Nathan rebukes David with the parable of the poor man's lamb..
 
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Title:Nathan rebukes David with the parable of the poor man's lamb.
Notes:

The Basilique of Sainte-Marie-Madeleine De Vezelay was founded in the mid-9th century as a convent for women. Because Vezelay was said to contain the relics of St. Mary of Magdalene, authenticated by Pope Paschal II in the early 12th century, the church became an important pilgrimage site.[1] The artwork for this week's Lectionary reading is one of over 100 sculptures or “capitals” adorning the nave of Vezelay. There is no one unified theme underlying the array of differing episodes on the column sculptures. Although Old Testament scenes predominate, New Testament scenes are present, as well as astrological symbols, and animals, such as a grasshopper and two pelicans.[2]

The scene portrayed depicts Nathan’s rebuke of David from 2 Samuel 11:26-12:13a. As Kirk Ambrose points out, it is not the subject matter of the capitals that should be of primary focus. Rather, the concern is how the scenes would have been perceived and cohered in the minds of medieval viewers.[3] As modern viewers, the visual effects of the sculpture presented in this up-close photograph are not dramatic or well defined. Yet when the sculpture is read as intended for the medieval viewer, a very different effect results. Meaning is not expressed through facial features, as is characteristic of modern sensibility, but is conveyed instead through hand/body gestures.

Ambrose states, “Because the Rule of Saint Benedict places a premium on silence…from an early date monks developed alternative modes of communication, including hand signals.”[4] In light of the importance of the artwork's hand gestures, the modern viewer can be led to a deeper understanding of Nathan’s righteous indignation in the face of David’s disgraceful act. Nathan's outstretched hand rebukes David, and David, with fingers turning inward, accepts the realization of his parallel abuse of power for selfish ends.

-- [1] Kathryn Morrison, “Ste Madeleine Vezelay” in Jane Turner The Dictionary of Art (Macmillan, New York: 1996) 395.[2] Kathryn Morrison, “Ste Madeleine Vezelay” in Jane Turner, The Dictionary of Art (Macmillan, New York: 1996) 395; Kirk Ambrose, The Nave Sculpture of Vezelay: The Art of Monastic Viewing (Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, Canada: 2006), ix.[3] Kirk Ambrose, The Nave Sculpture of Vezelay: The Art of Monastic Viewing (Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, Canada: 2006), xii.[4] Ibid., 19.

Date:c. 1130
Building:Basilique de la Madeleine (Vézelay, France)
Object/Function:Architectural element
City/Town:Vezelay
Country:France

Scripture:Samuel II, 11:26-12:13a
Person as Subject:David, King of Israel
Nathan (Biblical prophet)
Lectionary links:BProp13
General Subject:Adultery

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Attribution:Nathan rebukes David with the parable of the poor man's lamb., from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=54177 [retrieved December 18, 2018]. Original source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:V%C3%A9zelay_Narthex_Chapiteau_220608_03.jpg.
Record Number:54177 Last Updated: 2011-04-27 16:59:51 Record Created: 2009-01-15 13:00:04
Institution:Vanderbilt University Unit: Collection: Art in the Christian Tradition