Francis of Assisi was born to a wealthy cloth merchant in the 12th century. After experiencing a unique personal encounter with Christ in early adulthood, Francis publicly removed his expensive garments and devoted his life to poverty and serving the poor. Historic imagery of Francis among the birds recalls a story when he was preaching and “all those birds began to open their beaks, and to stretch out their necks, and to open their wings, and reverently to bow their heads even unto the ground, and to show by their motions and by their songs that the holy father gave them very great delight.”
In this painting, a man stands on a mound of birdseed and extends his arms outward to provide birds with rest and nourishment with the feeders he bears. The three birds nested on his head were inspired by Andrei Rublev’s The Trinity. The nest closely resembles Christian imagery of the crown of thorns, and his extended arms mimic the posture of Christ’s passion. In his life, Francis aimed to imitate Christ and reflect the hope that he found through his example as a suffering servant.