PICTURES OF THE BIBLE  © Serge Ceruti and Gérard  Dufour 2008






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The miraculous Draught of Fishes; Gustave DORÉ; 1865; engraving from “The Holy Bible”



On the Lake : The miraculous Draught of Fishes





A fishing-boat, men hauling a net overflowing with fish; the catch is exceptional, even “miraculous”.

In the background, a man is standing on the shore but so close to the water in this picture that one can hesitate. He is looking at the scene. One of the fishermen has just seen him and turns towards him.

When Jesus is standing on the shore, it is an illustration of St John’s narrative. The risen Christ appears and Peter recognizes him as if the catch were a sign.

One can sometimes see Peter step over the edge of the boat or walk along the shore to meet Jesus; hence a possible confusion with “Jesus walking on the Water”.

When Jesus is in the boat, it refers to Luke’s gospel. The emphasis bears less on Christ than on the catch whose fish swell the net that the men find it difficult to lift.

It should not be confused with


Quite a number of narratives in the Gospel take place on Lake Tiberias, a real interior sea with its storms, its boats and its fishermen, among them several apostles, Simon Peter in particular. All these representations have in common a fishing-boat on the lake.



St Peter is walking on the Water; Lluis BORRASSà; 1411-13; tempera on wood; Sant Pere, Tarrasa, Spain

Web Gallery of Art


Jesus walks on the Water

Wanting to imitate Jesus who is calling him, Peter tries to walk on the water, but sinks and holds out his hand towards Christ who rescues him. The boat is full of fish but this is another subject.

(See Jesus walks on the Water)


The Calling of the Apostles Peter and Andrew; DUCIO di Buoninsegna; 1308-11; tempera on panel; National Gallery of Art, Washington

Web Gallery of Art


The Calling of the Apostles Peter and Andrew represents a boat and some fishermen. They are in their fishing-boat and they cast their net into the lake. Jesus is on the shore and calls them but, this time, the catch of fish is “normal”.


 Jésus endormi pendant la tempête; Julius SCHORR von CAROLSFELD;
 gravure 1851; extrait de la "Bible en Images"

World Mission Collection


The stilled storm

A fishing-boat is violently rocked by a strong storm on the lake; Jesus who was asleep stills the storm.

See the Stilled Storm





The miraculous Draught of Fishes; Gustave DORÉ; 1865; engraving from “The Holy Bible”



On the Lake : The miraculous Draught of Fishes

The Gospel according to John, chapter 21

After his death and resurrection, “Jesus showed himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias” (21:1).

At night, the apostles go fishing but do not catch any fish; in the morning, Jesus whom they have not recognised, is on the shore.

Then Jesus said to them, Children, have you any food? They answered him, No. And he said to them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and you shall find some. They cast the net, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fish. Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, It is the Lord. Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his fisher's coat, (for he was naked,) and threw himself into the sea. (John 21:5-7)

Another scene of a miraculous catch of fish is to found in the Gospel according to Luke, chapter 5.

And he got into one of the ships, which was Simon's… he said to Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught.

And Simon answering said to him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at your word I will let down the net.

And when they had done this, they inclosed a great multitude of fish: and their net broke. When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord. And Jesus said to Simon, Fear not; from now on you shall catch men. And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him. (Luke 5:3-11)





On the Lake : The miraculous Draught of Fishes

The representations of miraculous draughts of fishes can be differentiated by the position and role of Christ


The miraculous Draught of Fishes; Gustave DORÉ; 1865; engraving from “The Holy Bible”



If Jesus is in St Peter’s boat and gives the order to cast the nets, this is the narrative by Luke.

The miracle is visible as soon as the words are pronounced. The nets are full; the men turn towards Jesus who is often sitting, sometimes standing, in the boat.


The miraculous Draught of Fishes; RAPHAEL; 1515; tempera on paper mounted on canvas; Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Web Gallery of Art



The miraculous Draught of Fishes; Peter Paul RUBENS; 1618; black chalk, pen and oil on paper stuck on canvas; central panel of the diptych of Our Lady of the Dyle in Malines; National Gallery, London

 National Gallery London


If Jesus stands on the shore, this is John’s narrative. The scene takes place after the resurrection; the emphasis is laid on Jesus and not on the catch of fish.


Christ’s Appearance on Lake Tiberias; DUCCIO di Buoninsegna; 1308; tempera on wood; Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, Siena, Italy

Web Gallery of Art



The miraculous Draught of Fishes; Konrad WITZ; 1444; tempera on wood; Musée d’Art et d’Histoire, Geneva, Switzerland

Web Gallery of Art


Here, the lake is calm and the catch of fish is not miraculous. Two opposite representations of the calling to the Apostles, laying the stress either on the sea or on the men.



The Calling of St Peter and St Andrew Giusto de Menabuo; c. 1378;   fresco of the baptistery, cathedral , Padoua

Giorgio Vasari




The Calling of St Peter; GHIRLANDAIO; 1481; fresco; Sistine Chapel, Vatican.

Web Gallery of Art






The early Christians used a surprising image, that of the angler who normally catches fish but who, in the catacombs or on sarcophagi evokes Salvation and Baptism. The meaning of this sign has completely disappeared nowadays whereas the net and the fishing-boat keep some religious meaning.


After a fresco in the catacombs of St Callixtus in Rome





BIBLE PICTURES   © Serge Ceruti and Gérard  Dufour 2008