The transfiguration story is found in Mark 9:2-13 and Matthew 17: 1-13. In this story, Jesus took three of his disciples up to a mountain, where he “was transfigured before them.” Elijah and Moses then appeared and had some words with Jesus. The disciples were TERRIFIED. Peter blathered something about building each of them a dwelling right there where they stood. 

I get it.

I say weird things when I’m overwhelmed too. And really, who wouldn’t want to try to do whatever they could to get these honored guests to stick around a while, to prolong the moment, however terrifying? Especially if you know what is going to happen next. Why descend back into the real world, where calamity abounds and death looms? Why not stay here, in our happy place, and be joyful? There’s nothing wrong with that, right? Right?!? 

Anyway, today’s art is The Transfiguration by Raphael

Painted between 1516-1520, this painting had the honor of being proclaimed the MOST FAMOUS PAINTING IN THE WORLD there for a while (I think that title now goes to Van Gogh’s “Starry Night”). 

The Transfiguration by Raphael (1516-1520)

This painting is divided into an upper and lower half. The upper half depicts the transfiguration, and the lower depicts what happens next, in which Jesus returns to save the day after finding the disciples have tried and failed to cast a spirit out of a boy. Jesus said that the disciples could not cast the spirit out of the boy because “this kind can come out only through prayer.” 

Above, we have the redemptive power of Christ. Below, flawed humanity. 

At first glance, the painting seems completely divided.

But then as you look deeper, you can see how Raphael has included ways to connect the upper and lower regions – use of light and shadow, gesture and gaze. J\

Raphael has created a visual tension in which this majestic event shares half its retail space with the busy, tense, disturbing scene of a boy possessed. Peter may not have wanted to leave the site of the transfiguration, but Raphael forces us to leave and come back, circling from one to the other, never resting in one place for too long. 

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