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New Testament

The Miracles of Jesus

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The Triptych with the Miracles of Christ at the National Gallery of Victoria

This beautiful triptych whose home is now the National Gallery of Victoria was produced in the last quarter, probably in the last decade, of the 15th Century in Flanders.  The Gallery has generously made an image of this triptych available for use on RESource as a visual introduction to the Miracles of Jesus. The triptych itself is being loaned back to Belgium for a period but is usually on display at the NGV in the Gallery of European Painting, Sculpture and Decorative Arts, 14th-16th Century. It is well worth a visit when it returns to Melbourne. 

Begin by finding out what a triptych is and how they were used as altar pieces in churches.

Though the panels in the NGV triptych harmonise, they were painted in different studios by artists working under a Master. Some art experts have suggested that it is a product of two main guiding hands the Master of Princely Portraits (Cana) and the Master of The Legend of St Catherine (the Loaves and Fishes and the Raising of Lazarus). Just from an art point of view, can you pick which of the panels is thought to be slightly different from the other two? 

As well as depicting three key miracles of Jesus, the pictures present a vivid insight into Flemish life. However RESource’s main interest is in the actual subject matter of the triptych and particularly:
• what these pictures tell us about what the artists believed and felt about the miracles
• how people made meaning from the miracles the artists depicted. 

Reading the Miracles Triptych
The triptych would originally have been part of the altar piece (or backdrop) to a church or chapel altar at which the Eucharist was celebrated. The Eucharist, also called the Mass is the remembrance and making present of the Paschal Mystery, and the feeding of the people on bread and wine, the sacramental Body and Blood of Jesus. As the people gathered at the altar to celebrate this mystery they would be gazing at the pictures on the triptych making connections between what they saw there: Jesus feeding the people, the Mass they were celebrating and their own faith and hope being fed in Christ.

Which miracles are depicted?

To find out which miracles of Jesus the Triptych illustrates, explore the following links:
• John 2:1-11
• John 6:1-21
• John 11:1-44

Before looking at the panels in detail, brainstorm reasons why the Triptych might depict these three particular miracles.

 

 
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The Left Panel

The Main Panel

The Right Panel

What would a 21st Century Australian Triptych of the Miracles of Jesus look like? 

After exploring the panels, which depict these miracles of Jesus in a 15th Century Flemish context, spend sometime suggesting how each miracle could be depicted in a 21st Century setting.

Could some of the art students in the class come up with sketches/cartoons which express the insights and suggestions of the whole class?

The Australian poet Peter Steele SJ wrote a poem inspired by the centre panel of the triptych. Have a try at one yourself.

Can you contribute to the Miracles unit?

The aim of this unit is to discuss the miracles of Jesus by addressing some of the questions people commonly ask about them. If you or your students have any questions or insights, let us know (click on the Contact Us button at the bottom of any page) and we can expand this section of RESource together.