Pieter Aertsen 1507/08 – 1575

The Healing of the Cripple of Bethesda

oil on panel (56 × 75 cm) — 1575 Museum Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Pieter Aertsen biography

This work is linked to John 5:8

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A group of sick and crippled people wait outside a pool by Jerusalem's sheep market. In Hebrew the pool is called Bethesda. They believe that every now and then an angel goes down into the pool, and that the first to enter the pool following the angel will be cured.

One of the crippled has been waiting for that miracle 38 years. Then Jesus passes, on the sabbath, and asks him whether he wants to be healed. The man complains that there is no one to help him into the pool, which explains that he is always too late. Jesus then says "Rise, take your bed and walk". The man is cured on the spot.

The man walks off with his bed on his back, which is not allowed on the sabbath. A group of Jews talks to him about that. Aertsen shows that scene in the background to the right.

The painting shows other things simultaneously as well. Under the roof of the pool an angel is descending. And to the left is a scene where a sick person is being cared for.

That particular scene indicates that the panel may have been ordered by a hospital. It was made in 1575, not long before Aertsen's death. On the gate it reads "IOÃ VC", which means "John 5th chapter", where the story is told.

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