Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Elizabeth and Zacharias

Sir Stanley Spencer 1891-1959
Zacharias and Elizabeth 1913-14
Oil and pencil on canvas
support: 1426 x 1428 x 24 mm
The Tate Gallery, London

In St Luke’s gospel, Zacharias is sacrificing in a temple when he is visited by the archangel Gabriel. Gabriel tells him that, although his wife Elizabeth is past childbearing age, she will bear a child from God. He will grow up to become John the Baptist.

Spencer imagined the story in a garden behind his studio in Cookham. He wrote: ‘It was to be a painting characterizing and exactly expressing the life I was … living and seeing about me… to raise that life round me to what I felt was its true status, meaning and purpose.’