Thursday, August 2, 2018

a great mystery of poverty and darkness and strength

 Sculpture by Jaime Andrade, Photo by Thomas Merton

Elsewhere on this blog I have a story about this artist and sculpture and very poor scan. -

"all that is most abject, forgotten, despised and put aside"

Yesterday I found this much better photo of the sculpture.

The photo is of a statue of the Virgin Mary and the child Jesus which was photographed atop a tree stump with a tree in the background at Gethsemani Abbey. Merton took the photo, which is now at the Thomas Merton Center at Bellarmine University in Louisville.

Jaime Andrade, an artist from Quito, Ecuador created the sculpture in mahogany.

In 1958 Merton commissioned Andrade to do a statue of the Virgin Mary and child Jesus in dark wood for the novitiate library. "A statue," as he explains, "that would tell the truth about God being 'born' Incarnate in the Indians of the Andes. Christ poor and despised among the disinherited of the earth." (Merton, A Search for Solitude, p. 177.)

Merton describes its imagery as "precisely that of Louis M[assignon]" Merton interpreted the mother as an indigenous Andean who reflected "a great mystery of poverty and darkness and strength" and the child as "the Resurrection to be born from the despised peoples of Mexico and the Andes" who holds a "mystical bit of fruit" that represented salvation. She represents "all that is most abject, forgotten, despised, and put aside."

"I want to say how deeply moved I am at this idea of Louis Massignons's that salvation is coming from the most afflicted and despised. This, of course, is the only idea that makes any sense in our time." (from a letter to Jacques Maritain, 17 Aug 1960)

In seeing the Mother and Child statue take place, Merton suggested that the child hold something - a branch, fruit, or root, something indigenous to South America. Definitely not corn "because of its association with bad art". 

A Life for Art : The Jaime Andrade Ecuadorian Collection

Merton's correspondence with Jaime Andrade 


  1. hello hello
    thankyou thankyou
    is the comment post working or has it been taking over
    by a unknown person ????????????????????????????????????

    1. Seems to be working, bob. Glad to hear from you! No unknown person on this end.

  2. thank you -thank you -had a problem sending a comment-_________________________________________________________________

    hello Beth ---
    my 2cents -

    i don't think dressing up poverty makes a religious value out of poverty-- poverty is used as a political tool to control people and should not be a acceptable reality of it by anyone -the world
    is full of value _______

    so this ----------------

    Prowl the earth-scape
    Be aware!

    From the minds of men
    Who proclaim
    Greatness _

    happy blessings ___ boK

    1. I'll have to mull over your words for awhile, bob.

      I know some people in prison who are poor.

      Not dressed up poor, but just plain poor.

  3. I'm in the process of finishing up Merton's journal from 1958-1959 in which this sculpture comes to fruition. It is such a blessing to be able to actually see what it looked like. Thank you Beth!! John

    1. You're welcome, John. I was very happy to find this good photo of the sculpture. Evidently it was stored away somewhere for some years.

    2. The sculpture, I mean, was stored away. The photo was taken by Merton with an instamatic camera and there was no negative. Someone with very good film skills has been able to reproduce it very well. The next time I am in Louisville I aim to stop by Bellarmine University and see the sculpture for myself. (I think that is where it is now.)


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