Millet appreciated the simplicity and beauty of peasant life and labour, and many of his works depict the poor at work in the field and home.
Before Millet, the centre of an artist’s canvas was usually reserved for the heroes of history. Breaking this norm, and understanding the godliness of human labour, Millet gives labourers centre stage and highlights human labour as an opportunity to participate in divine life.
Perhaps the best-known of Millet’s works is the image above known as the Angelus. The scene comes to life easily for those who realise that the distinctive 3,3,3,9, Angelus ring of the distant church bell has prompted these field workers to drop everything at the first chime (as would be their habit), and to begin to pray: “The angel of the Lord declared unto Mary…”
The image is appropriate for today the Fourth Sunday of Advent and Christmas Eve as you can hear in this brief clip.