Thought provoking elegance, grace and beauty are the hallmarks of a James Christensen work of art, and Ten Lepers is a masterclass in story-telling design. James’ work often focused on taking a moment to pause and reflect on the myriad of miracles that occur around us on a daily basis. Here he happens to use one of Christ’s more recognized miracles to make the same point.
Everything in the painting leads us to the single leper at the moment he truly grasps what has occurred. The background is not monochromatic but progresses from light to dark - left to right - in the same way we in the western world are taught to read, and therefore, observe.
The clothing on the mass of nine lepers serves multiple purposes. Their tattered wrappings suggest what was, until this moment, their illness. Their euphoric chaos not only contradicts the serenity of the lone leper, but also contains numerous directionals driving your eye to the right.
Then, James slams on the brakes.
There is no movement in the tenth leper. He is lighter than the others against the darker background. His clothes hang vertical and static. This peace is easier on our eye than chaos. Our eye rests there. His hands and face are lightest of all. Tassels on his turban and the other lepers point to his hands. His fingers on his hands are spread wide in discovery, his eyes glance off the canvas towards the source of the miracle that has occurred.
James’ message is clear - Take a moment from our fast-paced world to reflect and show gratitude for all you have to be thankful for.
And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God,
And fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks: and he was a Samaritan.
And Jesus answering said, were not there ten cleansed? But where are the nine?
There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger.
And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.