gospel reading today are: ‘Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate’. Other  translations might read ‘‘Be merciful as your Father is merciful’. In this short statement Jesus is telling us two things: how God is compassionate; and how we are all called to be the same. So we are called to be God-like. Our painting today visually illustrates this well. 

The Merciful Knight is a watercolour by the Pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones. It depicts a an 11th-century legend featuring a Florentine knight called Giovanni Gualberto. The legends goes that on a Good Friday Giovanni was entering Florence accompanied by his army. In a narrow lane he came upon a man who had killed his brother. He was about to kill the man in revenge when the other fell upon his knees with arms outstretched in the form of a cross and begged for mercy in the name of Christ, who had been crucified on that day, Good Friday. Giovanni Gualberto forgave him there and then. He subsequently entered the Benedictine Church at San Miniato to pray. When he knelt down, the figure on the crucifix bowed its head to the knight in recognition of his mercy. Giovanni Gualberto was later canonised and founded the Vallumbrosan Order.

Our work by Burne-Jones accentuates the mercifulness of the knight and of Christ. The kiss given by Christ is very compassionate, protective and deeply caring. That is what mercy ultimately is. The knight’s hands are barely visible. The beard of Christ forms a kind of a shield over the knight's forehead, the true shield compared to the one of the helmet now lying on the floor…

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3 months ago

Great painting!

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