Oil on canvas
Framed: 122 x 161.5 x 8 cm (48 1/16 x 63 9/16 x 3 1/8 in.); Unframed: 90.4 x 130.4 cm (35 9/16 x 51 5/16 in.)
Mr. and Mrs. William H. Marlatt Fund 1975.76
During the 1600s Protestant leaders denounced visual representations, in a belief that a strict understanding of the scriptures was the only way to achieve salvation. As a result, Protestants did not generally commission religious images. However, where religious painting did appear, they often depicted verses from the Bible with strict didactic values, such as Sleeping Peasants near Fields (Parable of the Weeds). The subject of this painting is the Parable of the Weeds from Matthew 13:24-30. Simon de Vlieger has illustrated the point in the story where the peasants sleep after sowing good seeds, and the enemy, depicted here as a satyr, mixes in bad seeds in the fields as well. When the weeds begin to grow, confused, the peasants ask the farmer if they should remove the seeds. The farmer replies that they should let the weeds and wheat grow together, and he will destroy the weeds after the harvest. The lesson of the story is that good and evil people often mix together; but in the end the pious will prevail and the wicked will be destroyed.
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