Philip Gyselaer


Wood (oak), oil, 32 x 43 cm

Gospel of John, 4: 7-26
The figure of the Samaritan Woman was apparently borrowed from another, more ancient painting or fresco. This is indicated by: the conventional rigid folds of the Samaritan Woman’s robe, characteristic of ancient, medieval religious painting, especially on the knee; her archaic, disproportionately elongated figure with large feet; angular, “talking” pose with restrained hand gestures. Moreover, upon careful examination of the painting, it can be assumed that the basis of the composition is a composition based on another religious subject, namely the “Annunciation”. This is a common practice among artists of all times - to borrow successful figures and even entire compositions from the paintings of their colleagues and from ancient paintings of distant predecessors. The Samaritan woman in the center of the picture is slightly inclined towards Christ and points her finger at him - this is how the Angel addresses Mary in the scene of the Annunciation. Behind the shoulders of the Samaritan woman, for no apparent reason, a scarlet cloak flutters - these are the wings behind the back of the Angel. Apparently, the artist first replaced the wings with wood, as required by the rules of composition, but then he abandoned the tree and painted a scarlet cloak, thereby balancing the bright color spot of Christ’s red cloak. The pose of Christ with his arms spread apart in surprise reproduces, accordingly, the pose of Mary. The gestures of the characters in this picture are not motivated by the plot and are not supported by the text of the Gospel.
Particularly noteworthy is the striking contrast between the broadly sketched conventional landscape and the carefully crafted thin, fused brush strokes of the characters’ faces and clothes. At the same time, the nature and quality of the drapery of the characters is different. If the Samaritan woman has hard “medieval” folds, then Christ has soft, voluminous, tonally elaborate folds.