James Tissot, The Prodigal Son in Modern Life: The Return (1882)
National Gallery of Art, Washington DC
Oh my! He’s back.
Well, I never thought we’d see him again.
Look at the state of him, and the smell…
has he been sleeping with those cattle?
Rags and tatters, dirt engrained in every line and crease
and his nails! Look at the colour of his nails!
Oh my! This is so shameful.
My father-in-law clutching him like that,
holding on for dear life.
Look, his hat has fallen to the floor.
Well he can’t wear that again.
It’ll be filthy from whatever has passed along these docks.
Oh my! I wonder what James is thinking.
So still beside me. So smart and upright and distinguished.
Like his father was… once.
Before this dreadful scene.
I wonder what he’s thinking.
He’s not said a word since we got here this morning
but I know he’s got something on his mind.
I mean, it all seems so terribly unfair.
To be making all this fuss over his return.
Oh my! Will he ever stop muttering that he’s sorry?
He should never have gone in the first place,
squandering away his inheritance on goodness knows what.
But we’ve heard the stories and if even a tenth of them are true…
All those tears don’t wash with me,
nor dear James, I’ll warrant.
He can repent all he likes.
It doesn’t wash with me.