From Colonial America To El Camino Real — The Great American Heritage Grains Adventure, April 2017 (Part 2)

This blog is a continuation of a series on my (Richard's) trip across the country visiting important sites related to heritage and landrace grain studies. View the other posts in the series here.

Hillwood Estate Museum, Ann McClellan, Interpreter

We’re big breakfast cereal lovers at the Scheuerman household! I still enjoy a good bowl of Post Grape Nuts or Toasties Corn Flakes, though I wish they would cut down on the sugar. I had some vague memory of the Post family’s association with Post cereals. C. W. Post was a man of humble origins and a passion for healthy living who built the Postum Cereal Company into a substantial empire. After he passed away in 1914, his only child and heir, Marjorie Meriwether Post, took over the family enterprise and transformed it into the General Foods Corporation and a host of other related concerns. In the 1930s Marjorie lived in Moscow as the wife of the U. S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union, Joseph Davies. She became fascinated by Slavic culture and began collecting treasures from Russia’s Imperial Age as many tsarist objects and works of art were sold at auction by the Soviet government in order to obtain hard currency. Ms. Post had special interest in Catherine the Great and was among the few who could afford the finest pieces which began the vast collection at her Hillwood estate west of Washington, D. C. She arranged to have the mansion and its treasures donated to the nation upon her death in the 1970s.

Russian Empress Catherine the Great (1729-1796) commissioned a breathtaking project to transform a vast area near the summer palace at Tsarskoe Selo (Pavlovsk), the “Tsar’s Village” west of St. Petersburg, into an allegorical landscape shaped by her conception of this Russian rural idyll. She found in Orthodox priest and agronomist Andrei Samborsky (1732-1815) a teacher with the proper background to tutor her grandsons and a small circle of privileged classmates like Prince Alexander Golitsyn. After graduating from the Kiev Academy in 1765, Samborsky had studied agriculture in England and served as chaplain at the Russian Embassy in London, married an Englishwoman, and returned to Russia to begin tutoring the Russian dukes in religion and natural science in 1782.

Buch Chalice with Gold Wheat Stem; presented by Catherine the Great to Nevsky Cathedral, 1791

Buch Chalice with Gold Wheat Stem; presented by Catherine the Great to Nevsky Cathedral, 1791

Hillwood’s Imperial Palace Service and Furnishings from Pushkin, Russia

Hillwood’s Imperial Palace Service and Furnishings from Pushkin, Russia

With the Empress’s support, Samborsky formulated plans for an Imperial Farm and School of Practical Agriculture on a thousand acres adjacent to Tsarskoe Selo which became an important state institution devoted to the improvement of crop and livestock production and farm management. An engraving from the time shows Samborsky plowing with an improved English implement as his distinguished Order of St. Vladimir medal hangs from a nearby tree. Open land in the vicinity was sown to wheat, rye, pasture grass, and other crops while workers labored nearby in the 1780s on Pavlovsk, the splendid summer palace of Catherine’s son, Paul I, and from 1792 to 1796 on his son’s Neoclassical residence, the Alexander Palace. The first structure built at Pavlovsk was the open air Temple to Ceres (later Catherine’s Concert Hall, 1780) by the empress’s favored architect Charles Cameron (1745-1812), a colonnaded Doric rotunda that originally contained a statue of Catherine as Ceres and painted panel An Offering to Ceres.

The Imperial Farm originally constructed from 1828 to 1830 featured buildings of Tudor Gothic country style designed by Scottish architect Adam Menelaws (c. 1750-1831) with a single story Cottage Palace built nearby as an izba containing rooms for visiting members of the imperial family. Outbuildings included a stone barn, stables, granary, and dairy, and a kitchen redesigned in 1841 to serve as a Grand Ducal School. The cottage was expanded to three floors in 1859 with the addition of bedrooms, and dining and drawing rooms to become the ocher-colored Farm Palace which Alexander II (1818-1881) used as the family’s preferred summer residence for the rest his life. When time permitted, Alexander especially enjoyed his Blue Study which displayed favored paintings of rural scenes and fine bindings, and where he signed the Emancipation of the Serfs decree in 1861.


Mt. Vernon National Historic Site

“I hope, some day or another, we shall become a storehouse and granary for the world.”  --George Washington, letter to Marquis de Lafayette, June 19, 1788

The great Business of the Continent is Agriculture.” --Benjamin Franklin, “The Internal State of America,” c. 1790

“I am never satiated with rambling through the fields and farms, examining culture and cultivators, with a degree of curiosity which makes some take me to be a fool, and others to be much wiser than I am.” --Thomas Jefferson to Marquis de Lafayette, April 11, 1787


I had day of splendid Virginia sunshine for the short drive from Washington, D. C., down to Washington’s Mt. Vernon estate overlooking the Potomac River where I made arrangements to visit the park’s living history farm and the nation’s most recently presidential library—the spectacular Smith Library for the Study of George Washington. Prior to leading freedom’s cause in the Revolutionary War, Washington first leased Mt. Vernon after the death of his half-brother, Lawrence, in 1754, and obtained full title in 1761 upon his sister-in-law’s death. Washington significantly expanded his holdings to 8,000 acres through acquisitions of Mansion Farm, Ferry Farm, Dogue Run Farm, Muddy Hole Farm, and River Farm. He began experimenting with various kinds of crop varieties in the late 1780s in order to move from tobacco to grain production in order to eliminate reliance on slave labor and in to improve the land’s fertility. My very helpful host was Lisa Pregent, who manages Mt. Vernon’s Living History Farm, where our Palouse Heritage Scots Bere barley will once again be growing after an absence of over two hundred years!

Mt. Vernon National Historic Site and Living History Farm, Lisa Pregent, Farm Manager, holding Palouse Heritage Scots Bere Barley Seed

Mt. Vernon National Historic Site and Living History Farm, Lisa Pregent, Farm Manager, holding Palouse Heritage Scots Bere Barley Seed

; and George Washington’s Restored Octagonal Threshing Barn

; and George Washington’s Restored Octagonal Threshing Barn

I continued down the winding road about five miles through the sparsely populated countryside to the recently rebuilt George Washington Gristmill and Distillery. (Someday soon they’d also like to reconstruct his farmhouse.) I arrived right at 5 PM closing time and the place was about empty, so thought my chances of any kind of guided tour were slim. But I was pleased when Head Miller Cory Welshans emerged along the lane leading to the mill with an inviting smile that seemed to say, “I’ll spare time for anybody with information about George Washington’s original grain culture.” And indeed he did show me around the grounds and invited me to return on my trip back from Williamsburg to meet Historic Trades Manager Sam Murphy.

Cory Welshans, Head Miller

Cory Welshans, Head Miller

Sam Murphy, Historic Trades Manager

Sam Murphy, Historic Trades Manager

In no tribute to my time management skills, I did return but this time a few minutes after closing hours though Sam and the milling team could not have been more accommodating to my interests. I got a grand tour of all three stories of the operating mill and found Sam, like Cory, to be a storehouse of knowledge and very interested the old White Virginia May wheat for milling and Scots Bere barley for both milling and brewing.

Mt. Vernon National Historic Site Gristmill and Distillery

Mt. Vernon National Historic Site Gristmill and Distillery


Sam provided some valued insights into Washington’s agricultural know-how and business savvy:

"President Washington did many things as a political and military leader, but here we really emphasize George Washington the agricultural entrepreneur. He led the transition from tobacco to grain culture in this region and built the two-story octagonal threshing barn based on a European design that reduced his loss to soil and sky by traditional methods from 20% to less than 10%. He also experimented with new grains from Europe and Asia, and installed the first Oliver Evans stone milling and silk-sifting equipment in the country. The reconstruction here is the only one of its kind presently operating.

"Washington developed a very lucrative milling business by vertically integrating his operations. He raised high quality milling grains for that time and installed sophisticated silk-sieve sifting equipment to separate the flour into three products—superfine white flour for the best bread and pastry flour, middlings with the bran and endosperm, and “ship stuff” for making hardtack or sea biscuit. He traded considerable grain to Caribbean markets for rum which he sold here in the Colonies, and also used those profits to import goods from China. So he was into global trade and vertical business integration long before those terms became fashionable."

Thanks again, Lisa, Corey, and Sam, and I can’t wait to see these Early American grains once again flourishing where they did in the time of our Founding Farmers!


Williamsburg, Virginia

I continued to the southeast on my rental car expedition for some 170 miles via Richmond to Colonial Williamsburg, America’s famed and meticulously restored 18th century community with generous support from the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. family. I was invited to meet with Ed Schultz and Wayne Randolf who have managed Great Hopes Plantation there and who have been wanting to restore the period’s authentic grain culture to the farm. I found them to be very gracious hosts and incredibly knowledgeable regarding Early American agricultural history. Various Williamsburg museums and libraries also contained works relevant to my “Hallowed Harvests” study.

Great Hopes Plantation Rye Field, Ed Schultz, Journeyman Farmer

Great Hopes Plantation Rye Field, Ed Schultz, Journeyman Farmer

William Prentis Store Field

William Prentis Store Field

What’s more, I hadn’t dined at the King’s Arms Tavern since first visiting Williamsburg with my wife, Lois, our parents, and my sister Debbie in the 1970s. I was pleased to find the same colonial era wines, savory pot pies, and desserts on the menu that we found back then. Today, however, some craft ales said to be based on old recipes had been added to the mix.

King’s Arms Tavern Marquis, Colonial Williamsburg

King’s Arms Tavern Marquis, Colonial Williamsburg

But I really knew I was where I was supposed to be after checking in late at night to the Quarterpath Inn and finding a framed print of this work by the French artist Jean Millet that I had been writing about in “Hallowed Harvests” hanging above my bed. Below it are some lines I composed about its significance.

Jean Millet,  Harvesters Resting  (1854)

Jean Millet, Harvesters Resting (1854)

Millet sought to paint “pictures that mattered” and the work he considered his masterpiece, Harvesters Resting—Ruth and Boaz (1857), earned the artist his first medal and is among very few paintings he explicitly based on a biblical theme. The canvas bathes Millet’s aesthetic mission in a spiritually charged golden pink light that merges appreciation of nature with faith, while the complex composition reflects associations with precedents like Breughel’s The Harvesters. In this monumental idyll, Millet reinterprets biblical Ruth and Boaz with contemporary relevance in clothing and setting to illustrate the mutual respect born of her courage and his benevolence. A jarring disparity is expressed between rustic peasant piety and privation.

Painting from a carefully moderated palette of soft tones, Millet clothes Ruth in blue, the symbolic color of purity typically seen in Renaissance portrayals of Mary, the mother of Jesus. The artist almost certainly intended this in accordance with Boaz’s proclamation that Ruth be known as a woman of excellence. Boaz presents her to his laborers, most of whom recline and eat their fill from a communal dish while Ruth clings to her grain as if she were protecting a child. She is vulnerable, excluded, and poor—like those who exist on the margins of society in any age. Yet a man of means shows uncommon compassion and chooses her to be a member of his household and offers promise of a new life.

The pithy sayings and light-hearted verse that made Benjamin Franklin’s Almanack a best-seller in Colonial and Early America reflects his creed regarding liberty of persons as a “key freedom” so Americans could own property and enjoy the fruits of their labor in the philosophic tradition of John Locke and John Milton. But in Franklin’s views, such freedom should have reasonable limits since unrestrained personal liberty could transform into licentiousness that threatened the public good through radically unequal distribution of wealth. While touring Scotland and Ireland in 1771, diplomat Franklin had seen firsthand the widespread abject poverty of the countryside which he attributed to absentee landlords and exploitive farming practices. Franklin proposed an amendment to the Pennsylvania constitution of 1776 to limit the large concentrations of farmland and other property which he believed would be “destructive to the Common Happiness of Mankind.”

Keep Within the Compass    Print   (Carrington & Bowles, 1784)

Keep Within the Compass Print (Carrington & Bowles, 1784)

Agrarian toil was likewise associated with moral wellbeing in Early America. The popular Keep the Compass allegorical broadsides, printed in England with separate versions for young men and women, depicted the benefits of proper behavior and hard work. Colorful scenes around a draftsman’s compass show the perils of vice beyond the instrument, while a harvest scene and church steeple inside represent keys to success symbolized by a sack of treasure. “KEEP WITHIN COMPASS AND YOU SHALL BE SURE,” the poster admonishes, “TO AVOID MANY TROUBLES OTHERS ENDURE.“

Stay tuned for the next installment of this blog series on Richard's "Great American Heritage Grains Adventure."

Richard's trip has been made possible by generous support from The Carolina Gold Foundation, Anson Mills and Glenn Roberts, Seattle Pacific University, the University of California-Riverside Department of History, and Palouse Heritage.

Sickles and Sheaves — Farming, Faith, and the Frye (Part 6)

This blog post is part of a series I (Richard) am writing about my past life experiences that helped develop a love and appreciation for agricultural heritage in general and landrace grains in particular. The series is called "Sickles and Sheaves - Farming, Faith, and the Frye" and you can view the other parts of this blog series here.

Trinity Belfry and Sanctuary (c. 1960)

Trinity Belfry and Sanctuary (c. 1960)

Construction of our substantial Trinity Lutheran Church built in 1949 was based on Old World Northern European ecclesiastical design by Edwin W. Molander (1901-1983). The Spokane architect had received prominent regional commissions for Northwest churches and public buildings that reflected his distinctive blend of traditional and modern features characterized by exposed rough-hewn timbers, natural stone, and decorative carvings. A regnant color scheme of Prussian blue, turquoise, and umber with gold filigree and trim was used throughout the vaulted sanctuary and an attached cloister porch featured a substantial frieze of carved wooden panels depicting the life of Christ in symbols and Latin monograms. One approached the church’s main arched entry as if gently entering hallowed space.

The schedule of Pastor Fred Schnaible’s lectionary readings—presented weekly in both German and English, featured associations of such ancient Jewish harvest festivals as the First Fruits “wave offering” of barley sheaves and Feast of Harvest Ingathering with Early Church commemorations of Easter and the Transfiguration of Christ. Pastor Schnaible safeguarded the church’s remarkable library of rare books contributed by his predecessors including a massive volume by Christian Hebraist Johannen Lund (1638-1686) on the Old Testament offerings, Die Alten Jüdischen Heiligthümer, Gottesdienste und Gewohnheitenbound (The Old Jewish Shrines, Worship and Customs). The book, printed in 1701, was bound in vellum and lavishly illustrated with woodcuts by the German engraver Johann W. Michaelis of many biblical scenes related to ancient pastoral and agrarian traditions. Pastor Schnaible learned of local farmer and church member Walter Scholtz’s special skill as a calligrapher and prevailed upon him for years to inscribe countless confirmation certificates and other church documents in his distinct Old World script of red and black with gold embellishments that have become treasured works of art in their own right.

Plan of the Camps of the Children of Israel and Gathering of Manna    (detail);   J. W. Michaelis (engraver) and Johannen Lund (author);    Die Alten Jüdischen Heiligthümer, Gottesdienste und Gewohnheiten    (1701);   Ames Library Archives, Seattle Pacific University

Plan of the Camps of the Children of Israel and Gathering of Manna (detail); J. W. Michaelis (engraver) and Johannen Lund (author); Die Alten Jüdischen Heiligthümer, Gottesdienste und Gewohnheiten (1701); Ames Library Archives, Seattle Pacific University

Weekly worship services at Trinity featured “All Praise the God of Harvest” (“… with head and heart and voice. All praise the God of harvest; creation all rejoice”) and “Where Are the Reapers” (“sheaves of good, sickles of truth”) choir cantatas and hymns as well as sermon texts from Ruth about barley gleanings and her Kinsman Redeemer, Boaz. Our old brown hymnal featured considerable music of classical origin including John Galloway’s “Lord of the Harvest, Thee We Hail,” based a Franz Haydn tune from his 1798 oratorio Creation. Architect Molander’s majestic panels also included broad window base panels displaying carved grain sheaves as if homage to pre-literate medieval times when clerics valued visual expressions of biblical history and spiritual truths in cathedrals and chapels throughout Europe. We heard Psalms on “abundant wheat throughout the land” (72:16), prophetic words on nations giving up war and beating “swords into ploughshares and their spears into scythes” (Isaiah 2:6), and the weekly-sung offertory: “Gather a harvest from the seeds that were sown, that we may be fed with the bread of life….” Jesus’ familiar parables told of grain seed, bushel baskets, sickles, and harvest—these in the fourth chapter of Mark’s Gospel alone. 

Ancient Grains & Harvests (Part 4)

This blog post is part of a series that I (Richard) am writing about grain and agricultural themes in classic art. The research I am sharing here will contribute to a new book that will soon be published under the title Hallowed Harvests. You can read other posts in this series here.

Sacred Ways and Field Labors

Recent studies of earthenware ostracha from the fortress of Arad near the Dead Sea discovered in the 1960s date to approximately 600 BC during the reign of King Jehoiakim (II Kings 24) and reveal the prevalence of grain, flour, and bread deliveries along with wine and oil to the remotest desert reaches of the Kingdom of Judah. Written in ancient Hebrew using the Aramaic alphabet, these pottery shards served as vouchers presented to the commander to issue supplies from the fort’s storehouses. The Prophet Ezekiel served as a priest among the Jewish exiles to Babylon during this period and makes specific reference to wheat, emmer, barley, lentils, and other crops (e.g., 4:16, 5:16) in the context of early references to the “staff of bread,” which was life’s great sustainer in the ancient world. Basic units of common linear measurement owe their origin to grain; as the length of two barley kernels represented the Old Testament “finger-breadth” of three-tenths of an inch, twenty-four were an eight-inch “span,” and forty-eight a “cubit” of sixteen inches.

Anglican scholar-priest Rev. Philip Carrington (1892-1975), Metropolitan of Canada, undertook extensive study on the relationship between the first century arrangement of Mark’s gospel into a lectionary series that relates the ancient Jewish ritual year and Galilean lunar agricultural cycle to key events in the life of Christ. Carrington proposes that this sequence of Christ’s public Galilean ministry—the culmination of his life on earth, involving the Feeding of the Five Thousand, Seed-time and Harvest Parables, and other agrarian-related discourses and happenings significantly shaped the “Primitive Christian Calendar” that in turn gave rise to the Early Church’s liturgical calendar. 

In commentary on Mark’s culminating New Testament message of resurrection, Carrington writes of the “mystical and symbolical way of thought which was natural to men at that time, and found expression in art and poetry and ritual and drama and religion. In the springtime life returns from the underworld in leaves and grasses and flowers; when the harvest comes, it is cut down in the shape of fruit and grain; it dies, but it will come again. Such is the destiny of man. Old Nature, who is the mother of mankind, reflects on her many-coloured drama on the destiny of her divine son. Such is the truth that underlies the old way of thought.” Carrington concludes that the culture of the disciples was connected to the old festivals, and that their memories “would tend to arrange themselves in the order of the Calendar Year; and seeing that the Lord chose to express himself in these surroundings in the terms of the old agricultural and festal mysticism. And, if so, we may ourselves enter into the tradition and gain some understanding of it, not merely by literary and critical study along these lines, but by passing through the devotional course of the Christian Year, as it has come down to us in the Church.”

Agricultural laws that guided ancient Hebrew spiritual and civil life are described in the third century AD Mishnaic collection of oral traditions and include blessings for foods and landowner obligations to provide produce for the Levites of the temple, priests, and the poor. In a medieval commentary on Jewish piety, Hokhmat ha-Nefesh, Rabbi Elezar Ben Judah of Worms (c. 1126-1238) celebrated the Hebrew agrarian ideal: “God created the world so all should live in pleasantness, that all shall be equal, that one should not lord over the other, and that all may cultivate the land.” Faith-based perspectives on creation stewardship were expressed by 16th century French theologian John Calvin: “The custody of the garden was given in charge to Adam, to show that we possess the things which God has committed to our hands, on the condition that… we should take care of what remains. Let him who possesses a field, so partake of its yearly yield, that he may not suffer the ground to be injured by his negligence, but let him endeavor to hand it down to posterity as he received it, or even better cultivated.”

Correlation of Ancient Ritual and Agricultural Calendars with Crop Sequences,   GC: Gezer Calendar, HR: Hebrew Ritual, PC: Primitive Christian

Correlation of Ancient Ritual and Agricultural Calendars with Crop Sequences, GC: Gezer Calendar, HR: Hebrew Ritual, PC: Primitive Christian

American Country Life Movement leader Liberty Hyde Bailey elaborated on this ethic in his 1915 classic, The Holy Earth: “If God created the earth, so is the earth hallowed; and if it is hallowed, so must we deal with it devotedly and with care that we do not despoil it….. We are to consider it religiously: ‘Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.’ …I do not mean all this, for our modern world, in any vague or abstract way. If the earth is holy, then the things that grow out of the earth are also holy.” A landowner’s obligation as steward of the earth’s bounty also extended to the less fortunate. One of the earliest biblical references to gleaning (Leviticus 23:22) appears in instructions on the principal Hebrew feasts and ritual thank offering (Todah) of the first grain harvest sheaves to be waved and presented to the priests: “And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, nor shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner.” From these and related Mosaic references (e.g. Deuteronomy 24:19), Jewish laws developed that were fundamentally different than prevailing customs in Egypt, Greece, Rome, and elsewhere in the ancient Mediterranean world where such rights were not extended to the poor. These customs guided the process of gleaning, a practice that still continues in some rural areas of Syria, Lebanon, and elsewhere in the Middle East. (English “glean” is from Anglo-French glener, “to collect, gather,” a word derived from Latin glennāre which is probably of Celtic origin.)

Old Testament prohibitions of representational art influenced the rich expression of literary imagery in Hebrew literature. While Greek aesthetics were occupied with spatial unity and static forms of sculpture, the Hebrew mind understood God as the ideal so such literature often incorporates mixed metaphors for more tactile expressions of meaning, often in the context of agrarian experience that marked the seasons with times and festivals for planting, harvest, threshing, and winnowing. One of the finest examples is the c. 10th century BC story of Ruth which relates her rescue by a kinsman-redeemer, Boaz, after her travels to the land of her mother-in-law, Naomi, in the aftermath of famine in Israel. The author’s imagery is as much about Hebrew culture as theological doctrine, and forthrightly describes the women’s sojourn, fidelity, and redemption amidst opening scenes that follow the workers’ harvest: “And Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, ‘Let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain after him in whose sight I shall find favor.” And she said to her, ‘Go, my daughter.’ So she set out and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers, and she happened to come to the part of field belonging to Boaz...” (Ruth 2:2-3).

Crusader (Maciejowski) Bible (c. 1240s); illuminated vellum, 15 ⅓ x 11 ⅘ inches;   Left: Folio 6— An Ironic Turn of Events  (Genesis 42), with Joseph supplying his brothers with grain (top right);   Center: Folio 12— Gideon, Most Valiant of Men  (Judges 6), with Gideon threshing wheat (bottom left);   Right: Folio 17— Ruth Meets Boaz  (Ruth 2), with reapers cutting grain followed by Ruth gleaning (top right);   The Pierpont Morgan Library and Museum, New York

Crusader (Maciejowski) Bible (c. 1240s); illuminated vellum, 15 ⅓ x 11 ⅘ inches; Left: Folio 6—An Ironic Turn of Events (Genesis 42), with Joseph supplying his brothers with grain (top right); Center: Folio 12—Gideon, Most Valiant of Men (Judges 6), with Gideon threshing wheat (bottom left); Right: Folio 17—Ruth Meets Boaz (Ruth 2), with reapers cutting grain followed by Ruth gleaning (top right); The Pierpont Morgan Library and Museum, New York

Early Modern Woodcuts of Ruth and Boaz;   Left to right: Gerard de Jode (1585); Mattias Scheits and François Halma (1710);   Palouse Regional Studies Collection

Early Modern Woodcuts of Ruth and Boaz; Left to right: Gerard de Jode (1585); Mattias Scheits and François Halma (1710); Palouse Regional Studies Collection

Beneath the familiar tale rests a complex doubling motif in theme and between poor and rich, women and men, and threshing and waiting. The interplay is evident throughout the narrative and poetic couplets to amplify the contrast between destitution and bounty. The famine experienced by Naomi and her family was in Bethlehem—literally “House of Bread,” but her sons perish in Moab, the land of bounty. Divine deliverance is timeless and confounds human reason. Cereal provisions were an important indication of blessing. Wheat (hittim) and barley (s’orim) breads likely made up almost half of the Hebrew diet and was served in some form at virtually every meal that also may have featured parched or boiled grains in mixtures with fruits and in gruels. The ubiquity of wholesome grains in Ruth throughout the Bible speaks of their nutritional, intellectual, and spiritual significance in Hebrew culture. Harvest time happenings, familiar to most any inhabitant of Moab or Judah, provide the context for lessons on how God provides deliverance to the ordinary faithful in a world of injustice and chaos.

The short four-chapter book’s timeless theme of redemption from deprivation and distress to promise of new life has inspired generations of believers, authors, and artists with styles ranging from the Baroque formalism of Barent Pietersz Fabritius to Marc Chagall’s richly flowing Surrealism. An early 14th century Jewish prayer book from Germany illustrates Ruth’s story in lush gold, red, and blue tones. Although the scene depicts the grain rakes, threshing flails, and clothing of medieval Europe, it faithfully depicts Boaz’s care and the blessing of the harvest. Thomas Rooke’s idealist 19th century interpretation shows the couple and Naomi as they might have appeared in the garb of ancient times, but other renderings like Jean-François Millet’s evocative Harvesters Resting (1850) are cast in settings of the artists’ lifetimes to suggest the ancient story’s abiding relevance.