Bartholomeus Breenbergh (1599-1657)
Jesus cures the Deaf Man / Jésus guérissant un sourd-muet
Oil on wood
0.900 m. x 1.220 m.
Musée du Louvre, Paris
The story behind this picture in the Louvre is from the Gospel of Mark
Not only is the man deaf but he has a speech impediment:
The Healing of a Deaf Man.
31 Again he left the district of Tyre and went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, into the district of the Decapolis.
32 And people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment and begged him to lay his hand on him.
33 He took him off by himself away from the crowd. He put his finger into the man’s ears and, spitting, touched his tongue;
34 then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, “Ephphatha!” (that is, “Be opened!”)
35 And [immediately] the man’s ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly.
36 He ordered them not to tell anyone. But the more he ordered them not to, the more they proclaimed it.
37 They were exceedingly astonished and they said, “He has done all things well. He makes the deaf hear and [the] mute speak.”
(Mark 7 : 31 - 37)
The theme of the painting is an unusual one. It is the only example in the Bible of a deaf person where his deafness is the centre of the episode.
For modern readers, it is quite difficult to understand the magnitude of what Christ did in this event
If one was born deaf, then the ability to speak is impaired
In past times, the deaf and those unable to speak were harshly treated.
Some advocated that hearing was a requirement for understanding.
From this they deduced that the deaf and the hard of speech were deficient in reason or could not reason at all
In the Code of Justinian, the deaf (from birth) could not hold property or marry.
A few days ago, 24th November 2012 was the three hundredth anniversary of the birth of a French priest who helped to radically alter the status of people who were deaf or who had a speech impediment: Abbé Charles-Michel de l'Épée (November 24, 1712, - December 23, 1789)
Abbé Charles-Michel de l'Epée (1712-1789)
Oil on canvas
0.360 m. x 0.260 m
Châteaux de Versailles et de Trianon, Versailles
Like many other priests and religious whose names are now revered today, he did not find it easy to pursue his religious vocation. He was refused ordination and after eventually being ordained, was restricted heavily in his priestly ministry
His particular problem was deemed to be Jansenism
As a result he devoted himself to the education of the deaf and those with speech impediments and founded a school for their instruction at his own expense. It was the first free public school of its type in the world, open to all
By his sign system and his public advocacy he laid the foundations of all systematic instruction of the deaf and speech impaired
His work amomg the poor led to comparisons with Vincent de Paul
It has to be said that this did not go well with the hierarchy and Church establishment of his time.
It was his great fervour for religious education which led him into this field. The deaf and the speech impaired were marginalised.
He was convinced that deaf people were capable of language and that they should be able to receive the sacraments and thus avoid going to hell.