The Woman Taken in Adultery

Horace Pippen, The Woman Taken in Adultery, 1941. Oil on canvas, Collection of Bill and Camille Cosby.

Horace Pippen (1888–1946) was a self-taught African American folk artist. Born just a generation after the abolition of slavery, He often painted themes of injustice and segregation. Pippen came to art after being injured in WWI in order to provide physical therapy for his damaged hand and arm. This composition, with its subject matter taken from the Gospel of John, depicts a woman accused of adultery. The woman kneels in pain as onlookers throw stones. Jesus, shown in purple robes, gestures at the woman, telling the people, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Pippen paints Jesus with skin that is dark compared with the white faces of the others. In so doing, Pippen upsets the conventional social order of the day.

Horace Pippen, The Woman Taken in Adultery, oil on canvas, 1941, Collection of Bill and Camille Cosby.

A gospel is an account that describes the life of Jesus of Nazareth.

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