Salvador Dalí in front of an element of the scenography,
XXII Edition of the Venice Film Festival (20 August - 3 September 1962),
Performance by Salvador Dalì at the Teatro La Fenice
If your right eye should cause you to sin, tear it out
Jesus said to his disciples: ‘You have learnt how it was said: You must not commit adultery. But I say this to you: if a man looks at a woman lustfully, he has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye should cause you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; for it will do you less harm to lose one part of you than to have your whole body thrown into hell. And if your right hand should cause you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; for it will do you less harm to lose one part of you than to have your whole body go to hell.
‘It has also been said: Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a writ of dismissal. But I say this to you: everyone who divorces his wife, except for the case of fornication, makes her an adulteress; and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.’
Reflection on the vintage photograph
One of the artists who got me interested in art from a young age was Salvador Dalí. His surrealist, fantastical images spoke to me as a very young boy. One of the obsessions Dalí had was the image of an eye. He often painted eyes as part of his compositions. Our photo shows Dalí standing in front of a sculpture of a leaking eye that he made for the XXII Edition of the Venice Film Festival in 1962, where he staged a short play at the Teatro La Fenice.
The eye was key to Dalí as it was the prime visual instrument that showed itself to be crucial for seeing the paranoia and the metamorphoses created by his surrealist images. Dalí’s extraordinary creativity centres around the eye. The eye observes and feeds the mind, but it can also be tricked and has the capacity to construct visions, which is what surrealist art was all about.
Jesus mentions the eye in our reading today. Of all our senses, Jesus recognises that our eyes can probably lead us astray the most. We can look at the wrong things, get seduced by temptations for the eye or merely distracted by what we see.
Jesus talks about the eye in the context of adultery. He says ‘If your right eye should cause you to sin, tear it out and throw it away’. He speaks purposely in this exaggerated way, to guide his audience away from understanding that adultery is not just a physical act but also an intention or desire. Jesus thus invites us to think beyond the actions that the Ten Commandments prohibit and links us to the roots of those actions in our human hearts. Using the image of the eye, he thus calls us to deeper virtues through interior transformation.
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