The Prodigal Son
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).