Why have people been standing up for others for centuries? What motivates them? In what way was charity established and acted out in various ages? The Diocesan Museum of Paderborn in Germany has an exhibition about caritas from July 23rd till December 13th, 2015. The exhibition is called “CARITAS – the virtue of charity from the time of the early Christians to the present day. A history of charity in art and culture”.
In a large scale art and cultural historical exhibition the Diocesan Museum of Paderborn examines the history of active charity and shows the unique way it has been depicted in the art and culture of various epochs. The focus is on Christian charity -caritas- an idea that, thanks to uncompromising dedication to one’s fellow men, was downright revolutionary in the early days.
What is there to see?
Around 180 top-class exhibits from European and USA museums and collections are gathered around the theme Caritas. Antique sarcophagi, murals from Roman catacombs and medieval treasures, as well as paintings and drawings tell of the different ideas about, motivations for and forms of helpful assistance across the centuries. Renowned artists are part of it such as Raphael, Lucas Cranach the Elder, Eugène Delacroix, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Käthe Kollwitz. The topic is brought right up to date by impressive installations, including one by video artist Bill Viola. The exhibition opens with the letter of Saint Paul to the early Christian commune in Corinth. It includes an ode to love (charity) in chapter 13. ‘(Love) (…) rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails (…)’.The Greek word for love is ‘agapè’. Agapè has been translated in Latin with the word ‘caritas’.
Caritas through time and in the present day
The last object of the exhibition consists of two pictures by performance artist Vanessa Beecroft. On the first picture she appears in the pose of Caritas with two well-nourished dark baby’s in her arms. The second photo shows an African mother, also with two babies but these kids are skin and bones. South Sudan, ten years ago. Between the first and last object, a great diversity of art objects shows a rich history of caritas-experiences and wisdom, relevant for today’s caring practices.
The exhibition tackles the question of how virtues such as helpfulness, consideration and mercy can even be considered and exist in the present day: an age of economic globalisation, ever-increasing efficiency and countless international trouble spots, which bring with them banishment and flight.
Exhibition ‘CARITAS – the virtue of charity from the time of the early Christians to the present day. A history of charity in art and culture’, The Diocesan Museum of Paderborn (Germany), 23 July – 13 December 2015.