Friday, July 25, 2014

El Prado and La Reina Sofia



 July 7, 2014—a revised excerpt from a journal written in Madrid, Spain

We went to El Prado yesterday, and El Escorial and La Reina Sofia today. Paintings, portraits, statues, the like.

May I just begin by saying, it was a doggone miracle knowing the number of Biblical figures who looked like rich, white European nobles. It’s crazy that people born in Egypt and Jerusalem had such fine blond hair, blue eyes, and remarkably well-tailored clothing to boot. In fact, poverty looked like a pretty good place to be, if you looked at the way the artists told it. The only time it did not look fun was when Jesus was dying, which was frequent.

Okay, I get it. They weren’t trying to be historically accurate when these were painted. Maybe it never even occurred to them that God might make his Son brown. But please—is it too much to ask for some variety? Jesus being born, sitting on his mom’s lap, Epiphany, the Crucifixion, the Resurrection. Maybe Noah’s Ark or a prophet if they decided to go really crazy. But still. Christmas. Easter. And that was about it.

Chubby, blond Jesus, sitting up in his mom’s lap in front of some amazed shepherds while kings (one of whom was occasionally black) gave him presents. (Note: I do not care what anybody thinks, but if Jesus was as human as he said he was then he was NOT like Spencer from Studio C, and probably needed people to hold his head up and change his diaper and all that other good stuff.) (Note note: Also, why does Epiphany always happen in the stable? Didn’t they leave?) (Note note note: WHO THOUGHT IT WAS A GOOD IDEA TO HAVE A BABY WITH ANIMALS STILL IN THE STABLE? IT WAS JERUSALEM. IT’S NOT LIKE IT WAS GONNA SNOW.)

I’m over it.

At this point, I want to see something else.

I want to see Mary bone tired, dragging Jesus around the market and knowing that everyone thinks he was a very sinful “accident.” I want to see her crying, not because of some miracle but because she’s a new mom, and she’s tired, and she’s going to have to do it again tomorrow. I want to see her with Joseph. Making food. Giving Jesus to the neighbors for a minute because despite being the Son of God, Jesus is making too much noise and they really need to think about how they’re going to pay the rent this month.

And I’m not saying it really happened—but it’s not like the medieval or renaissance artists knew any better.

They didn’t try to capture real life at the time. Christmas and Easter are supernatural, to say the least. But the reason we are saved is because Jesus didn’t have a perfect life. I want to remember that—about everyone, not just Jesus and Company. Their bad days have turned into my religion, and Jesus’s last turned into the world’s best.

Or, you know, we could do the nativity again. You can never have too many sheep.

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