Museums

Ghent Museum of Fine Arts - Painting "The Eight Beatitudes"

The Museum of Fine Arts was founded in 1798 and is one of the oldest museums in the country. From the rich variety of collections of paintings, sculptures and graphics a permanent selection of 300 to 350 works of art are on display.

One of the paintings is named "The Eight Beatitudes". It was painted by an anonymous master around 1567 - 1570, right after the iconoclasm in 1566. The painting is a triptych. The master who painted it, depicts in a general and vivid way, Jesus’ famous 'Sermon of the Mount'.

We wish to thank the Ghent Museum of Fine Arts for their friendly cooperation and permission.
Website: www.mskgent.be



The Bible account that inspired the painter follows underneath:

Matthew 5:1-10:

Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down.
His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them saying:


"Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

( New International Version )

 

The Eight Beatitudes

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Every blessing is depicted separately: - 3 on the left side, 2 in the middle (underneath the main picture) and 3 on the right side. Bands of text, written in Old Dutch, explain every image. Because of the Reformation it became common in Catholic circles to translate Bible texts into the language of the people. It is interesting to see how the Dutch language was written (and also spoken) in those days. The pictures of the beatitudes themselves are also very interesting.

Because we want to show every part, we will use the next diagram.

 


The middle panel

Text on top: 'Salich zijn sij die in uwen huyse wonen die zullen hu louen inden tyt des eewicheijts – Psal LXXXIII'

Under the Tetragrammaton: Hy heeft u ghegheuen eenen leeraer der rechtueerdicheijt – Hoort hem – Matt XV
Around Jesus: Die gheest des Heren es up mij, daeromme heeft hij mij ghesalft ende heeft mij ghesonden om te prekene den aerme

Text below: Ic ben van hem ghestelt een conynck up Syon sijnen heleghen beerch prekende zijn ghebot – Psal II

 

'Blessed are those who live in your house, they will praise You to eternity - Psal LXXXIII'; is how we would translate this text. At the top of the painting the master painter has pictured the shining name of God. Under the cloud is Jesus, sitting atop the mount, teaching the famous Sermon. The city of Jerusalem is behind him. Above Jesus is written: 'He has given you a teacher of justice. Listen to him’ - Matthew 15. Beneath him the Holy Spirit is depicted in the shape of a dove. The text says: 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor'. Jesus is teaching the people who are sitting at his feet. At the bottom of the picture is a band with text, which says: 'I am installed by him, King on Zion, his holy hill, preaching his commands' - Psalm 2.

The Tetragrammaton is very nicely painted, including the masoteric vowels. When we read the text with the vowels, we read Yehowah.




It is also interesting to look at the separate parts.

Painting - part 1

Text:

hoocheijt
heerghiericheijt
Begheerte des Weerlts

Text below:

Salich zijnse die aerme zijn van gheeste, want dat rycke der hemelen behoort hemlien toe

 

Two men and two women are standing surrounded by riches. The woman on the left side is holding a sceptre and a crown. The other woman is wearing a crown with a cross. She is pointing to a little box with valuables. Behind her is an alcove with valuable things. The man on the left side is crossing his arms and is pointing to heaven, to a figure with a sceptre in his hands. The other man also sees the heavenly person and is holding his hands together in prayer. On the left side of the woman is a ladder with the word 'highness' written on it. On the other side of the ladder, above the woman is written 'honourable'. Above the other woman is written: 'desire of the world". On the ground are two more crowns, a sceptre and a ladder.

The text below: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."


 

Painting - part 2

 

Text inside:

Spijticheijt
Iniurie

Text below:

Salich zijn die Sachtmoedighe, want zij besitten sullen die aerde


 

A man in tattered clothing is holding on to another man by the hair while making a fist as if to hit him. Above him is written in Old Dutch: '‘Iniurie’, which means 'villain'. The other man has a jar and bread in his hands. Two women are on the left side of the picture. One woman is looking on, surprised, while the other one is looking to Christ, who appears with a crown of thorns and a cross. Above the woman is the word 'regrettable'.

The text below: 'Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.'

(Note: comparing to Matthew 5, we can see that the order of the second and the third beatitudes are switched).


 

Painting - part 3

Text inside:

Melijden
Berau der sonden
Apoca – 21

Text below:

Salich zijn sij die bedrouft zijn, want zij vertroost zullen worden

 

A man and woman are drying their tears. Above them is written 'remorse of sins'. On the right side are another man and woman. The woman is drying her tears while the man is praying. He is looking to an angel, positioned beneath a shining Tetragrammaton, who is offering him a cloth. On top of the woman, in Old Dutch, is the word 'pity'. Under the angel is written ‘Apoca – 21’, a reference to Revelation 21 where in verse 4 God promises that he will ‘wipe every tear from their eyes'. This is why the angel is offering the cloth.

The text below: 'Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.'

The Tetragrammaton in detail:


 

Painting - part 4

Text inside:

Toordeel gods
Gods rechtweerdicheyijt
op het zwaard: dwoord gods
op het boek: die wet gods
tussen de balans: gherechticheije
onder het brood: ghenaede
op de kruik en het brood: Gheeft d aermel meerighe brood

Text below:

Salich zijn sij die hongheren ende dursten naerd die rechtweerdicheijt, want zij verseet sullen worden.

 

Under a shining Tetragrammaton is a woman with a crown. On the left side of the Tetragrammaton is a palm tree branch; and on the other side a sword. Above these is written: 'the judgement of God'. On the woman's head is written 'God’s justice'. She is holding a sword and a scale. These are labelled 'the word of God' (sword) and 'justice' (scale). The scale, of course, has to be in balance. In front of her is a book on a table, together with a jar and bread. 'God's Law' is written on the book. On the bread and the jar, ‘Give the poor some bread. To the left of the woman is a man with a dish. To her right is a man with bread. The word 'mercy' is written on the bread.


The text below: 'Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.'

The Tetragrammaton in detail:


 

Painting - part 5

Text inside:

Goedertierenheijt
Baermherticheijt gods
Liefde
Mesdaet

Text below:

Salich zijn die baermhertighe, want zij baermherticheijt verweeruen sullen.

 

Under a shining Tetragrammaton is an angel with a palm branch in his hand. The words 'God's Mercy' are written in the cloud. On his left side are a wealthy man and woman. Before them is a man on his knees, begging. Above the man is the word 'Crime', above the woman the word 'Clemency'. On the right side of the angel is a crippled man receiving gifts. Above them is the word 'Love'.

The text below: 'Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.'

The Tetragrammaton in detail (with vowels showing clearly):


 

Painting - part 6

Text inside:

Ghelooue
Duvels bedroch
Dexel der Soden
Lust des Weerlts
Der Sonde onreinheijt’
Onreijne liefde

Text below:

Salich zijn sij die suijver van herten zijn, want zij sullen god sien


 

A man and woman are standing under a cloud in which the Tetragrammaton is written. A crowd of heavenly beings surrounds the cloud. Above the woman is written 'Believe'. On the left side of the man is a clothed devil. 'Deceipt of the Devil' is written above him. The devil looks like a woman but he has two horns, a tail and paws. In his hands he has a golden drinking goblet with the text: 'lid of [Soden] on it. Above the 0 is a line, which usually meant that the word had been abbreviated. The word was very possibly 'Sonden' or 'Zonden' - 'Sins' in English. At their feet of the man and woman is a drinking goblet with the words 'the sin of impurity' written on it. On the outside of the goblet are snakes. On the left side of the woman are another man and woman. The woman is wearing a crown with a cross. To the left of this crown is written 'desire of the world'. At the feet of the woman is a nude, blindfolded child with a bow in his hands and the words 'impure love.'

Text below: 'Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.'

The Tetragrammaton in detail: (difficult to see)


 

Painting - part 7

Text inside:

kinderen gods
Paysmaker
gramschepe
Crijghdheijt
De wille gods

Text below:

Salich zijn die vreedtsamighe, want zij sullen kinderen gods gheheeten worden.

 

Under a shining Tetragrammaton are two angels. The text in between them says 'Children of God'. On the left side are three men with another one standing behind them. The man in the middle is preventing the other two from fighting. The first man is raising his fist. The third man has a sword. Above them is written, in very Old Dutch, 'peacemaker', 'wrath' and 'warlike'. Peacemaker is written here because of the blessing portrayed in the picture. On the right side is a man kneeling before a woman. The woman is holding two tablets on which is written 'the Law'. Above her: 'God’s will'.

The text below: 'Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.'

The Tetragrammaton in detail:

 


 

Painting - part 8

Text inside:

Patientie
Steercke
Vulher
dicheijt

Text below:

Salich zijn die ghene die vervolghinghe lijden om die rechtueerdigheijt, want dat rijcke der hemelen behoort hem toe

 

Three women are standing under a Tetragrammaton that is surrounded by crowds of heavenly creatures. The woman in the middle is holding a Bible, a sword and a pomegranate with a cross. The woman on the left side is holding a cross and a whip. Above her is written 'Patience'. She is standing on a stone on which is an abbreviation for ‘Christ’. To the left of the stone is a skull and a sphere with a cross. The woman on the right side is holding a pillar with her left arm and an escutcheon in her hand. Above her is written: 'Strong persistency'. The woman in the middle is wearing a crown. Both of the other women are receiving a crown. Behind them is the image of a battle scene. Of course, there is a lot of symbolism in this painting too. The pillar stands for persistence. The whip symbolizes martyrdom. The skull is a symbol of the victims, but Christ is the stone on which the congregation is built.

The text below: 'Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.'

The Tetragrammaton in detail:



The iconoclasm or 'Beeldenstorm'

The name 'Beeldenstorm' was given to a series of destructions which took place in the Netherlands between August 10 and October of the year 1566. During these events hundreds of Catholic churches were destroyed. Often it was the valuable items within the church that were destroyed like altars, statues, paintings, and pulpits. This series of destructions were connected to the rising of Calvinism and Protestantism in the Netherlands. The people were annoyed by the worship of the Saints, the use of images and the wealth of the Church. Of course, the Spanish oppressor did not let this go unpunished. Fernando Alvarez de Toledo the Duke of Alba, was sent by Philip II of Spain to the Netherlands. He is known in history by his nickname 'the Iron Duke' because of his reign of terror.

 

About God's name in this painting

Knowing this, this painting... well, this painting is very remarkable. No less than 7 times the artist painted the Tetragrammaton, with vowel signs. The painting was made just after the Iconoclams or 'Beeldenstorm'. On the reverse of the painting are the coat of arms of Antoon van Hille and his wife Martine van Zevecote. They were most likely the ones that commissioned the work. Antoon van Hille was the Judge Officer of Ghent and was known as a strong opponent of the Iconoclasm.

 

 

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