Christian Thought As Artistic Inspiration

The fables of Christianity offer the imaginative artist marvelous subjects! I have found the subject of Christian theology of so high a grade of interest that I did feel compelled to create an artwork based on one of it’s major themes. But more on that in a later post….

The Pietà by Michelangelo is one of my favorite sculptures. The faces of the subjects are sublime. Mary’s is ideal perfection in form and features showing her acceptance of death, and in that acceptance, her worship of it. Christ’s face is other-worldly peaceful.

Mary

Christ

That sculpture is all the more fantastic in its portrayal of the theme of the virgin birth. Here the Pietà shows the love of the mother for the son she bore while she was a virgin. Again, only in art can one appreciate so exquisite a science fiction as this.

Pietà Michelangelo Buonarroti (1498–1499)

The Pietà must have been Michelangelo’s personal favorite too, for it’s the only one he signed. (See it carved into the sash the Virgin wears on her breast.)

Pieta Signed

Michelangelo shows an immaculate harmony of the mystical mind and a corresponding perpetual youth in the Pietà.

In literature I find this Christian fable of the virgin birth addressed most wonderfully in Mark Twain’s “Fables of Man”.

It’s fabulous that in his chapters on “Little Bessie” he makes Bessie “nearly three years old” and later “only three and a half years old”. Yet Little Bessie grasps the absurdity of the concept of Christianity’s virgin birth better than most adults. This is because Little Bessie, too young even for a modern mind destroying pre-school, gets her education from the mysterious—almost mystical—Mr. Hollister, the village atheist.

Meet Little Bessie in a discussion with her mother:

Mamma, is Christ God?

Yes, my child.

Mamma, how can He be Himself and Somebody Else at the same time?

He isn’t, my darling. It is like the Siamese twins—two persons, one born ahead of the other, but equal in authority, equal in power.

I understand it, now, mamma, and it is quite simple. One twin has sexual intercourse with his mother, and begets himself and his brother; and next he has sexual intercourse with his grandmother and begets his mother. I should think it would be difficult, mamma, though interesting. Oh, ever so difficult. I should think that the Corespondent—

All things are possible with God, my child.

Yes, I suppose so. But not with any other Siamese twin, I suppose. You don’t think any ordinary Siamese twin could beget himself and his brother on his mother, do you, mamma, and then go on back while his hand is in and beget her, too, on his grandmother?

Certainly not, my child. None but God can do these wonderful and holy miracles.

And enjoy them. For of course He enjoys them, or He wouldn’t go foraging around among the family like that, would He, mamma?—injuring their reputations in the village and causing talk, Mr. Hollister says it was wonderful and awe-inspiring in those days, but wouldn’t work now. He says that if the Virgin lived in Chicago now, and got in the family way and explained to the newspaper fellows that God was the Corespondent, she couldn’t get two in ten of them to believe it. He says they are a hell of a lot!

My child!

Well, that is what he says, anyway.

Oh, I do wish you would keep away from that wicked, wicked man!

He doesn’t mean to be wicked, mamma, and he doesn’t blame God. No, he doesn’t blame Him; he says they all do it—gods do. It’s their habit, they’ve always been that way.

What way, dear?

Going around unvirgining the virgins. He says our God did not invent the idea—it was old and mouldy before He happened on it. Says He hasn’t invented anything, but got His Bible and His Flood and His morals and all His ideas from earlier gods, and they got them from still earlier gods. He says there never was a god yet that wasn’t born of a Virgin. Mr. Hollister says no virgin is safe where a god is. He says he wishes he was a god; he says he would make virgins so scarce that—

Peace, peace! Don’t run on so, my child. If you—

—and he advised me to lock my door nights, because—

Hush, hush, will you!

—because although I am only three and a half years old and quite safe from men

Mary Ann, come and get this child! There, now, go along with you, and don’t come near me again until you can interest yourself in some subject of a lower grade and less awful than theology.

Bessie, (disappearing.) Mr. Hollister says there ain’t any.

—Mark Twain, “Fables of Man”, “The Myth of Providence”, “Little Bessie”, Chapter 6 (1908 – 1909)