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The Marriage at Cana (Les noces de Cana)

James Tissot

European Art

This scene depicts a wedding at Cana, where Jesus performs his first miracle before his disciples and his mother, Mary. Although this feast was amply supplied with water—a necessity for the frequent purifications demanded by Jewish ritual, Tissot notes— the celebration had run out of wine, as Mary points out to her son. Jesus then turns jars of water into wine, much to the astonishment of his host and fellow guests, who curiously peer over the table to look into the vessels. Though already followers of Jesus, the disciples now witness evidence of his divine powers.

Attentive to Jewish ritual, which dictated that men and women would have been separated at such an event, Tissot suggests in his text that Mary communicated the news of the missing wine to Jesus through a partition. The artist paints this wood screen in the background of the scene, behind the distinctive horseshoe arrangement of the feast tables.

Spurning apocryphal legends of wondrous deeds performed during Christ’s youth, Tissot insists in his commentary on the Holy Childhood that this episode represents Jesus’ first miracle.
MEDIUM Opaque watercolor over graphite on gray wove paper
  • Place Made: France
  • DATES 1886–1894
    DIMENSIONS Image: 8 15/16 x 7 13/16 in. (22.7 x 19.8 cm) Sheet: 8 15/16 x 7 13/16 in. (22.7 x 19.8 cm) Frame: 20 x 15 x 1 1/2 in. (50.8 x 38.1 x 3.8 cm)
    SIGNATURE Signed bottom right: "J.J. Tissot"
    COLLECTIONS European Art
    ACCESSION NUMBER 00.159.62
    CREDIT LINE Purchased by public subscription
    PROVENANCE 1900, purchased from the artist by the Brooklyn Museum.
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    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
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