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the Friend INDEPENDENT QUAKER JOURNALISM SINCE 1843
CONTENTS VOL 169 NO 38 3 Editorial: The spirit of creation Ian Kirk-Smith 4 Quakers protest at arms fair 5 News in brief 6-7 The uncomfortable truth Tony Weekes and Sue Holden 8-9 Letters 10-11 The inferior sex? Kevin Schofield 12-13 Quaker political engagement Janet Quilley 14-15 Pilgrimage Symon Hill 16 Q-eye 17 Friends & Meetings
Whoever can reconcile this, ‘Resist not evil’, with ‘Resist violence by force’, again, ‘Give also thy other cheek’, with ‘Strike again’; also ‘Love thine enemies’, with ‘Spoil them, make a prey of them, pursue them with fire and the sword’, or, ‘Pray for those that persecute you, and those that calumniate you’, with ‘Persecute them by fines, imprisonments and death itself ’, whoever, I say, can find a means to reconcile these things may be supposed also to have found a way to reconcile God with the Devil, Christ with Antichrist, Light with Darkness, and good with evil. But if this be impossible, as indeed it is impossible, so will also the other be impossible, and men do but deceive both themselves and others, while they boldly adventure to establish such absurd and impossible things.
Robert Barclay, 1678 Quaker faith & practice 24.02
Cover image: Quaker banner alongside those of Campaign Against Arms Trade’s at the protest against the DSEi arms fair in front of the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square, London. Photo: Philip Wood. See pages 3 and 4.
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the Friend, 23 September 2011 The spirit of creation
The National Gallery, in London’s Trafalgar Square, contains some of the finest paintings in the world. They are an enduring expression of the very best in humanity – especially of that need within the human spirit to create and celebrate.
On the evening of Tuesday, 13 September, the gallery hosted a reception for delegates who were attending an international event being held in east London. The delegates, on entering the building, would have walked up steep steps to the spacious Central Hall. The room is devoted to art from northern Italy in the period 1500 – 1580. On one wall there is a lovely painting by Andrea Previtali of ‘The Virgin and Child with a shoot of Olive’. In this painting the virgin bends an olive branch, a symbol of peace, towards the baby Jesus. He gently touches a leaf.
The delegates might also have seen ‘The Road to Emmaus’ by Altobello Melone. On the day Christ’s tomb was discovered, empty, two of his disciples met a stranger on the way to Emmaus. They did not recognise him. That evening, after they had broken bread with him, they recognised him as Christ (Luke 24: 13-35). The painting prompts a question. How could the disciples have passed by Christ and not recognised him?
The delegates then probably entered Room 30 – devoted to art from Spain – and would have seen a disturbing painting by Diego Velázquez. It is entitled ‘Christ after the Flagellation contemplated by the Christian soul’. In the painting Christ is tied to a pillar and has been subjected to torture. The instruments of this torture are strewn in the foreground. Christ strains to make eye contact with the gaze of a small child – a personification of the human soul – who looks, innocently, at the bearded man. The child is puzzled and confused. What are the instruments on the floor? Why is the man suffering? Why has he been tortured by his fellow men?
In a painting nearby, ‘The Way to Calvary’ by Jacopo
Bassano, Christ is portrayed stumbling under the weight of the cross as he is beaten by soldiers. Saint Veronica holds up a cloth to wipe the brow of Christ. His image becomes, miraculously, impressed upon it. The delegates probably walked past this painting.
The hosting of events in large rooms in the National Gallery is part of its ‘corporate sponsorship’ programme. The sponsor of this particular reception was the Italian multi-national company Finmeccanica. It is one of six major corporate benefactors of the National Gallery.
The event the delegates were attending was the Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEi) fair. It is one of the largest arms fairs in the world. Finmeccanica is the second largest ‘defence company’ in the UK, employing 10,000 people, and the largest Italian investor in Britain. It is the second largest supplier to the Ministry of Defence and makes everything from naval weapons systems to parts for the Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jet.
The reception was probably held in the enormous Wohl Room. It is a magnificent space and contains many masterpieces of Italian art. At one end of the room two large religious paintings face each other. In the Jacopo Tintoretto painting ‘Christ washing the feet of the disciples’ Christ kneels at the feet of a disciple. It is an image of service; as the other religious paintings are images of suffering, torture, compassion, kindness and love. The painting on the wall opposite the Tintoretto offers an image of avarice.
It is ‘The Purification of the Temple’, by Jacopo Bassano and his workshop, and was painted about 1580. The caption beside it reads: ‘Christ visited the temple of Jerusalem and found it full of traders and money changers. He angrily expelled them. ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves’ (Matthew 21).
Ian Kirk-Smith the Friend, 23 September 2011