Sketch for Sermon on the Mount, detail

Sermon on the Mount (continued)

In order to emphasize the teaching role of Jesus, Sargent modified the conventional iconography of Sermon on the Mount in one especially meaningful way: Jesus’s left hand rests intimately on the head of a child, who clings to his robe. While children had appeared in earlier representations of this biblical scene, they did so not as individuals but as part of a crowd. The introduction of a child was also the feature that distinguished the artist’s Israel and the Law from the conventional subject of the lawgiving on Sinai.
Sketch for “Sermon on the Mount,” detail
Graphite on paper, 25.4 x 33 cm
Boston Public Library, Print Department
Gift of Miss Emily Sargent and Mrs. Francis Ormond
The Triumph of Religion