Mort Laitner
Mort Laitner

Paying attention to the details

Death of the Pharaoh's Firstborn Son, Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, (1872) Rijksmuseum (public domain)

Throughout our lives, we are often too busy, or too tired, or too lazy to pay attention to the details that surround our being, our essence, our existence.

We focus on the narrow details in the center of our frame — often missing the importance of the big picture.

We pay little attention the edges of the picture — thinking the edges are insignificant.

We ask:

“Why waste my precious time taking it all in?”

“Why take the time to see the beauty that surrounds us?”

“Why smell the roses?”

So when I see the painting, The Death of  Pharaoh’s Firstborn Son, by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, I only study the Pharaoh’s youthful face, his nemes and  his hollow eyes as his dead firstborn son is draped over his lap.

I think:

“Here’s a gem to accompany my Passover story.”

“How many times has my pinky tasted Manischewitz as my voice blasts the name of the last plague in Hebrew as well as English?

Makat B’chorot — Plague of the firstborn — Dip — Taste

“What are the words in Exodus:

‘Every firstborn son in Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the firstborn of the slave girl, who is at her hand mill, and all the firstborn of the cattle as well. There will be loud wailing throughout Egypt—worse than there has ever been or ever will be again.'”

But I fail to take the time to study all of this masterpiece.

I wiki Alma-Tadema; I love learning about his life.

His parents want him to become a lawyer. But at 15, he breaks down, physically and mentally. His doctors diagnose consumption and predict — a short life. This diagnosis allows Lawrence the time to draw and paint. And when he recovers, he decides to become an artist.

Here’s an artist whose paintings I have never seen.

Here’s a painter whose name I have never heard.

And when I visit Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum, I do not see his biblical masterpieces.

Now on Net, I peruse his whole art collection; my eyes climax.

And then my eyes force my fingers to return to The Death of  Pharaoh’s Firstborn Son.

They want to study the painting’s details.

Readers: Take a minute and enlarge the painting, preferably on your desktop (put curser on painting, click on the plus sign) and study this painting’s details.

Pretty amazing.

What  new details did you catch on your second look?

Did you see?

  1. The queen’s unseen face buried into her son’s chest, while her finger’s interlock with her son’s ;
  2. The son’s silver necklace with a hanging medallion resting against his chest;
  3. Two marble incense urns emitting sweet smoke. FYI — Alma-Tadema specialized in painting marble;
  4. Moses and Aaron observing the Pharaoh in mourning (Aaron looks like the Angel of Death);
  5. Three oil lamps emitting touches of light;
  6. Two musicians playing long oboe-like instruments;
  7. Members of the Pharaoh’s court with their hands in prayer;
  8. Egyptian hieroglyphic symbols;
  9. The glass medicine bottles.

Have fun looking?

Great!

Now remember: Take some time to study life’s details.

It’s worth it.

About the Author
Florida's Jewish short-story writer, speaker, film producer and retired attorney. He has authored, "A Hebraic Obsession", "The Hanukkah Bunny" and "The Greatest Gift." He produced an award-winning short film entitled, "The Stairs". Movie can be viewed on my TOI blog. Mort is a correspondent for the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel Jewish Journal.
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