Hans Schaüfelein’s Tortured ‘Job’: Picture-Perfect Perseverance

THE DAILY PIC: In LACMA's show on Reformation art, Hans Schaüfelein’s 'Job' makes us wonder if pain has always meant the same thing.

Feder in Schwarz, mit einer Einfassungslinie (1508 - 1510) von
Hans Leonhard Schäufelein
Höhe x Breite 18,5 x 13,6 cm
Inventar-Nr.: KdZ 4715
Kulturgeschichte / Religionsgeschichte / Altes Testament / Hiob, Artist: Hans Leonhard Schäufelein

THE DAILY PIC (#1747): This is Hans Schaüfelein’s Job Tortured by a Demon, a delicious drawing from around 1509 that I just came across in the show called “Renaissance and Reformation: German Art in the Age of Dürer and Cranach,” at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. It’s a perfect image of perseverance in the face of ills, both bodily and mental. If you had to choose, would you go for the buboes or the bedevilment?

One thing always strikes me about Old Master pictures of the suffering of Job and Christ and other unfortunates: In an era when hideous pain and torture and illness were pretty much commonplace, why did the travails described in sacred texts and paintings carry any weight?

Is it just that hurt is always equally hurtful, regardless of where and when and how often it’s felt? Or could it be that knowledge of a divine plan makes certain pains register as others don’t? The suffering of the thief whom you’ve watched being flogged might make all kinds of sense – might count as “all right” (for you, if not for him) – whereas the suffering of the certifiably holy opens a wrenching gap in the fabric of being. (Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett)

For a full survey of past Daily Pics visit blakegopnik.com/archive.

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