Atonement original oil painting
Oil on birchwood
11 x 14 inches
The story behind this painting dates back well over a millennium. The Prophet Muhammad (sws) tells the story of a dog who was roaming around a well on the verge of dehydration. A dissolute woman happens to see it. She retrieves water from the well and makes the animal drink. For this, God pardons her of her sins.
Though the trope of a female prostitute may be viewed by us moderns as problematic, e.g., Is the woman really sinful? What about the man who enables and benefits from such a system?, I think the more salient point of the story turns on the idea of silent grace.
The woman’s selfless and pure act, though seemingly small and trivial is what ultimately leads to her salvation. I think the words of George Eliot (from her novel, Middlemarch) sums this up nicely:
“..for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.”