BYU celebrates 20th anniversary of sacred painting

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Carl Bloch’s “Christ Healing the Sick at Bethesda” arrived on campus from Denmark on Sept. 10, 2001. The Museum of Art is celebrating the 20th anniversary of this painting arriving at the museum with a special exhibit. (Melissa Collado)

The Museum of Art is celebrating the 20th anniversary of a sacred and cherished painting’s arrival on campus.

On Sept. 10, 2001, just one day before the terrorist attacks of 9/11, Carl Bloch’s, “Christ Healing the Sick at Bethesda” arrived on campus from Denmark.

Bloch was commissioned to make this altar piece to represent the mission of the Bethesda Indre Mission. The Inner Mission in Copenhagen was a home providing shelter and refuge for those who needed spiritual and temporal help.

Later, funds were wanted to help the home’s mission shift from spiritual to more temporal healing for the community, so the painting was sold to BYU’s Museum of Art through two generous donors, Jack and Mary Lois Wheatley.

“Christ Healing the Sick at Bethesda” was the only painting of Carl Bloch’s to leave Denmark and required approval from the Danish government before it was sold. “It was a miracle in itself that it made it here and was not held up due to the [9/11] attacks” Robert Wheatley, the son of the museum donor said.

This painting has been a cornerstone for BYU campus. It was “intended to be a thesis statement for what our museum is about. [It shows] what we have to offer to the campus community and the students” Museum of Art student educator Joseph Rowley said.

The Museum of Art curated a special exhibit to celebrate the painting’s 20th year on campus. The new exhibit includes the addition of the original gold-leafed frame and cross. The exhibit also has a timeline of Carl Bloch’s life, information on the donor family and a place to reflect, share insights and memories of the painting.  

Part of the exhibit included a reflection wall where individuals could write their thoughts and put it on the wall. One anonymous reflection said “The painting was made at the moment of anticipation of the miracle to be performed, not at the miracle itself. For each of us, it is a reminder of the anticipated moments in our lives of waiting for answers to prayer or miracles in our lives that eventually will come.”

This painting embodies the empathy, mercy, and gentleness of Jesus Christ. Although it was not specifically commissioned for a Latter-day Saint audience, it has brought peace and healing to BYU’s campus for the last 20 years, This painting embodies the empathy, mercy, and gentleness of Jesus Christ. Although it was not specifically commissioned for a Latter-day Saint audience, it has brought peace and healing to BYU’s campus for the last 20 years, Ashlee Whitaker, head curator of the Museum of Art said.

“This painting allows us to take a look into the past, appreciate the present and anticipate the future. My invitation is to take a moment to sit and reflect and actually gain the benefit of having inspired artwork here on campus,” Whitaker said.

Four ways to interact with the “Waters at Bethesda” exhibit. (Made with Canva by Caroline Clark)

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