Some Met moments

People should go to museums, and think about what they see.

Some time at the Met this afternoon produced some fine moment.

I was rather touched by the following.

Meet Cominia Tyche, a Roman matron from the time of the Emperor Trajan.

"To the spirits of the dead.  Lucius Annius Festus [put this here for] the most saintly Cominia Tyche, his most chaste and loving wife, who lived 27 years, 11 months, and 28 days, and also for himself and for his descendants."

She has the elaborate hair of the wealthy of the period.

Perhaps I was feeling a little sentimental this afternoon.

This Van Gogh also kept me staring for a while.

First steps.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. andreadepauw says:

    As an active student, my productivity changes in nature from the school year to summer vacation, but what I must remember is that it doesn’t become less in quality or quantity.van Gogh’s painting was one visual tool God used to console and teach me this evening. Thank you.

  2. Thomas G. says:

    Cominia’s hair is extraordinary. It must have taken a lot of time for her to get it like that, which just goes to show you how little has changed in the human condition in 2000 years.

    Dead at 27 . . . I wonder what carried her off?

  3. Gail F says:

    I’ve seen some wacky Roman hair before, but that is unique! If I remember correctly, it wouldnt’ have been like a giant, hard afro but flat on the back, sort of like a plate, with her back hair in a bun or knot. Isn’t it something that people are still looking at Cominia all these years later and thinking of her by name, as a chaste and loving spouse, exactly as her husband wanted all those centuries ago?

    The painting is wonderful. I love how you can see that the father just threw the shovel down and dropped to his knees, and how the child is half falling over (exactly as kids walk when they begin, you think they are about to fall any second). Thank you for posting these, and thank you for posting the close-up shots of the painting.

  4. Thomas G. says:

    Correction to my last: there is one difference between now and then indicated by this monument to Cominia Tyche – her husband praises her as “most chaste”. I can’t imagine a contemporary husband putting that on a gravestone for his wife, not because “most chaste” wives are a thing of the past, but because chastity is not something we moderns value anymore. The concept is scarcely even understood nowadays, much less regarded as a virtue.

    A contemporary husband might say his beloved wife was “loving”, “devoted”, “faithful”, etc., but “most chaste”? Most unlikely.

  5. susanna says:

    thank you Fr Z. Nice to start my day with this loving husband and happy family.

  6. AnAmericanMother says:

    Proving once again that extreme hairstyles look dated pretty quickly!

    It seems there was a period when Roman portrait sculptors had just discovered drilling, and went a bit overboard with it . . . .

  7. Christina says:

    Again, evidence that good, meaningful art speaks to all people. She’s centuries old and we know so very little about her, yet despite dated fashion, she and her husband inspire me, with my lazy ponytail. And my family just went through the same stage of learning to walk as the one in the Van Gogh picture. That these have the power to speak to a 21st century (dare I say) young mother and a 21st century priest is truly remarkable.

  8. Maryla says:

    Oh, the love of a father! Doesn’t give a hoot that the little mite is about to flatten his new crop of cabbages…just wants her in his arms for a cuddle. Thanks for sharing this wonderful painting with us, Father.

  9. irishgirl says:

    What a sweet picture! Never seen this VanGogh before.

    And what a strange hairstyle on that Roman lady! Yep, it just goes to tell you: the more things change, the more they stay the same! Probably used some form of curling iron…

    Did you see the painting “Joan of Arc’ by Jules Bastien-LePage, Father Z? It’s in the Met….

  10. pelerin says:

    What a wonderful picture by Van Gogh. I like to think that the mother has just seen her child take his/her first step and wants to share her joy with her husband. A child’s first steps or words are usually only witnessed by its mother.

    I visited Auvers sur Oise a couple of years ago and it was amazing to see the familiar paintings ‘come to life.’ The famous church is still there and on walking up to the cemetery where Van Gogh and his brother are buried the landscape echoed his paintings – vast empty cornfields, stormy sky and crows everywhere. Visitors can see the room where this tortured artist spent his last days and where he died too.

    Love the Roman lady’s hairstyle too. Quite extraordinary!

  11. Eric says:

    Thanks Father.

    The Van Gogh makes me remember that there are more important things than work and “providing for the family” doesn’t just mean putting food on the table.

    My wife and I have been planning a family day at an art museum for several years now. I won’t go to bed this evening until we pick a day.

  12. RichardT says:

    Bad place to choose. Daddy needs to move a bit nearer, otherwise the poor little mite is going to trip up in that trench he’s just dug.

  13. Hieronymus Illinensis says:

    @Thomas G.,

    “…for Cominia Tyche, the most holy, the most chaste wife and to himself the most loving.” Here I think “chaste” means primarily “faithful.”

    My guess is that she died in childbirth. RIP.

  14. AnAmericanMother says:


    Odds are you are correct. A lady nearing 30 in ancient times would be at high risk for complications in childbirth.

    Our family are all ‘late begetters like’, as one of Kipling’s characters said. My grandmother and mom had easy deliveries and no complications — I had easy delivery but postpartum complications. In Roman days I probably would have been dead and buried at 32, hopefully with almost as nice a memorial tablet from a sorrowing husband (and better hair).

  15. q7swallows says:

    Such reflective joy between father and child in the Van Gogh! It immediately brought to mind the Prodigal Son, for some reason . . . . maybe a flashback to a once upon a time . . . . like the joyful sinner, come to his senses at last and ready to stumble-rush into the arms of his loving Father . . . . (sigh!)

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