Jesus death foreshadowed by Joseph’s carpenter tools

The Shadow of Death” by Frederick Stacpoole, 1878

Since Joseph is a carpenter, it’s most likely that Jesus learned the carpenter trade from his earthly father. At the very least perhaps Jesus spent a lot of his life hanging around Joseph’s carpentry tools. Those tools involved hammers and nails.

Hammers and nails. The same tools that hung Jesus on the cross.

I never made the connection between Joseph being a carpenter, and the nails that hung Jesus on the cross—until I saw this image in #ArtTab.

Screenshot of browser window containing "The Shadow of Death" by Frederick Stacpoole, 1878
Screenshot of how the artwork looks in a new Chrome tab

ArtTab is a Chrome browser extension that displays artwork from the Art Institute of Chicago in new Chrome tabs. I love it. New artwork is displayed artwork to me all throughout the day. The Art Institute’s collection is deep, so you see lots of different artwork.

I customized the extension to make the artwork display full-screen. If anyone is interested in how I make the art go full screen, let me know. I’ll blog about how to do it.

I’m glad that the ArtTab extension showed this artwork to me, so I can make this discovery today. Whenever I find a Christian-based artwork in ArtTab, I tweet about it with my @matthewmaldre account. I’ve only done this a few times, but you can see the latest by searching twitter for: (#arttab) (from:matthewmaldre).

twitter screenshot (#arttab) (from-matthewmaldre).jpg
Screenshot of twitter search for (#arttab) (from:matthewmaldre).

Further thoughts on “The Shadow of Death” by Frederick Stacpoole

This particular artwork is so poignant in the foreshadowing of Jesus’ death. The artist Frederick Stacpoole literally uses a shadow to do the foreshadowing. His shadow lays across a rack of hammers that roughly forms the shape of a cross.

Jesus shadow on cross of hammers

To really force the viewer see the shadow, Stacpoole includes a woman looking at the shadow. Perhaps this woman is Mary? What is the woman opening? Opening a trunk holding what looks like containers of incense. Are these the gifts of frankincense and myrrh from the Magi at Christ’s birth?

Mary looks at shadow of Jesus

I’m not entirely sure why Jesus is striking this pose in his father’s workshop. Maybe he’s praying to God the Father? There is that star above Jesus’ head.

Jesus praying in Joseph's carpenter shop

Maybe he’s stretching his arms after the hard work of shaving wood? You can see the floor littered with wood shavings.

Wood shavings at Jesus feet

The Art Institute and Frederick Stacpoole

Investigating this artwork a bit further… does the Art Institute of Chicago have other Frederick Stacpoole artwork? Nope. Interesting how this is the only piece of artwork by Frederick Stacpoole that the Art Institute has in its collection. When there is only one piece of artwork in their collection, it shows that perhaps they weren’t collecting that artist. But something else was of interest. Perhaps the subject matter?

The reference number 1997.657 indicates that this print was acquired by the Art Institute in 1997, so it’s fairly recent. Why would the Art Institute have this artwork? Another hint is the “credit line”, Sara R. Shorey Endowment.

Sara R. Shorey Endowment and Christian artworks

Googling: site:artic.edu “Sara R. Shorey Endowment” yields a number of other artworks in the Art Institute’s collection from this endowment.

Here are the Christian-related artworks from the Sara R. Shorey Endowment:

Destruction of the Pharoah’s Host, from Illustrations of the Bible by John Martin. Published 1833. Acquired 1991.
Destruction of the Pharoah’s Host, from Illustrations of the Bible by John Martin.
Published 1833. Acquired 1991.
Fall of Nineveh, from Illustrations of the Bible by John Martin. Printed 1835. Acquired 1991.
Fall of Nineveh, from Illustrations of the Bible by John Martin
Printed 1835. Acquired 1991.
Text and cover, from Illustrations of the Bible by John Martin. Published 1833–1835. Acquired 1991.
Text and cover, from Illustrations of the Bible by John Martin. Published 1833–1835. Acquired 1991.
The Mystic Marriage of Saint Catherine by Giorgio Ghisi. 1555/57. Acquired 1992
The Mystic Marriage of Saint Catherine by Giorgio Ghisi. 1555/57. Acquired 1992
The Light of the World by William Henry Simmons. 1860. Acquired 1997
The Light of the World by William Henry Simmons. 1860. Acquired 1997

Shadow of Death and Light of the World

“The Shadow of Death” was given in 1997. Of these Christian-related artworks, only one was given in the same year. “The Light of the World“. The title, “Light of the World“, is an AWESOME compliment to the title “The Shadow of Death“. Perhaps this was intentional? Look at the glow behind Jesus’ head. This glow is a great complement to the shadow in the other artwork.

One foretells Jesus’ death. The other occurs after his death and resurrection.

I like to think Sara R. Shorey displayed these two artworks together. Let’s put them together:

Shadow of Death and Light of the World
Shadow of Death and Light of the World

On Twitter I asked the Art Institute if this was intentional. I would be overjoyed if they responded.

@artinstitutechi
 In 1997 the Sara R. Shorey Endowment donated three artworks to the Art Institute. Two of these artworks are:  
1. “The Shadow of Death”
2. “The Light of the World“

Was this intentional to have these two artworks play off of each other with shadow and light?

Footnote

There are a number of other artworks from the Sara R. Shorey Endowment that are not literally Christian references:

Of these artworks, one is given in 1997. The Death of Chatteron. I’m not sure what the connection is with this artwork with the other two Christian pieces. Ah well.

3 thoughts on “Jesus death foreshadowed by Joseph’s carpenter tools

    1. Yeah, it was fun cropping to specific details. I had the advantage of looking at the high-res file from the Art Institute’s website. Big thanks to the Art Institute for offering their images at a nice resolution, and putting the images available as Open Access, so anyone can use them.

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