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The Prodigal Son

A Relief Carving, in progressive Photos

by W.F. Judt

Recently I was commissioned to create a carving based on the parable of the "Prodigal Son" from Luke 15: 11-24.

The family chose this particular theme because it clearly portrayed the compassion of God within the actions of the father of the prodigal lad. This was the same quality of compassion the parents desired to display towards their children, and teach their children to emulate. Having known this family for nearly 25 years, I have seen this type of compassion in action in their home, so it was clear that this carving was meant to testify to such compassion as being central to the family belief system. Click the pattern for a larger view.

The idea was also to create a "Family Heirloom" which would have enduring meaning to the family over successive generations. Artistic considerations were to take a back seat to the message of this carving. It had a job to do, and if it were to look aesthetically pleasing in the process, all the better. What good would the carving be if it looked pretty but failed to communicate the central belief of the family or the essence of this parable?

I focused on verse 20 because this is where the compassion of God (the father) is most clearly identified in the parable. It was important to capture the moment that the father first saw his son returning home, and the joy that would be displayed in his eyes and on his face. His hands are clasped close to his breast is grateful celebration and anticipation.

For the carving to effectively present the father's joy in context, it was necessary to incorporate the actual text of verse 20 as well as scenes from the rest of the story. Thus, the lad is first shown in the pig pen, distraught because of what he had become. Next the lad is shown heading home, resolved in his heart to admit his sin and beg for mercy. Finally, the son meets his father, who, overjoyed at his return, embraces him and restores him to full sonship again. The presence of God, represented by the rays starting in the upper left, form the background over which the scenes are portrayed.

The father is the most detailed object in the carving, followed by the text of verse 20 and finally by the line carving around the perimeter of the ellipse.

The carving is 2" thick and 18" by 24", carved in beautiful Northern White Birch, with a clear finish (sanding sealer/wax).

The Author:

W.F. (Bill) Judt