20 JÉSUS PREFIGURED Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky (1817–1900) was a Russian painter of Armenian origin, contemporary with Aleksandr Pushkin and Nikolai Gogol. Admired by Eugène Delacroix and William Turner, he enjoyed considerable fame during his lifetime in his homeland and throughout the world. His exhibitions in Paris and New York were a real triumph. Unlike contemporary painters of seascapes—Johan Barthold Jongkind, Gustave Courbet, or Eugène Boudin—he did not paint on site but from memory, in an essentially emotional recreation of natural reality. His romantic soul, exalted by Mount Ararat, where Noah’s ark is said to have run aground after the Flood, drove him to celebrate the great myths of Armenian culture. His work can be understood as a deep contemplation of water in all its states: source of life illuminated by creative light, waves of death mingling their blades with ink-black skies. When, in 1841, Aivazovsky painted the commotion of the primordial waters at the moment of Creation, Charles Baudelaire, another Romantic contemptuous of secular rationalism, echoed it in writing: Free man, you’ll always love the sea—for this, That it’s a mirror, where you see your soul In its eternal waves that chafe and roll; Nor is your soul less bitter an abyss. (“Man and the Sea”) And the poet articulates what the painter presents to the viewer: The breakers, rolling the reflected skies, Mixed, in a solemn, enigmatic way, The powerful symphonies they seem to play With colours of the sunset in my eyes. (“Former Life”) Chaos, or The Creation Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky (1817–1900) 1841 Oil on paper, 29 x 42.5 in Venice, Monastery San Lazzaro of the Armenians, Armenian Museum THE BIBLE - GN 1:1-4 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. Where did we come from? What are we? Where are we going? This is the title of a painting by Gauguin (cf. page 284). The Bible claims to answer these three questions by articulating the whole history of the world and the destiny of humanity around a historic figure named Jesus of Nazareth. Christians believe that the authors who set the Bible down in writing, over the course of almost a millennium (from 800 b.c. to a.d. 120), were inspired by divine revelation. Most admit that this inspiration does not always pertain primarily to factual accuracy, but to the meaning to be given to human history. The Bible begins with the book of Genesis, an account of the creation of the world. J.R.R. Tolkien said that truth is expressed in mythical history and in symbolism. The origin of the world