Harvesters – 8 October 2018
The harvesters rest in the middle of their day, tired from their work. The harvest is bountiful, the stacks behind them are large. The woman to the left has been gleaning the fields, attempting to live off the left-overs. The contrast in the picture is between the generous harvest and the little that she can take away for herself. The harvest benefits the land owner, not the workers.
The painting is by Jean Francois Millet (Harvesters resting (Ruth and Boaz) 1850-53). The picture was first of all a depiction of the story of Ruth, a poor immigrant worker who supported herself and her mother-in-law by gleaning the fields. When Millet exhibited this work he changed the name so that it was clear that the painting had contemporary significance. In 1850s rural France, the farms were increasingly owned by absentee landlords, whose main interest was profit and personal wealth. They did not have much concern for their peasant workforce. The Boaz figure in this picture, next to Ruth, is shown as a sharecropper, hired to work a rich man’s land. Millet is challenging the viewer to think about fair pay and workers rights.
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter.”
in love you give life.
In your generosity
you create the gifts of the earth.
As daughters and sons of the
same Father, may we learn
to share the plentiful gifts of
creation, especially with those
most in need.
Give us open hands and
loving hearts, so that we take less
and give more.
We ask that all may benefit from
your goodness, and share in the
fullness of life you have promised.