Diego Velázquez’s “Christ in the House of Martha and Mary” is a religious painting that depicts an episode from the Gospel of Luke when Christ stops at Martha and Mary’s house. The painting was completed in 1618 during Velázquez’s Seville period, shortly after he finished his apprenticeship with Pacheco. The artwork features Mary listening to Christ while Martha prepares a meal for him.
The painting encourages contemplation over action, suggesting that Mary represents contemplatives who worship without distraction, while Martha stands for those who are dedicated to toil and labor. Notably, the women are depicted as active participants in this religious scene—Martha cooking, and Mary listening intently instead of helping her sister prepare food. Interestingly, it appears that the woman in the foreground crushing garlic in a mortar symbolizes Lent or a fast day.
Despite being enigmatic, “Christ in the House of Martha and Mary” has been subject to iconographic analysis over time. Although scholars cannot precisely interpret its mysterious elements such as objects hanging on the wall or figures depicted from behind, it still remains one of Velázquez’s most beautiful paintings preserved today.