Proper Perspective

Viewed straight on the painting of Virgin and Child with Saints Jerome and Dominic, by the 15th century Italian painter Filippino Lippi, doesn’t look quite right. The picture shows the Virgin Mary cradling the infant Jesus on her knee, with the saints at prayer in the foreground. But the perspective is off, and for many years art critics pointed out that the hills in the background look as if they might topple out of the picture, and Jerome and Dominic seem awkward and uncomfortable.


That was until the art critic Robert Cumming realised that the painting was never meant to hang in a gallery, but was intended as an aid to prayer. Lippi assumed that those viewing the picture would do so from a kneeling position, and it was when Cumming fell to his knees that he finally saw all the details of the picture in their proper perspective.


Sometimes we make a similar mistake in trying to comprehend the nature of God, looking at him from our perspective and trying to understand him on our own terms, as if he were our equal. But if we could understand God in this way then surely he would not be God. It’s only when we are willing to fall on our knees in worship and look up, that we gain a proper perspective.

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