In ‘the return of the prodigal son’, the painting depicts the son who has returned home in a wretched and deplorable state. The sad state is depicted by the dirty and torn clothes he is wearing, and the fact that he is also bare feet. It shows a person that is in deep poverty and despair as a consequence of wasting his inheritance. The son kneels before his father as a sign of repentance and also as a form of seeking forgiveness and reunion with the family as he came to realize that even the servants for his father were in a better state than him (Durham, 2004. 55).
The father receives him with love and tenderness as portrayed by him placing both his hands on the shoulders of his knelt son. Standing on the right is the prodigal son’s brother that holds his hands, demonstrating his objection to the father’s compassion towards the prodigal son.
In the ‘pastoral landscape’, the artist depicts a densely wooded landscape on both sides of a river that flow in between. There is a herder in the foreground resting on a rock surrounded by two women while the goats and cattle cross the river accompanied by two herders and a dog. There is also a fortified building in the background that appears abandoned.

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In ‘the prodigal son’ the artist focuses more on the emotional aspects of the characters involved. There is more concentration on the faces of the characters, especially the father. It indicates the painting is more focused on the emotional aspects so as to demonstrate the emotive nature of the event and the poignant memories it evokes amongst the characters.

However, in the ‘pastoral landscape’, the focus of the artist is in the nature such as the dense forests on the sides of the river, trees, mountainous surroundings and the animals crossing the river. The painting portrays a natural environment where grazing domestic animals such as goats and cattle are illustrated as routine activities.

Another contrast in the two paintings involves the choice of colors used to do the works. In ‘the prodigal son’ the colors used are sharper that those used in the ‘pastoral landscape.’ The use of the sharper colors like red demonstrates the urgency and the emotional undertones of the event. The use of the warm colors also reveals the happiness of the moment since the father is excited that his long lost son has returned.

The use of the darker colors in the ‘pastoral landscape’ demonstrates the theme of the painting as its main purpose is to capture the natural environment. The darker and cool colors such as blue bring out a calm and harmonious feeling to capture the co-existence of the characters involved i.e. living things and nature. It shows how man depends on nature such as vegetation to feed his animals such as cattle and the goats that are watered in the river.

In ‘the prodigal son’, the images are zoomed to occupy the entire space to the edges so as to enhance the spirit of compassion that engulfs the family following the return of the lost son. In the ‘pastoral landscape’, the images are also zoomed out so as to enhance the vivid scenery and interaction between humans and animals and their natural habitat. It shows how the artworks utilize the zoom effect to reveal the finer details and themes being captured.

  • Durham, John. The Biblical Rembrandt: Human Painter in a Landscape of Faith. New York. Mercer University Press. 2004. Print.