Hendrick ter Brugghen, “The Incredulity of St. Thomas” (1622)

With thanks to Catherine Volmensky

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Hendrick ter Brugghen, “The Incredulity of St. Thomas” (1622)

This is a really cool painting. Catherine emphasized its everydayness, as this could be right out of 17th c. Dutch life. That’s not a trivial idea: what if a man rose from the dead in the midst of believers? The whole scene is goofy. The older gentleman at the right is both happy and curious. He has some kind of glasses on and may be eager to try the wound himself. Thomas’ eyes are away from us, looking closed; it’s like he’s doubting his doubt while acting on it. The gentleman in the far left, between Thomas and the man looking to heaven, seems embarrassed by the whole ordeal. And then there is the one man whose eyes we see – could be John? – looking upward in a prayerful stance.

He’s the only man whose eyes are visible, but we would be remiss if we said his was the only true faith in the painting. Jesus’ eyes are not shown to us. He’s as eager as Thomas to see where the doubt goes and is not perturbed by the commotion. There’s a gentleness to this painting that says volumes about the various ways people work with belief and disbelief. Christ’s divinity is quiet, even as he is a man who rose from the dead.

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