Stowe Women in Sacred History is a 25 chapter work on women in the Bible. Each is short usually with a painting that represents said woman.
CONTENTS Stowe Women in Sacred History
I. WOMEN OF THE PATRIARCHAL AGES.
1. Sarah the Princess.
2. Hagar the Slave.
3. Rebekah the Bride.
4. Leah and Rachel.
II. WOMEN OF THE NATIONAL PERIOD.
5. Miriam, Sister of Moses.
6. Deborah the Prophetess.
7. Delilah the Destroyer.
8. Jephtha’s Daughter.
9. Hannah the Praying Mother.
10. Ruth the Moabitess.
11. The Witch of Endor.
12. Queen Esther.
13. Judith the Deliverer.
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III. WOMEN OF THE CHRISTIAN ERA.
14. The Mythical Madonna.
15. Mary the Mother of Jesus.
16. The Daughter of Herodias.
17. The Woman of Samaria.
18. Mary Magdalene.
19. Martha and Mary.
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Excerpt THE ILLUSTRATIONS OF THIS VOLUME.
In seeking material to illustrate Mrs. Stowe’s interesting sketches, two purposes have been kept in view: first, the securing of a series of pictures which, by a judicious selection among different schools and epochs of art, might give a more original and less conventional presentation of the characters than could be had were all the illustrations conceived by the same mind, or executed by the same hand; and, secondly, the choice of such pictorial subjects as were well adapted to reproduction in colors, so as to represent as perfectly as possible, by the rapidly maturing art of chromo-lithography, the real ideas of the painters. The guiding principles of selection have been aptness of design and a rich variety of effect.
It will be seen that, in pursuit of this purpose, some pictures of world-wide renown have been here reproduced in whole or in part,—the desirable being always limited by the practicable; examples of these are the beautiful “Magdalen” of Batoni, and the main portion of that most wonderful of all pictures, the “Sistine Madonna” of Raphael. The only possible excuse for mutilating this glorious design is the desire to give some slight idea of its color-effect to thousands who have known it only through engravings, and who could never know it otherwise, unless in some such way as this.
Among our illustrations are copies of celebrated paintings of more modern date, by the great painters of France, Germany, and England;—such as Paul Delaroche’s graceful scene on the Nile, where Miriam watches little Moses, exposed in the bullrushes; Horace Vernet’s terrible “Judith”; Baader’s remorseless “Delilah”; and Goodall’s lovely picture of “Mary, the Mother of Our Lord,” with her offering of two doves in the Temple. Of still another class are those which have been adapted, because of their appositeness, to illustrate subjects which they were not originally painted for: of these, Landelle’s “Fellah Woman,” well shows the Oriental style and youthful sweetness of “Rebekah” at the fountain, and the “Dancing-Girl” of Vernet-Lecomte may fairly represent the costume and beauty of Salome, the “Daughter of Herodias.”
In addition to these varieties, the sixteen plates include several which were designed and painted expressly for this work. One of the most pleasing is “Ruth,” by Devedeux of Paris. It is accounted also a peculiar advantage that the “Queen Esther” and the “Martha and Mary”—two very striking and effective pictures—are from the studio of Boulanger, who shares with Gérome the highest eminence as a delineator of the peculiar and beautiful features of the Orient.
In order to give some idea of the care taken in the reproduction of these subjects, it may be stated that (except where the original paintings themselves were accessible) in every case an accurate copy in oils was painted by a skillful artist, and this, together with photographs from the original pictures, the best impressions of the best engravings, etc., formed the basis on which Jehenne, the artist-lithographer, founded his conscientious work. Each subject is produced by a series of color-printings, the average number of stones to each picture being fifteen. The delicacy and difficulty of this art may be the better appreciated by remembering that, while the painter has always at hand his palette, with its numberless pigments of color and shades of color, for the patient elaboration of the picture, the lithographer has to analyze the work which has thus grown up by infinite touches under the painter’s brush, and must study to concentrate as much as possible the effects of each single color in a single stone,—which can print or touch the picture but once. The final effect is of course produced by the superposition of colors and shades of color one upon another; but the art which can thus transfer the painter’s minute and painful toil to the breadth and rapidity of mechanical reproduction, making accessible to thousands the designs in form and ideas in color of the creating genius, instead of leaving them imprisoned in the single copy which only the rich purchaser may possess,—this is also a true art, and claims the recognition of true lovers of art.
Below is given a descriptive list of the subjects, pictures, and artists of the illustrations in the present publication.
No. I. Mary, the Mother of our Lord. Fred. Goodall (England, b. 1822).
This presentation of the Virgin, going into the temple with her offering of two doves, is one of the most delicate and beautiful of the entire series. The exceeding simplicity of design and of coloring gives it an effect of purity, while the face is tender, thoughtful, and in every way attractive. The softness of the drapery and the gentle gradations of light are especial features.
II. Hagar and Ishmael. Christian Koehler (Werben, Germany, b. 1809; d. 1861).
This picture is strong and expressive rather than attractive. The depth of the greenish-blue sky and the barrenness of the indicated landscape give an intensity to the desolateness of the mother, clasping the form of her sturdy and unconscious little outcast son. The original painting is now in the Civic Gallery, at Düsseldorf, on the Rhine. It was painted at Leinwald in 1843.
III. Rebekah. Charles Landelle (Laval, France, b. 1815).
This is one of those charming subjects which the enterprise and graceful art of the French have brought from the Orient. The original painting (1866) is entitled “Femme Fellah,” and represents one of the women of the Nubian tribe of Fellahs, resting at the well before taking up the earthen jar which she has just filled with water. This lovely face and figure may well be used to illustrate the maidenly grace of “Rebekah at the Fountain.”
IV. Leah and Rachel. Jean François Portaëls (Vilvorde, Belgium, b. 1820).
Leah the “tender-eyed” became the wife of Jacob seven years before he attained the hand of his chosen love, Rachel the “beautiful.” And with this, the picture must tell its own story.
V. Miriam and Moses. Paul Delaroche (France, b. 1797; d. 1856).
This is one of the most famous designs of one of the most fertile artists of France. The original painting has been often engraved, but its freshness and beauty are best shown by reproducing its soft and delicate coloring. The careful sister, watching through the rushes, and the indistinct form of the mother on the bank above, are in exquisite contrast to the quietude of the babe in his basket on the waters of the placid Nile.
VI. Deborah. Charles Landelle (Laval, France, b. 1815).
This is one of the adaptations spoken of above. The original painting represents Velleda, the Prophetess of the Gallic Druids. The grand form, noble face, and inspired attitude of the original figure have been scrupulously retained, the background only being somewhat modified, the better to suggest the locale of the Israelitish prophetess.
VII. Delilah. Louis Marie Baader (Lannion, France).
A most ungrateful and ungracious subject, but one portrayed with singular strength and concentration of purpose, amid a studious interest of detail, in this effective picture. The cold, hard look of the face, and the unrelenting will expressed by the slender but steady arm and the supporting hand, half buried in the cushion, instantly attract attention, while the harmonious variety of color in the accessory draperies and furniture of the strange apartment supports the interest of the central figure without detracting from its power.
VIII. Jephtha’s Daughter. Hugues Merle. (St. Marcelin, France).
This illustration of the stern chieftain’s daughter among the mountains with her companions, bewailing the desolate fate to which she was devoted, is an adaptation from one of Merle’s beautiful pictures. This artist is noted for his success in depicting young girls and children. The general expression of face, figure, and surroundings, mark the aptness of this design for its present use.
IX. Ruth. Louis Devedeux (Paris, France).
The author of this charming fancy of the gentle and faithful Moabite, which was painted for this volume, is one of the rising and already recognized painters of France, having taken several medals under the severe critical awards of the French annual Salon. The tender grace and modesty of both face and figure are enhanced by the delicacy of the color.
X. Queen Esther. Henri-Alexandre Ernest Boulanger (Paris, France, b. 1815).
Having just returned from one of his trips to the Orient, whither he had gone with his brilliant confrère Gérome, to refill his portfolio with new faces and costumes and scenes, to be wrought up into new pictures, Mons. Boulanger was fortunately able to respond promptly to the demand for two original designs and paintings for the present work. “Queen Esther” is one of these. The proud and serene beauty of the face, the dignity of the form and bearing, and the simple richness of the costume make this a notable picture. And, although the background is devoid of everything save the sombre shadow which gives relief to the figure, the imagination easily supplies the haughty king, the throng of courtiers, and the crowd of suppliant Jews behind their queen.
XI. Judith. Horace Vernet (France, b. 1789; d. 1863).
Artists have always been fond of this strong subject, but none have so well succeeded in rendering the beauty of the intrepid Jewess, combined with her resolution and force of character. The horror of the old woman, who holds the dreadful basket to receive the head, is finely contrasted with the superb sternness of Judith’s face and action, just as the illuminated, gorgeous tapestry of the tyrant’s tent is rebuked by the quiet sky and the steady shining of the stars. It is a grand composition, and most effective in coloring.
XII. The Sistine Madonna. Raphael Sanzio (Urbino, Italy, b. 1483; d. 1520).
Originally painted as an altar-piece for the Sistine Chapel, in the Vatican at Rome (whence its name), this grand picture is now in the Dresden Gallery. The painting has, below the Virgin’s figure, to the right and left, the kneeling figures of Saint Barbara and Pope Gregory the Sixth, under whose reign both the chapel and the picture were produced. The halo about the Virgin and Infant is filled with indistinct cherub faces, and at the very bottom, apart from the main design, are the two cherubs which appear in the plate. The original design is necessarily shorn of many of these details in the combination given, but the more important portions of the painting are well shown.
XIII. The Daughter of Herodias. Emil Vernet-Lecomte (Paris, France, b. 1821).
As stated in the remarks prefatory to this list, the plate taken to represent the Oriental type of beauty, and one at least of the costumes of her class, is Lecomte’s “L’Almée” (Dancing-Girl). Travelers in the East find by investigation so little change of dress or manners, boats, houses, tools, instruments, or modes of life in any form, from those of twenty centuries ago, that we need not go far astray in taking a dancing-girl of the present day in that ancient land, to suggest the dress which the daughter of Herodias possibly assumed, in order to please the puissant king and gain by his favor the request of her revengeful mother. The plate presents also, from the simple view-point of art, a pleasing picture. (Original painted in 1866.)
XIV. The Woman of Samaria. Emil Vernet-Lecomte (Paris, France, b. 1821).
This is another of that artist’s admirable Eastern subjects, and has been deemed a singularly apposite illustration of the woman at the well, to whom Jesus talked. The easy poise of the figure, the steadiness of the head and right hand, and the strength of the face, indicate the self-reliance and confidence of a woman who had seen much of life; while the listless forgetfulness of the left hand, holding the water-jar, and the earnest gaze of the eyes show the awakened mind and fixed attention of the listener.
XV. Mary Magdalene. Pompeo Girolamo Batoni (Lucca, Italy, b. 1708; d. 1781).
This beautiful design and admirable piece of color is one of the pictures that the world keeps alive in constant reproduction. It is one of the few paintings which fairly compete with the masters of the sixteenth century on their own ground; for, though it is a picture of the eighteenth century, painted during the decadence of European, and especially of Italian art, it is very much after the style of the older artists, and is brought into direct comparison with the similar expression of this subject by Correggio, in the same gallery at Dresden. Every student knows that it easily holds its own in the competition, if, indeed, it does not bear away the palm.
XVI. Martha and Mary. Henri-Alexandre Ernest Boulanger (Paris, France, b. 1815).
Of the entire list of illustrations taken from modern paintings, perhaps no one is more thoroughly original and effective than this; the hand of a master is to be seen in every line. The rich beauty and spirited action of Martha, the serene repose of Mary’s figure, the sweetness of her face and the quietude of her look under the fiery reproaches of the elder sister, the characteristic contrast of color in the dresses of the two, the suggested coolness of the vine-embowered porch, and the general harmony of line, design, and color, are well worthy of observation. The fact that it was designed for this volume by the great Orientalist gives to the picture an especial value and interest.
Exceprt #2 SARAH THE PRINCESS.
One woman in the Christian dispensation has received a special crown of honor. Sarah, the wife of Abraham, mother of the Jewish nation, is to this day an object of traditional respect and homage in the Christian Church. Her name occurs in the marriage service as an example for the Christian wife, who is exhorted to meekness and obedience by St. Peter, “Even as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord; whose daughters ye are, so long as ye do well, and are not subject to a slavish fear.”
In turning to the narrative of the Old Testament, however, we are led to feel that in setting Sarah before wives as a model of conjugal behavior, no very alarming amount of subjection or submission is implied.
The name Sarah means “princess”; and from the Bible story we infer that, crowned with the power of eminent beauty, and fully understanding the sovereignty it gave her over man, Sarah was virtually empress and mistress of the man she called “lord.” She was a woman who understood herself and him, and was too wise to dispute the title when she possessed the reality of sway; and while she called Abraham “lord,” it is quite apparent from certain little dramatic incidents that she expected him to use his authority in the line of her wishes.
In going back to these Old Testament stories, one feels a ceaseless admiration of the artless simplicity of the primitive period of which they are the only memorial. The dew of earth’s early morning lies on it, sparkling and undried; and the men and women speak out their hearts with the simplicity of little children.
In Abraham we see the man whom God designed to be the father of a great sacerdotal nation; through whom, in the fullness of time, should come the most perfect revelation of himself to man, by Jesus Christ. In choosing the man to found such a nation, the Divine Being rejected the stormy and forcible characters which command the admiration of rude men in early ages, and chose one of gentler elements.
Abraham was distinguished for a loving heart, a tender domestic nature, great reverence, patience, and fidelity, a childlike simplicity of faith, and a dignified self-possession. Yet he was not deficient in energy or courage when the event called for them. When the warring tribes of the neighborhood had swept his kinsman, Lot, into captivity, Abraham came promptly to the rescue, and, with his three hundred trained servants, pursued, vanquished, and rescued. Though he loved not battle, when roused for a good cause he fought to some purpose.
Over the heart of such a man, a beautiful, queenly woman held despotic sway. Traveling with her into the dominions of foreign princes, he is possessed by one harassing fear. The beauty of this woman,—will it not draw the admiration of marauding powers? And shall I not be murdered, or have her torn from me? And so, twice, Abraham resorts to the stratagem of concealing their real relation, and speaking of her as his sister. The Rabbinic traditions elaborate this story with much splendor of imagery. According to them, Abraham being obliged by famine to sojourn in Egypt, rested some days by the river Nile; and as he and Sarah walked by the banks of the river, and he beheld her wonderful beauty reflected in the water, he was overwhelmed with fear lest she should be taken from him, or that he should be slain for her sake. So he persuaded her to pass as his sister; for, as he says, “she was the daughter of my father, but not of my mother.” The legend goes on to say, that, as a further precaution, he had her placed in a chest to cross the frontier; and when the custom-house officers met them, he offered to pay for the box whatever they might ask, to pass it free.
“Does it contain silks?” asked the officers.
“I will pay the tenth as of silk,” he replied.
“Does it contain silver?” they inquired.
“I will pay for it as silver,” answered Abraham.
“Nay, then, it must contain gold.”
“I will pay for it as gold.”
“May be it contains most costly gems.”
“I will pay for it as gems,” he persisted.
In the struggle the box was broken open, and in it was seated a beautiful woman whose countenance illumined all Egypt. The news reached the ears of Pharaoh, and he sent and took her.
In comparing these Rabinnic traditions with the Bible, one is immediately struck with the difference in quality,—the dignified simplicity of the sacred narrative contrasts forcibly with the fantastic elaborations of tradition.
The Rabbinic and Alcoranic stories are valuable, however, as showing how profound an impression the personality of these characters had left on mankind. The great characters of the Biblical story, though in themselves simple, seemed, like the sun, to raise around them many-colored and vaporous clouds of myth and story. The warmth of their humanity kept them enwreathed in a changing mist of human sympathies.
The falsehoods which Abraham tells are to be estimated not by the modern, but by the ancient standard. In the earlier days of the world, when physical force ruled, when the earth was covered with warring tribes, skill in deception was counted as one of the forms of wisdom. “The crafty Ulysses” is spoken of with honor through the “Odyssey” for his skill in dissembling; and the Lacedemonian youth were punished, not for stealing or lying, but for performing these necessary operations in a bungling, unskillful manner.
In a day when it was rather a matter of course for a prince to help himself to a handsome woman wherever he could find her, and kill her husband if he made any objections, a weaker party entering the dominions of a powerful prince was under the laws of war.
In our nineteenth century we have not yet grown to such maturity as not to consider false statements and stratagem as legitimate war policy in dealing with an enemy. Abraham’s ruse is not, therefore, so very far behind even the practice of modern Christians. That he should have employed the same fruitless stratagem twice, seems to show that species of infatuation on the one subject of a beloved woman, which has been the “last infirmity” of some otherwise strong and noble men,—wise everywhere else, but weak there.
The Rabbinic legends represent Sarah as being an object of ardent admiration to Pharaoh, who pressed his suit with such vehemence that she cried to God for deliverance, and told the king that she was a married woman. Then—according to this representation—he sent her away with gifts, and even extended his complacency so far as to present her with his daughter Hagar as a handmaid,—a legend savoring more of national pride than of probability.
In the few incidents related of Sarah she does not impress us as anything more than the beautiful princess of a nomadic tribe, with many virtues and the failings that usually attend beauty and power.
With all her advantages of person and station, Sarah still wanted what every woman of antiquity considered the crowning glory of womanhood. She was childless. By an expedient common in those early days, she gives her slave as second wife to her husband, whose child shall be her own. The Rabbinic tradition says that up to this time Hagar had been tenderly beloved by Sarah. The prospect, however, of being mother to the heir of the family seems to have turned the head of the handmaid, and broken the bonds of friendship between them.
In its usual naïve way, the Bible narrative represents Sarah as scolding her patient husband for the results which came from following her own advice. Thus she complains, in view of Hagar’s insolence: “My wrong be upon thee. I have given my maid unto thy bosom, and when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her eyes. The Lord judge between thee and me.”
We see here the eager, impulsive, hot-hearted woman, accustomed to indulgence, impatient of trouble, and perfectly certain that she is in the right, and that the Lord himself must think so. Abraham, as a well-bred husband, answers pacifically: “Behold, thy maid is in thy hand, to do as pleaseth thee.” And so it pleased Sarah to deal so hardly with her maid that she fled to the wilderness.
Finally, the domestic broil adjusts itself. The Divine Father, who watches alike over all his creatures, sends back the impetuous slave from the wilderness, exhorted to patience, and comforted with a promise of a future for her son.
Then comes the beautiful idyl of the three angels, who announce the future birth of the long-desired heir. We could wish all our readers, who may have fallen out of the way of reading the Old Testament, to turn again to the eighteenth chapter of Genesis, and see the simple picture of those olden days. Notice the beautiful hospitality of reception. The Emir rushes himself to his herd to choose the fatted calf, and commands the princess to make ready the meal, and knead the cakes. Then comes the repast. The announcement of the promised blessing, at which Sarah laughs in incredulous surprise; the grave rebuke of the angels, and Sarah’s white lie, with the angel’s steady answer,—are all so many characteristic points of the story. Sarah, in all these incidents, is, with a few touches, made as real flesh and blood as any woman in the pages of Shakespeare,—not a saint, but an average mortal, with all the foibles, weaknesses, and variabilities that pertain to womanhood, and to womanhood in an early age of imperfectly developed morals.
We infer from the general drift of the story, that Sarah, like most warm-hearted and passionate women, was, in the main, a kindly, motherly creature, and that, when her maid returned and submitted, she was reconciled to her. At all events, we find that the son of the bondwoman was born and nurtured under her roof, along with her own son Isaac. It is in keeping with our conception of Sarah, that she should at times have overwhelmed Hagar with kindness, and helped her through the trials of motherhood, and petted the little Ishmael till he grew too saucy to be endured.
The Jewish mother nursed her child three years. The weaning was made a great fête, and Sarah’s maternal exultation at this crisis of her life, displayed itself in festal preparations. We hear her saying: “God hath made me to laugh, so that all that hear will laugh with me. Who would have said unto Abraham that Sarah should have given children suck? for I have borne him a son in his old age.”
In the height of this triumph, she saw the son of the Egyptian woman mocking, and all the hot blood of the woman, mother, and princess flushed up, and she said to her husband: “Cast out this bondwoman and her son; for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac.”
We are told “the thing was very grievous in Abraham’s sight because of his son.” But a higher power confirms the hasty, instinctive impulse of the mother. The God of nations saw in each of these infant boys the seed-forms of a race with a history and destiny apart from each other, and Abraham is comforted with the thought that a fatherly watch will be kept over both.
Last of all we come to the simple and touching announcement of the death of this woman, so truly loved to the last. “And Sarah was a hundred and seven and twenty years old: these were the years of the life of Sarah. And Sarah died in Kirjath-arba; the same is Hebron in the land of Canaan; and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah, and to weep for her.” It is a significant token of the magnificent physical vigor with which that early age was endowed, that now, for the first time, the stroke of death has fallen on the family of Abraham, and he is forced to seek a burial-place. Sarah, the beautiful princess, the crowned mother of a great nation, the beloved wife, is dead; and Abraham, constant lover in age as youth, lays her away with tears. To him she is ever young; for love confers on its object eternal youth.
A beautiful and peculiar passage in the history describes the particulars of the purchase of this burial-place. All that love can give to the fairest, most beautiful, and dearest is a tomb; and Abraham refuses to take as a gift from the nobles of the land so sacred a spot. It must be wholly his own, bought with his own money. The sepulchre of Machpelah, from the hour it was consecrated by the last sleep of the mother of the tribe, became the calm and sacred resting-place to which the eyes of children’s children turned. So Jacob, her grandson, in his dying hour, remembered it:—
“Bury me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of Ephron the Hittite. There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife; there they buried Isaac and Rebekah his wife, and there I buried Leah.”
Two powerful and peculiar nations still regard this sepulchre with veneration, and cherish with reverence the memory of Sarah the Princess.women