Ruth and Boaz at the at the threshing floor
In the earliest of our selections, the illustrator of the Arsenal Bible of 1250 has chosen the moment in which Ruth "uncovers Boaz`s feet". Boaz is a young man; he lies at the foot of his erect heap of grain. In the other two pictures, a later point in the scene is portrayed: the moment at which Boaz wakes to find Ruth lying at his feet or after their nocturnal conversation.
In the Wenzel Bible of circa 1390, Ruth has gone back to sleep after her encounter with Boaz, in which he has promised to redeem Naomi`s property through his marriage to Ruth. An older Boaz is left to internalize the full significance of his commitment and to plan his next moves. His facial expression reflects perplexity; either he is wondering if this is really happening or he is trying to figure out his next move. Ruth sleeps, since she has performed her task and is nearing the fruition of her hopes. Boaz, however, now needs to act. He is wakeful, since he must complete his mission—to deal with Naomi`s next of kin and marry Ruth. His deliberations are also reflected in the swirling background that further evokes the complex and winding paths linking the couple. In the lower part of this painting, the many sheaves of grain seem to presage the couple`s bounteous future.
James Tissot`s watercolor is the most mystical and spiritual of the three renditions. An old man is engulfed in the light and aura of possibilities not even imagined. The painting is built around a well-lit triangle, formed at its base by Ruth`s reclining body that exudes intimacy and even seduction; its apex is formed by Boaz`s head and arms, expressing frozen shock. The strip of light illuminating the triangle from above may represent God`s watchful approval. Thus, the triangle is composed of the human couple and the divine presence, and symbolizes the marriage covenant being formed. While the figures are already clothed, they are also veiled in light.
In summary, our three renditions of the threshing floor scene, the height of the book`s romance, describe varying moments using different colors, lighting and characterization. After their engagement, but before daybreak, Boaz measures out a generous supply of grain for Ruth to take home.
Rembrandt (van Rijn)
Boaz Casting Barley into Ruth`s Veil
Boaz bends to pour grain from a barrel into Ruth’s veil, which is spread out on the ground. Ruth stands opposite him holding the corners of her veil.