Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Ghent, Belgium
“The Misery of Job” by Ossip Zadkine, 1914
“For this work Zadkine drew inspiration from the Book of Job in the Old Testament. God and Satan put Job’s godliness to the test by subjecting him to all kinds of disasters. Zadkine chose the passage in which Eliphaz, Bildad, and Sofaz visit their friend Job to support him.”
I have never seen this piece nor read about it. The sculpture hit me hard when I walked into the room, and I spent at least 15 minutes and even then could barely pull myself away. Zadkine’s interpretation is brilliant and emotionally gripping.
We cannot see their faces. God has overwhelmed Job with disasters. Job in his grief of losing everything is completely joined to the earth, the dirt, the dust. Only the two friends touch one another. No one looks at one another–they can only look into themselves and their own unspeakable and lonely grievings. Notice Job’s wife–her hands. I think this is the most important detail of Zadkine’s interpretation. We see them clearly and prominently. Job’s wife uses her hands to shield her face from the ferocity of heaven, the calamities of God raining down upon an innocent, righteous couple. They seem to shout, “I can take no more. Go away and leave us be.”
Have you ever lost it all, lost everything? I am defining “everything” broadly here. We can still have everything and lose “everything.” There are many everythings…