James Tissot, The Hidden Treasure, 1886–1894. Watercolor over graphite on gray wove paper, Brooklyn Museum.
James Tissot (1836–1902) was born in France to a family of Italian descent. In 1856 he traveled to Paris to study at the École des Beaux-Arts, where he became acquainted with some of the leading artists of the day: James McNeill Whistler, Edgar Degas, and Édouard Manet. After 1885, late in his career, he refocused his artistic energy on his Catholic beliefs and spent the rest of his life painting scenes from the Bible. This work illustrates the parable of the hidden treasure from Matt 13:44-46. To tell the story, Tissot depicts a simple day laborer uncovering a hidden treasure beneath a pile of rocks. As the worker looks around, he covers up the secret treasure. The story is intended to explain the tremendous value in the kingdom of heaven.