The Prodigal Son

1963

Clay. 45 x 45 x 13 cm

The theme of this sculpture is based on a biblical parable   [Luke 15: 11-32].  It is the story of the destitute son who has squandered his inheritance and remorsefully returns to his father who forgives him and welcomes him home,  dressing him in fine robes and holding  a banquet in his honour (slaughtering the  fattened calf).   It is remarkable that Herman Wald did not base his work on the Hebrew Bible, but rather  on the New Testament. Also, in this scene the  prodigal son does not return to his father, but to his mother.  He does not wear tattered clothes but is completely naked. Herman Wald thus   expressed his survivor’s  guilt for leaving his mother  behind before she perished in the Holocaust. The prodigal son, a lean nude male bent in a downward arch,  reaches with outstretched arms to the figure of the standing  mother, his head buried in her womb. His feet are bare, echoing Rembrandt’s  painting by the same title (1669. St Petersburg  Hermitage)  His  soles are turned towards the viewer in remorse. The mother bends over him, but her arms hanging helplessly by her side. This  is an utterly new and original treatment of this perennial theme in Western art. It correlates with Herman Wald’s Returning to Mother’s Womb (Fig. 12).

 © Kaplan Centre

Images reproduced by kind permission of Louis Wald

The Life and Art of

HERMAN WALD

(1906-1970)