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The painting recalls the 'Parable of the Tares' (Matthew XIII, 24–30), where ‘The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way’. When the weeds grew the man refused to let his servants uproot them for fear of uprooting the wheat too, foreshadowing the Divine Judgment of man by God with the words: ‘In the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn’.
oil on canvas laid on oak panel
H 31 x W 41.8 cm
acquired by Richard Seymour-Conway, 4th Marquess of Hertford, 1867; bequeathed to the nation by Lady Wallace, 1897