Adele Gallogly


Rembrandt and The Prodigal Son


My booksellin’ parents recently happened upon an absolutely gorgeous book—Rembrandt’s Life of Christ. (I’d tell you what a stealio of a dealio it was, but you likely wouldn’t believe it—I didn’t!)

Included in the book is a sketch of the biblical parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). The image startled me, because for months I have been reflecting on Rembrandt’s other—famous and finished—painting, The Return of the Prodigal Son (on right). These slow, prolonged reflections were sparked and guided by two books by contemplative Christian writer Henri Nouwen centered around the painting and source parable. They were exercises in confronting emotions such as envy, insecurity, and distrust and in acknowledging the supreme care and providence of God, the Father.

The sketched scene from the book is very different from the painting—rawer, barer, more plain. Yet I see the same gestures and emotions in this flurried, sepia-tone depiction as in the fully realized painting. There, the generous embrace. There, the collapse of shame. There, the envious gaze. Here is a trinity of homecoming and its tensions—a picture of grace given, resisted, and received:

Author: Adele Gallogly

I'm a writer and editor living in the lovely city of Hamilton, Ontario. By day, I write for World Renew, a relief and development agency; during evenings and weekends, I let short stories, essays, and other pieces out to play. I like to write about the intersection of faith, art, culture, and justice.

3 thoughts on “Rembrandt and The Prodigal Son

  1. We were sharing Nouwen’s writing on this in devotionals at work today. The woman leading had forgotten to bring the sketch in our meeting room so it seems like a God moment to find it here. You might enjoy Calvin College’s prodigal son art collection. I have seen in person and amazing.

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