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A collection of marble sculptures called the
“Jonah Group” is now on display at the Cleveland
Art Museum. “Jonah Swallowed, Jonah Cast Up, Jonah
Praying, Jonah Under the Gourd Vine, and The Good
Shepherd,” are the separate titles for each of the
different statues depicting events in the Bible
story. They are part of the John L. Severance
Fund; numbered 1965.237, .238, .239, .240, .241
respectively. The “Jonah Group” was created in
Asia minor, approximately 270 to 280 AD. These
statues most likely decorated the water fountain
in a wealthy private home.

This visual Analysis
focuses on “Jonah Cast Up.” “Jonah Cast Up,” this
sculpture portrays the miraculous event of Jonah
being spit out of the Whale. It consists of a
strangely shaped whale lying on its stomach. The
whale arches its back so that the curvy tail
twists up over its head. Shooting out of the
whale’s mouth is Jonah. He is halfway out head
first with his arms outstretched straight above
his head. The figures rest on a rectangle base
that is roughly 3 inches tall and approximately a
square foot in area.

The whole sculpture is 15
inches tall, 16 inches long, and 81/2 inches wide.
The Jonah figure is missing a left hand which has
broken off over time. It is a statue showing
action and movement by the way Jonah is being cast
up and out of the whale’s mouth. The sculpture, as
all of “The Jonah Group,” is constructed of white
marble from Roman Imperial quarries in Ancient
Phrygia. Having been unearthed from a large pithos
in central turkey, nearly fifty percent of the
sculpture’s surface remains covered with a thin
layer of light brown dirt or dust. The surface is
so smoothly shaped that the stone looks soft to
the touch. Under an outdoor fountain, the wet
statue would have a brilliant white shine.

figure of Jonah has a well proportioned, muscular,
upper body sculpted resembling a Greek God. He has
a full beard and wavy flowing hair. In this
sculpture, only his top half is visible, and he is
not wearing a tunic. His arms are outstretched
above his head palms open flat, as if thrusting
his way up out of the beast. He seems completely
uninjured, and his face shows little anxiety
considering his situation. His eyes are open and
appear to be gazing off to the horizon as if he is
already planning where to begin his new life of
servitude to the Lord.

The Whale is formed out of
a variety of different animal parts. Most
noticeably is the shape of its head. It was given
a pig head shape, pig snout, and pig ears. It has
sharp, vicious looking dog teeth, a dog mouth, and
nose. A spiked mane runs down the back of its neck
beginning between its large, perked forward ears.
The Whale was given dog legs and paws. It also has
feathery angel wings.

The rear half of the body
resembles a whale except for being too slender and
for having too many curves in its tail. The tail
gives it a scary, evil quality as it twists back
and forth like a snake. On the end of the tail is
an true whale fluke. The Whale is positioned on
its stomach with fins propping it up on either
side. Its eyes are blank and do not give any
personality. In the “Jonah Group,” a Hellenistic
style is noticed in Jonah’s wavy hair, Zeus-like
beard, and Roman tunics.

There is much early
Christian symbolism in this piece. Jonah swallowed
and cast up possibly represents the death and
resurrection of Christ. In the Bible story Jonah
is not a strong fearless man. Instead he foolishly
attempts to flee from God on a ship. But after he
was trapped in the belly of a whale, he prayed
there for three days and nights, the artist gives
him a stern and fearless disposition coming back
out. The Whale, as like most mythical animals in
the Bible, is composed of a variety of animal
parts to add to its religious symbolism.

Jonah was
not swallowed on accident, but instead God had a
specific plan and test for Jonah and so the Whale
seems to have been specially created by Him.

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