The Parable of the Hidden Treasure,
Executed by Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (1606-1669),
Oil on panel,
Executed in 1630,
© Collection Esterhazy, Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest
The Parable of the Hidden Treasure
Matthew 13: 44-46
Jesus said to the crowds: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field which someone has found; he hides it again, goes off happy, sells everything he owns and buys the field.
‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls; when he finds one of great value he goes and sells everything he owns and buys it.’
Reflection on the Painting
Rembrandt divides his painting diagonally in half (from the top right corner to the bottom left). The upper left half depicts a landscape with mountains and a city in the distance. The right lower half shows a man in front of a treasure he has just discovered. However, he is not looking at the treasure, but he is looking away at the upper left half, at the landscape, at infinity, in meditation, maybe praying. This man is past the point where the rich treasure initially impressed him. We can see him already thinking of what to do next: now that he has found the hidden treasure he longed for, he is resolved to sell everything he has so that he can buy the field.
Ok, now digging a little deeper into the painting, we see in the distance the city and at the front we are clearly on a hillside… Jesus was crucified on Mount Calvary which is located outside the city walls of Jerusalem… Thus the treasure the man discovered is indeed Christ Himself. Besides the shovel of the man lies a bunch of wild acanthus, and as we have mentioned before in previous daily reflections, acanthus is symbolic for enduring life… This affirms that the treasure the man found is everlasting!
The parable of today shows us the invitation of parting with everything we have and own, in order to obtain something inestimably greater. The value of salvation far surpasses any amount a poor man might be able to scrape together to try to acquire it. Rembrandt realised that, as he had a lot of trauma in his own life: three out of his four children died within months of their birth; his wife passed away seven years after their marriage; he went bankrupt a few years later, etc etc… No-one better than Rembrandt would have understood how important it is to search for the ‘true treasure’, Jesus Christ… and if we truly believe that the treasure is priceless, then the value of everything else we possess is insignificant by comparison.
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