I’ve never seen the original. Rembrandt painted it on canvas, with characters larger than life. I’m sure my print — on paper — lacks the nuances of color and texture of the nearly 350-year-old version. Admirers have seen many things in this painting, just as readers of the parable in Luke have discovered perhaps hundred of applications. The story has spawned thousands upon thousands of sermons.
Maybe the gratitude is obvious because we know the story so well:
- son wants to leave home and see the world so he asks for his inheritance prematurely;
- father complies and watches the youngster disappear into the sunset clutching a wad of cash, perhaps never to be seen again;
- son finds lots of friends who are willing to help him spend his fortune;
- life is one big party until the money runs dry;
- the life of the party finds himself alone with pigs and he is just trying to stay alive;
- son remembers home, what is was like and how it might still be; and
- son swallows his pride and decides it would be far better to be a slave for his father than for a stranger in a far land.