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Connecting art and faith: Dies V, from the Creation of the World

Jan H. Muller (Dutch, 1571-1628) after Hendrick Goltzius
Dies V, from The Creation of the World, 1589
Engraving, 10 7/16 inches, diameter

Creatures of land and sea fly and swim, swoop and gather around a beautifully strong figure with hair made of seashells. Reclining in the watery foreground, she is held above the churning water with the help of sea creatures while narwhals, turtles, varied crustaceans and fishes all multiply before her gaze. It seems as though the rolling waves are producing endless numbers of marine animals.

The focus here is the abundance of God’s creatures. The sky brings winds of flying birds, and lions and a stag saunter forth from cliffs of land. We see God’s endless array of newly formed beings on the fifth day of Creation.

This engraving is from a set of images depicting God’s Creation of the World as described in the first chapter of Genesis. The series was designed by leading master of Dutch printmaking Hendrick Goltzius and includes an image for each of the six days of Creation. Genesis 1 tells that humankind appeared on the sixth, and final, day of Creation. Here, the artist includes this human figure as a personification of the sea.

Throughout the series, allegorical figures represent the fundamental elements God generated to compose the world. Light and dark, heaven and earth, land and sea are manifest as idealized, Romanesque figures who help usher forth the generous plenty of Earth’s formation. Such an idea is beautifully suited to the highly allegorical and poetic language of Scripture. The circular shape of the engravings in this series echoes the spherical shape of the earth itself.

Viewing this image offers a perspective akin to visually entering the pages of Scripture, almost as though we are peering through a telescope to glimpse the majestic opus that is Creation. This imaginatively composed scene reminds us of the power of religious art to make Scripture come to life and helps make visual in our hearts things we feel and believe.

Appreciating and being immersed in nature is a gift we have been given to sense the unfathomable complexity and magnificence of God.

Joanna Reiling Lindell is the director and curator of the Thrivent Art Collection(

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What aspects of nature and God’s Creation are you excited to experience this summer?