12 Mar 2015

The Province of Joy series - Lenten Reflections 2015 - The Angelus - Millet

Jean-François Millet (1814-1875) - The Angelus
Between 1857 and 1859 (Musée d'Orsay)
Background to the painting:

A man and a woman are reciting the Angelus, a prayer which commemorates the annunciation made to Mary by the angel Gabriel. They have stopped digging potatoes and all the tools used for this task – the potato fork, the basket, the sacks and the wheelbarrow – are strewn around them. In 1865, Millet said: "The idea for The Angelus came to me because I remembered that my grandmother, hearing the church bell ringing while we were working in the fields, always made us stop work to say the Angelus prayer for the poor departed". So it was a childhood memory which was behind the painting and not the desire to glorify some religious feeling; besides Millet was not a church-goer. He wanted to catch the immutable rhythms of peasant life in a simple scene. Here he has focused on a short break, a moment of respite.

Alone in the foreground in a huge empty plain, the two peasants take on a monumental quality, despite the small size of the canvas. Their faces are left in shadow, while the light underlines their gestures and posture. The canvas expresses a deep feeling of meditation and Millet goes beyond the anecdote to the archetype.

Perhaps that explains the extraordinary destiny ofThe Angelus: it triggered an unbelievable rush of patriotic fervour when the Louvre tried to buy it in 1889, was venerated by Salvador Dali, lacerated by a madman in 1932 and became a world-famous icon in the 20th century.

Reflection by Mary Keating:

Millet's 'The Angelus' is a painting which literally always stops me in my tracks. It reminds me of the importance of taking the time in the midst of the busyness of every day life to turn to GOD in humility, dependency and thanksgiving. It reminds me that The WORD was made flesh and lived {and continues to live} amongst us. 

AWESOME and something that needs moments of stopping in my tracks to ponder on. I always try to remember to stop and say the Angelus and think about the words I'm saying. 

During LENT I hope to be better at doing this and have the courage to invite people who are in  my company at Angelus time to join me in the silence or in the words.

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