Guido Nincheri’s paintings are narrative and symbolic. The elements have to be analyzed and derive the unifying theme of the message within. In this case it centers on the idea of being blind not only as a physical sense but also in a spiritual and rational sense.
The scene shows Jesus leaving Jericho towards his final journey to Jerusalem. Encountering the two blind men He heard their cry “O Lord son of David have mercy on us”. Having compassion on them he leaned over and cured them. This aspect reflects understanding and the power of faith. Superimposed on this scene is a group of blind men that symbolize the social conditions of the artist time and the result of human decisions. It is a message that permeates throughout history and is applied to our present situation of rapid social and technological development.
The painting is divided into six sections that are united by a series of parables reflecting Jesus’ life and teachings as read in the four Gospels.
The natural landscape and the buildings profile of Jericho.
The crowd exiting Jericho to follow Jesus.
The central grouping of the blind leading the blind.
The figure of Jesus curing the blind men that waited outside of the walls of Jericho.
The praying woman and a young boy leading a donkey carrying his two blind siblings.
In the distant landscape a series of posts show ownership of land.
The natural landscape and the buildings profile of Jericho.
Jericho is a Jordan Valley Oasis at 237 meters below sea level and about eight kilometers west of the river Jordan. An underground spring provided irrigation water for thousands of years to the area leading to the development of farmland on its rich alluvial soil.
Its region during Roman times was known for the production of date palm, wine, spices, and rare aromatic plants. Such as persimmon whose perfume in Roman times was considered to drive men wild.
Seen in the painting, in front of the town, are palm trees. Beyond, along the road from Jericho, behind the group of the blind men, is a grove of Sycamore trees that was an important food supply mentioned in the Old Testament. The tree had multiple uses from its wood and, its fruit was a source of food. Its healing tea made from its leaves and its syrupy sap was like Maple syrup. Its gigantic canopy and trunk provided refuge for man and its animals. Further, there is a stand of eucalyptus trees noted for their medicinal properties. In the distance, the land is dominated by the surrounding mountains, and its lowlands show farming activity by the presence of fence posts. The profile of the city shows elaborate architecture pointing to its reputation of being the residence of Jerusalem aristocracy and housing the 12000 priests and Levites that served in the Temple of Jerusalem. During the reign of King Herod the Great, the city and its surroundings were an important agricultural, commercial and administrative center. It was connected to Jerusalem by a 28 kilometers road used by merchants, armies, pilgrims, including priests and Levites.1
The beauty of the Jericho valley is a metaphor of man’s use of the natural world and a lesson of the importance to safeguard nature rather than misuse it at our peril.
“Jesus is said to have passed through Jericho twice: when he cured the two blind men (Mark 10:46-52, Matt 20:29-34) and when he converted Zacchaeus, the tax collector (Luke 19:1-10). The historical Jesus would have walked the Jericho road on the final stretch from Galilee to Jerusalem through the Jordan Valley and across the Judean Desert.2”.
The crowd exiting Jericho to follow Jesus
29 As Jesus and his disciples were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him. In both of the accounts of Matthew 20:29-34 and that of Luke 19:1-15, we learn the reaction of some of the crowd towards the two blind men and the Tax collector Zacchaeus that welcomed Jesus in his home. These people were either annoyed or critical of their intrusions; all that they wanted to see miracles.
They did not understand Jesus’ message of love, acceptance, forgiveness, tolerance, and inclusiveness. The parable of the Sower illustrates this problem. The human heart is like receptive soil to the seed of the Word of God. The soil that the seed fell on represents four categories of hearers’ hearts, four different reactions to the Word of God: the hard heart, the shallow heart, the crowded heart, and the fruitful heart. To emphasize the point of understanding Jesus’ message, the man in front of the crowd points to the group of the blind men symbolizing a warning to people that follow individuals who practice false ideas.
The Blind Leading the Blind
He also told them this parable: “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into a pit? (Luke 6:39)
Guido Nincheri, in inserting the group of blind men leading the blind subtly refers to the past and future consequences by irresponsible men creating directives whose results led to disaster. To quote the introduction to Barbara W. Tuckman’s The March to Folly: “A phenomenon noticeable throughout history regardless of place or period is the pursuit by governments of policies contrary to their own interests. Mankind, it seems, makes a poorer performance of government than of almost any other human activity. In this sphere, wisdom, which may be defined as the exercise of judgment acting on experience, common sense and available information, is less operative and more frustrated than it should be. Why holders of high office so often act contrary to the way reason points and enlightened self-interest suggests? Why does intelligent mental process seem so often not to function?”
Guido Nincheri Symbolism in the St-Viateur d’Outremont Painting of the Blind Leading
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