Maurice Schmidt

Maurice  Schmidt - Cleaning the Plow

Cleaning the Plow, 1981

Painting oil on canvas  
44 x 71.75 in

"The plow versus the sword: what could be farther apart metaphorically than these universal implements: the sword for war and the plow for peace. Yet both are instruments for cutting and both need tending and sharpening. The plow cuts into the earth, creating a wound in the topsoil, but also a womb in the earth for the sprouting of seed. For all the advancements of modern agriculture, this ancient implement remains essentially like its ancestor, a blade to cut the soil instead of the flesh. "Now there was no smith found throughout all the land of Israel; for the Philistines said, Lest the Hebrews make them swords or spears; but all the Israelites went down to the Philistines, to sharpen every man his plowshare" "So it came to pass in the day of battle, that there was neither sword nor spear found in the hand of any of the people that were with Saul and Jonathan." "And that first slaughter, which Jonathan and his armor-bearer made, was about twenty men, within as it were half a furrow's length in an acre of land." In these short passages, the Bible, that most pastoral of books, reveals the double edged nature of sword and plow, of war and peace. In this painting of an utterly peaceful and ordinary to the point of boredom moment, a farmer, perhaps his helper or his "armor bearer" must now interrupt the motion of his work to tend his plow, the implement upon which all else depends. The point and the edge of this blade is the farmer's first physical contact with the flesh of the field. The High Priest prepared the burnt offerings upon a much smaller altar with only a somewhat different blade. The change from sword into plowshare is not so much wrought by the blacksmith at his forge as it is by the forging of a higher purpose in the human heart." excerpt from the book "Maurice Schmidt, A Life in Art"



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