While traditional art and Renaissance paintings portray Clopas and a male companion on the road to Emmaus, it is very possible that Clopas and his wife Mary were travelling home from Jerusalem together. This post is part 2 Emmaus and the other disciple in art.
The gospel of John names Mary of Clopas at the cross, and Matthew says she watched his body being laid in the tomb. Early historians point to Clopas as the brother of Joseph (uncle of Jesus). The conversation between Clopas and his companion (Luke 24:13-35) seems to be comparing notes about what the women and men have seen and heard. The gospel accounts say that some women saw the risen Jesus in Jerusalem; that does not preclude other women from leaving the tomb after seeing the angels. In that era, when women did not speak to male strangers, it would be natural for Clopas to say "certain women of our company astonished us...". After a long walk and an intimate conversation, it would also be natural for the woman to be the hostess and invite him to supper with them as in "they held him back, saying stay with us" (Luke 24:29)
In the past, art may have been intended to show the power and authority of the church that commissioned the art, and the patriarchal message they wanted to reinforce. In researching Mary of Clopas as the companion of Clopas on the road to Emmaus, I found some art that does show a man and a woman on the road to Emmaus, and other art that portrays them in various races and cultures. I hope this art helps you see Jesus appearing to you as he did to the disciples on the road to Emmaus.
Spanish artist Maximino Cerezo Barredo, has done a series of powerful paintings on the subject. He says, "My painting is not a neutral message. It cries out to be liberation... “The painter and the priest in me came to an agreement... I realized that art could be a vehicle for the proclamation of the Gospel”. Maximino Cerezo Baredo
Scroll down for more artists' interpretations!
J. Barry Motes has painted "Supper at Yummaus", depicting Clopas and Mary at a food court with a Hispanic Jesus blessing their fast food.
Iain Campbell paints Clopas and his wife using Glasgow as the backdrop. His website says that by using modern-day Glaswegians as his models, Iain’s compelling paintings bring 21st-century life to the words of a first-century disciple.
Andy Smith painted Clopas and his wife, looking at Jesus when they recognize him at the breaking of the bread. They are amazed and joyful.
Jyoti Sahi is an artist from India, and his painting of the scene in Emmaus shows a man and woman seated on the floor, breaking some chapati flatbread. Jesus appears in a flame reminiscent of God appearing in a burning bush before Moses and having the disciples remark that their hearts burned within them. The figure in the doorway is the narrator of the story.
"Andean Emmaus" portrays an indigenous man and woman hosting Jesus at their home. John Battista Giuliani is an Italian American who studied Fine Arts at New York's Pratt Institute and later became a Catholic priest. He says, "as a Catholic priest and son of Italian immigrants I bear the religious and ethnic burden of ancestral crimes perpetrated on the first inhabitants of the Americas. Many have been converted to Christianity, but in doing so some find it difficult to retain their indigenous culture. My intent, therefore, in depicting Christian saints as Native Americans is to honour them and acknowledge their original spiritual presence on this land."
Dr James He Qi studied at Nanjing Art Institute in China and Hamburg Art Institute in Germany and is currently an Artist-in-Residence at Fuller Theological Seminary. He uses his art to portray biblical stories with Chinese cultural elements. His Emmaus paintings show Clopas with a female companion.
Filipino artist Emmanuel Garibay uses his art to show a unique interpretation of the disciples in Emmaus. Garibay's portrayal of Emmaus shows Jesus in the form of a woman in a red dress with nail marks on her hands. The woman is dressed almost like a marginalized person with a poor reputation. The piece shows the blindness of the two disciples, their joy at the moment of recognition and their laughter at the joke that Jesus has a hidden identity. The portrayal reminds us of human blindness, using shock to open our eyes.
The gold leaf on wood panels is done by Sister Marie-Paul Farran at the Benedictine Monastery on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem
Phil Dyer's 2002 icon, Meeting Christ on the Way, shows Clopas and his wife Mary on the road to Emmaus. Jesus's halo has the three marks representing the Holy Trinity.
Kathleen Rushton writes that this art connects Mary of Clopas, the sister/sister-in-law of Jesus's mother present at the cross (John 19:25) with Cleopas, a disciple walking to Emmaus (Luke 24:18).
Since Cleopas and Clopas are forms of the same name, Mary of Clopas may be the wife of Cleopas who accompanies him on the road to Emmaus.
I speak more about Mary of Clopas as the sister-in-law to Maria of Nazareth in this post.
The mosaic at the Resurrection Chapel of the National Cathedral in Washington DC is by Rowan LeCompte and Irene Matz LeCompte. Photo: Victoria Emily Jones
One of the panels carved behind the altar at the Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Brighton shows a man and woman with Jesus breaking bread.
Since the halo on Jesus does not indicate the Holy Trinity, we know this art pre-dates the 4th century.
We hope you have enjoyed this walk through art. I believe art affects our views of biblical stories and the way biblical stories relate to us.
Elaine Ricker Kelly Author is empowering women with Christian fiction about women in the Bible and early church and Christian blogs about women in leadership, church history and doctrine. Her books include:
Forgotten Followers from Broken to Bold
The Sword A Fun Way to Engage in Healthy Debate on What the Bible Says About a Woman's Role