Noces de Cana

The Wedding at Cana; Marten de VOS; 1596-97 oil on panel; De Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekathedraal, Antwerp.

Web Gallery of Art

The wedding at Cana

To understand

WHAT YOU CAN SEE IN THIS PICTURE

This is a feast meal with many guests. In the background, a young couple are sitting at the place of honour. This is a wedding banquet in a city called Cana, in Galilee.

 

In the foreground, but at the end of the table, a man and a woman are talking while a man pours water into some jars. She is Mary who is asking his son Jesus to intervene, for there is no wine left to be served to the guests. The water poured by the servant is turned into wine for the wedding.

 ... AND IN  OTHER PICTURES

The scene juxtaposes several strong points: the newly-married couple, Jesus and Mary, some men pouring the liquid out of big jars. According to the composition, the centre is occupied by the young spouses or by Jesus and his mother. Sometimes, Christ and Mary are particularly unobtrusive and they can be distinguished by their glances

 

The pouring of the water into the jars, normally six in number, is the main action, for it corresponds to the achievement of the miracle : the change of water into wine. Some servants are pouring the liquid tasted by a man. He is the butler, who is sometimes confused with the bridegroom.

 

Not be confused with

All these pictures represent a meal

with more or less guests. Some details allow the spectator to distinguish between them and to avoid any confusion.

  

 

A Feast in the House of Simon the Pharisee; Peter Paul RUBENS; c. 1618 oil on canvas; the Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg

Web Gallery of Art

 

 

This is another banquet but, here, a woman kisses the feet of a man and wipes them with her hair. This is the supper at the house of Simon the Pharisee where a sinning woman, identified with Mary Magdalene, pours some perfume on the feet of Jesus.

See The Sinning Woman in Simon’s House.

 

 

 

Jésus est oint à Béthanie; Julius Schnorr von CAROLSFELD,  ;
 1851-60 gravure pour la "Bibel in Bildern"

Emory

 

A banquet: Jesus and a woman are in the foreground but, this time, the woman is standing and pours some perfume on Jesus’ head; this is the unction at Bethany made by Mary, Lazarus’ sister, always identified with Mary Magdalene.

See The Sinning Woman in Simon’s House

 

 

The Last Supper; DUCCIO di Buoninsegna; 1308-11 tempera on wood; Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, Siena

Web Gallery of Art

 

The Last Supper of Jesus and his apostles can also be treated as a sort of banquet, hence the confusion with the Wedding at Cana but there is neither woman nor jar of wine.

See The Last Supper.

 

The Supper at Emmaus, Diego VELASQUEZ; 1620 oil on canvas, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

 Web Gallery of Art

 

A more intimate meal with Jesus and two disciples upset by his death. They recognize the Risen Christ at the very moment when he shares the bread. This is the supper at Emmaus, for the two men were on their way to this city.

See the Pilgrims at Emmaus.

 

 

The biblical narrative

The Gospel according to John, chapter 2

There is a wedding at Cana in Galilee and Mary, the mother of Jesus, is present.

 And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage. And when they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to him, They have no wine…

 And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of purification of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece.

 Jesus said to them, Fill the waterpots with water… And he said to them, Draw some out now, and bear it to the master of the feast. And they bore it.

 

 When the master of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine...he called the bridegroom, And said to him, Every man at the beginning sets forth good wine; and when men have drunk well, then the inferior: but you have kept the good wine until now. (John 2:2-10)

 Comment

 It is with the wedding at Cana that Jesus begins his ministry. The wedding is the sign of the covenant between God and his people; the water for purification becomes the wine of the feast; everything announces that Jesus is the Messiah.

 

See similar pictures

 

 

The simplicity or magnificence of the banquet at Cana. Jesus and Mary are mere guests, they are on one  side.

Veronese's painting is the largest in the world, the multiplicity of secondary scenes is extreme

 

 

The Marriage at Cana; GIOTTO di Bondone; 1304-06 fresco; Scrovegni Chapel, Padua, Italy

Web Gallery of Art

 

 

The Wedding at Cana; Paolo VERONESE; 1563 oil on canvas; Musée du Louvre, Paris

Web Gallery of Art

 

 

More intimacy for these weddings. When Jesus and Mary have no nimbus, one must search for them to recognise them

 

 

The Marriage Feast at Cana; Hieronymus BOSCH; 1475-80; oil on panel; Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, Rotterdam, Holland

CGFA - A Virtual Art Museum

 

 

The Marriage at Cana; Gerard DAVID; c. 1500;  oil on wood; Musée du Louvre, Paris.

Web Gallery of Art

 

 

Two very different pictures but, this time, the miracle of the water turned into wine is at the centre of the composition. The medieval picture stresses the similarities between this miracle and the Last Supper

 

 

The Wedding at Cana; 1372; miniature from the “Bible Historiale” by Petrus Comestor; manuscript MMW 10 B 23; Museum Meermanno Westreenianum, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, The Hague

Museum Meermanno La Haye

 

 

The Marriage at Cana; Mattia PRETI; c. 1655-60;  oil on canvas, National Gallery, London

National Gallery London

 

 

 

Further developments

 

 

Weddings have always been signs of celebration, of alliance and of communion between men.

The Bible often uses the image of the wedding to evoke the nuptials between God and his people. The Kingdom to come…could not but reinforce this sign. The wedding is always accompanied with abundant victuals and wine, the fruit of the vine also being an image of the Kingdom.

 

That is why our civilisation clings very strongly to the consumption of wine which is loaded with strong cultural meaning. But the excessive drinking of wine is already strongly condemned by the Bible.

 

According to the Bible, Noah is the first vine grower, the first wine maker but also the first to be drunk; his drunkenness leads him to lose all his dignity.


Noé fis making wine;
stained glass, ,
Noah's window. Chartres
Site origin

 

 

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