At What Price?

The Ransom

What interesting subject matter for a painting—a 16th Century knight paying ransom for the return of his two kidnapped daughters. The painter, John Everett Millais, was an Englishman and a child prodigy. At the age of eleven, he became the youngest student to enter the Royal Academy Schools. He is also known for establishing the “Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood,” which was a group of painters, poets, and art critics who wanted to reform English art. They believed the classical poses and elegant compositions of artists like Raphael were a corrupting influence on the art world. The Brotherhood’s goal was to influence artists to create art that had abundant detail, intense colors, and complex compositions. Everyone’s a critic.

I guess this painting succeeds at those things. Bright colors. Much detail. You see one captive holding a bag of money and the other holding tightly to each girl’s hand. The father is handing over the precious jewels while the two girls squeeze into his loving embrace. This exchange is the central action that everyone, even the dog, is focused on.

Let’s fill in some of the story with our imagination. Perhaps the ransom requested was $1 million. Imagine the worry that was in the heart of the parents. Now, imagine someone called and said that they could get the parents two other girls for on $25,000. I highly doubt the parents would be interested. They didn’t want any girl—they wanted their girls.

In the world of art, a painting is only as much as someone is willing to pay for it. Millais tried to sell this painting for 1,000 pounds but it turned out no one wanted it. Today, it hangs in a famous museum and is literally worth millions of dollars.

Is your worth dependent on how much someone is willing to pay for you? The Bible tells us “you were bought for a price” (1 Corinthians 6:20). What was that price? What did God pay to ransom you?

Peter says, “…you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold…but with the precious blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:18, 19). God paid the highest price imaginable—his precious Son. Your worth was Jesus’ life, which makes you priceless. 

Being Human connection: Your father welcomes you to come and squeeze into the safety of his embrace.

Featured image: The Ransom, John Everett Millais, 1860-62

More information: The J. Paul Getty Museum says of this work: “The subject matter and technique are typical of the Pre-Raphaelite movement founded by Millais. Although he wanted to express a moral seriousness in his work, the drama is unconvincing: the figures are stiff and too large for the room they inhabit. The Ransom received criticism of this kind when it was exhibited, but no one could find fault with Millais’s painting technique. The sharp, near-photographic rendering of objects, materials, and individuals display Millais’s technical brilliance.

“To produce this painting, Millais enlisted the help of those around him. His mother made and designed the costumes. His friend Mr. Miller posed for the head of the knight, while a railway guard named ‘Strong’ was the model for the knight’s body. The girls were painted from one model, Miss Helen Petrie, and Major McBean posed as one of the kidnappers. Apparently not pleased with the end result, Millais later referred to this painting as ‘the picture with the dreadful blue-and-white page in the corner.'”