Art in Moltmann’s Major Works

Moltmann frequently refers to pieces of art that he has had in his office while writing particular works. I decided to put this post together as a reference.

1. The Yellow Crucifixion, Marc Chagall | Image 1 | Image 2

This image is copyrighted so I have linked to other sites displaying it instead.

This is the first image I am aware of that influences Moltmann’s theology. As far as I know, none is mentioned in regard to Theology of Hope. In The Crucified God Moltmann writes, “In front of me hangs Marc Chagall’s picture ‘Crucifixion in Yellow’. It shows the figure of the crucified Christ in an apocalyptic situation: people sinking into the sea, people homeless and in flight, and yellow fire blazing in the background. And with the crucified Christ there appears the angel with the trumpet and the open roll of the book of life. This picture has accompanied me for a long time. It symbolizes the cross on the horizon of the world, and can be thought of as a symbolic expression of the studies which follow. A symbol invites thought (P. Ricoeur). The symbol of the cross invites rethinking. And this book is not meant to bring the discussion to a dogmatic conclusion, but to be, like a symbol, an invitation to thought and rethinking” (6).

Moltmann writes in his autobiography, A Broad Place, “When I was writing this book, a picture by Marc Chagall stood on my writing desk. Is is called ‘Crucifixion in Yellow’ and shows the crucified Christ appearing in the world in an apocalyptic situation: people are sinking into the sea, people are fleeing, and running about homeless, the fire glows yellow from the background. And with the crucified Christ the angel with the trumpet from Revelation 14.6 also appears, showing the scroll of life, open. For a long time this picture was my companion, and was a symbol inviting me to theological thinking” (191).

In the same place, Moltmann writes, “In those years I often sat in the Martinskirche in Tübingen and meditated on Susanne Müller-Diefenbach’s black crucifix. It drew me into the dark suffering of God.” I initially left this piece out because I couldn’t find any Google hits. I thank Steve Sprinkle for directing me to the following, on the website of the Evangelische Martinsgemeinde, Tübingen: Image 1 | Image 2 | Site

2. The Trinity, Andrei Rublev

Wikimedia Commons

Moltmann writes in The Trinity and the Kingdom, “Here too, as in other theological work, there has been a picture in front of me. It is Andrei Rublev’s wonderful fifteenth-century Russian icon of the Holy Trinity. Through their tenderly intimate inclination towards one another, the three persons show the profound unity joining them, in which they are one. The chalice on the table points to the surrender of the Son on Golgotha. Just as the chalice stands at the centre of the table round which the three Persons are sitting, so the cross of the Son stands from eternity in the centre of the Trinity. Anyone who grasps the truth of this picture understands that it is only in the unity with one another which springs from the self-giving of the Son ‘for many’ that men and women are in conformity with the triune God. He understands that people only arrive at their own truth in their free and loving inclination towards one another. It is to this ‘social’ understanding of the doctrine of the Trinity that this book is an invitation” (xvi).

He writes in Humanity in God, “Andrei Rubljov best-known and most famous Russian icon around 1415 for the Church of the Trinity in Sagorsk. It depicts the Trinity in the form of three angels, who, according to Genesis 18, appeared to Abraham and Sarah by the oaks of Mamre. Rubljov has left Abraham and Sarah out and represented the Trinity in intimate conversation. I believe the angel in the middle represents God the Father, for the movement of the three persons proceeds from him. The angel on the left represents the Holy Spirit, who receives a glance from the Father and points with his hand to the Son, who sits on the right, and blesses him. At stake is the sending of the Son on the way of suffering for the reconciliation of the world. For this reason a chalice appears in the middle. The coordination of the hands of the three persons depicts the Trinity open to the sacrifice of love. Also in this picture the doctrine of the Trinity and the theology of the cross are united” (53).

Similar comments appear in Sun of Righteousness, Arise! (169).

3. Annunciation with St. Margaret and St. AnsanusSimone Martini

Wikimedia Commons
Close up, Wikimedia Commons

In The Coming of God, Moltmann writes, “Earlier, when I was writing on other subjects, I had a picture before me on my writing desk. And during my work on this eschatology of ‘the coming of God’ I have again had a picture in front of me: It is the Angel of the Annunciation, by Simone Martini, painted in 1315 and now in Galleria Uffizi in Florence. The angel is not looking back to the wreckage of history, as does Paul Klee’s ‘Angelus Novus’, which Walter Benjamin called the Angel of History. This angel of the future is gazing with great eyes towards the messianic Child of the coming God, and with the green branches in his hair and in Mary’s hand proclaims the Child’s birth. The tempest of the divine Spirit is blowing in the angel’s garments and wings, as if it had blown him into history. And its meaning is the birth of the future from the Spirit of promise” (xvii).

Angelus Novus, Paul Klee, Wikimedia Commons

The 4 pieces discussed in this post appear in the prefaces to three of Moltmann’s major works. But Moltmann discusses other pieces elsewhere, which I would like to bring together one day, too. Watch this space!