The Parable of the Rich Man and Poor Lazarus. Artist: Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld. Engraver: Unknown. Source: Die Bibel in Bildern, Plate 191. Click on image to enlarge it.

There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence. [Luke 8: 19-26 King James Bible. The plate cites only the first two verses, but the later ones are illustrated in the two scenes on the right.]

In his illustration of this parable Schnorr von Carolsfeld makes a game attempt to depict in the same picture space both the here and now and the future, earthly life and the afterlife, the physical and the spiritual. The left side of the illustration shows the luxury of the rich man surrounded by servants and beautiful slave girls and a surprisingly muscular, attractive beggar into whose hands scraps drop from the rich man’s table. The right shows Lazarus. On the right we see Lazarus comfortably resting in heaven in the company of someone, perhaps the deity, while someone, apparently a rich man, stands within the flames of hell. One problem here is that although the the two representations of the poor beggar resemble each other, the man suffering with the flames does not look much like the more round-faced rich man. Throughout The Bible in Pictures employs the usual means to indicate the presence of the spiritual realm or a spiritual being. When creating illustrations for a wide range of people and events usually considered to be types of Christ, the artist, who concentrates on literal realistic renderings of the scenes, somewhat surprisingly makes no attempt to render the spiritual dimension. In other cases, such as his version of The Annunciation and The Death of Moses (a rarely depicted event), Schnorr von Carolsfeld simply inserts an angel in the picture as he does in The Expulsion from Eden, a scene that like the Annunciation has long had supernatural beings present in the natural world. For other subjects, such as The Prophet Isaiah , he essentially places the prophet in a space of visionary reality, a virtual space that contains evens from different times and places. The illustration of this parable, however, works by dividing the canvas in two parts one of which represents the present reality, the juxtaposition of the rich and poor men in this world, whereas the right presents the supernatural world or rather two aspects of it. The heavenly part follows the Baroque practice of using clouds to indicate the bounds of the spiritual, and the flames from many a Last Judgment display the bounds of the nether world.

Christ’s ministry and parables

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Die Bibel in Bildern [Picture Bible] von Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld. Leipzig: Georg Wigands, 1860. Hathi Digital Trust Library online version of a copy in the Getty Library. Web. 30 June 2016.

Last modified 3 July 2016