‘The Melting Halo’: a meditation
The style is unmistakable. This is the work of the French artist Jean-Marie Pirot, better known as ‘Arcabas’, who died recently. He spoke of art as ‘a sort of mirror’, because in it we glimpse something of ourselves. This particular ‘mirror’ is his painting of ‘The Prodigal Son’. It is reminiscent of Rembrant’s version, but simpler.
Beggars are often depicted with dogs licking their sores; here, a dog gently nuzzles him. Saintly or divine figures are usually identified in paintings by a halo: here, the halo has melted in the warmth of God’s love. The gold has run off the Father’s head and is flowing all over the crouching figure who is kneeling in the pool of a holiness not his own. The indefinable massiveness of God’s radiating presence is nothing to fear. God’s eyes gaze unblinkingly upon the penitent. His fingers are long and extended, one hand supporting him, the other gently resting upon the contours of his bony shoulder. God stoops to prevent him from collapsing altogether.
Do we glimpse our own reflection in this ‘mirror’? Perhaps we are feeling helpless, like the dog, deeply affected by other people’s suffering? Or, like the Father, seeking to understand; reaching out to bless? Or we may see something of ourselves in the half-collapsing figure. There are no words to this prayer. We have only to pause… to warm ourselves in the love… to feel those long, long fingers of blessing on our back … to experience that ‘melting halo’ which purifies us in God’s own purity.