Thursday, March 24, 2022

Strange Fate of "The Carpenter's Son"

American artist Edward Simmons created the painting "The Carpenter's Son" (Paris 1888, RA 1889) imagines young Jesus as a boy in a woodworker's shop.  

According to David Tovey:

Mr. Simmons "depicted his eldest son in his St Ives studio with wood-shavings scattered around, so converting the scene into a depiction of the Christ Child."

"The Chantrey Trustees were initially impressed by this informal presentation of Christ and offered to buy the painting, but an article in a Scottish newspaper denouncing it as heretical made them revoke their offer, which did not impress Simmons."

The painting ended up in the possession of the First Unitarian Church, New Bedford, Massachusetts.

In 1996 the painting suffered a strange case of vandalism. According to Wikipedia:
The painting was "yanked from the wall and cut out from its frame. The section depicting Jesus [was] taken, cutout and removed. The rest of the painting [was] left lying on the floor. The lost section was found in 2006, rolled up behind a refrigerator when it was being removed from the congregation’s kitchen. The painting was then restored and ownership transferred to the Rotch-Jones-Duff House and Garden Museum."

Wikipedia on Edward Simmons 


Pikagirl said...

I remember this painting as it hung by the entrance where people went upstairs for Tryworks coffee house. When I heard it was ripped down, long after my college days and I was no longer in New Bedford, I remember thinking, "Why would someone do that?" It always struck me as the perfect painting for a UU Church. Shortly before it was found and restored, the minister of the UU Church my husband attended gave a sermon about the painting he had so dutifully "guarded" in his teen years on those Saturday nights and how he had studied it all those nights sitting on the bench under it and the shadowy figures in the background.

Every so often I think about that painting, the missing ones from the Gardener, and another one that hung in our dining room for years and was stolen from my brother's house when he lived in Texas called, "The Sleeping Cardinal." (It was a zoomed out view of a monk painting the portrait of a cardinal, but the cardinal was asleep in his chair and the monk was scratching his head trying to figure out whether to wake him or not.) I always hope that when artwork is stolen, it is bringing joy to someone else, not vandalized.

Although, if anyone ever finds "The Sleeping Cardinal," I would really love to get it back as my father (of blessed memory) loved that painting.

MacDieter said...

Some of these self proclaimed christians are a special type of person! If something doesn´t fit in their world view they feel entitled to destroy it!

James Gurney said...

Pikagirl, thanks for sharing that amazing story. Your painting sounds like a Vibert. Hope it finds its way back to you.