Jacopo Bassano’s Miraculous draught of fishes

February 5th 2022

“The Miraculous Draught of fishes”, Jacopo Bassano,  1545, National Gallery of Art, Washington. 

Jacopo da Ponte came to be known as Jacopo Bassano because he was from Bassano del Grappa which  is a small town about 65km  inland from Venice.  In 1545, the governor of the town commissioned him to paint the miraculous haul of fish from today’s gospel.   Bassano reproduced (but in reverse) a composition from Raphael’s great tapestry cartoon of 1515 which he knew from a print. Christ sits in the boat of Peter and Andrew, and Peter is kneeling before Christ.  Zebedee and his sons, James and John, have brought their boat alongside and are struggling to lift the huge haul of fish from the sea.  Bassano brings the two boats so close, the viewer might almost climb on board.   The effect is enhanced by setting their brightly coloured garments against an expanse of blue sea.   To the right, James and John and their father Zebedee are intent only on the hauling in the fish. By contrast, on the left, Peter and Andrew are intent only on the words of Christ.  The most striking figure  in this painting is Andrew standing with his billowing cloak billowing in the wind. He looks like he is trying to keep his balance or perhaps walk towards Jesus.  Against the calm sea the wind seems odd or mysterious. Perhaps this is Bassano’s suggestion of the movement of the Holy Spirit.  It is certainly moving from Christ on the left towards the apostles on the right.  Interestingly the cloak is not taken from Raphael’s cartoon or Da Carpi’s print, it is from Bassano himself.  In the distant right, he adds a view of Bassano del Grappa with the actual Monte Grappa behind.  Bassano has relocated his native town and the mountain to the shore of the sea of Galilee.  The implication is surely that the call of Christ, once heard over the waters of sea of Galilee, can also be heard in a little place like in Bassano del Grappa. Reprinted from February 2019. 

Jacopo Bassano’s Miraculous draught of fishes

Edinburgh Catholic Chaplaincy

The Catholic Chaplaincy serves the students and staff of the University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh Napier University and Queen Margaret University.

The Catholic Chaplaincy is also a parish of the Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh (the Parish of St Albert the Great) and all Catholic students and staff are automatically members of this parish.

Read more