8. The Prodigal Son among the Swine


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The Prodigal Son among the Swine, the 4th of 6 scenes, ca. 1784
Colored etching published by Giuseppe Remondini (1745–1811) in Bassano,
after a series of published by Georg Balthasar Probst, ca. 1770
Calvin College, 1998.11.1.4

The lost son swineherd / The prodigal son swineherd


The Prodigal Son soon squanders all his inheritance in a distant country—a life of luxury is quickly reduced to poverty. And to make matters worse, a famine comes to the land. With no resources, the son hires himself out as a swineherd, caring for a farmer’s pigs.

In this scene, the Prodigal sits alongside the swine. His once-fine clothing is now tattered. The son extends his hand towards another man who appears to turn away, refusing the Prodigal’s pleading gesture. According to the Luke 15 account, no one offers the son anything; he is willing to eat even the swine’s food. Here, at the bottom, the Prodigal Son confronts his plight and reasons that it would be better to work as a servant at his father’s home than to continue living in destitution among the livestock.

Though in some ways the most visually interesting of the series, this image, lacking the static architecture of the interior or cityscape views, is the least effective as a vue d’optique. And therein lies the fundamental challenge of adapting a narrative to this highly constrained format.


Literature: Anton W. A. Boschloo, The Prints of the Remondinis: An Attempt to Reconstruct an Eighteenth-Century World of Pictures, translated by C. M. H. Harrison (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 1998), pp. 174–77.