Created by Jan-Frans van Geel (1756-1830), the terracotta The Prodigal son is the matching piece to Mary Magdalene, which is also part of the Van Herck Collection. The two figures served as studies for the effigies of a confessional in the Church of Notre Dame in Alsemberg.
The parable of the Prodigal Son is one of many parables in the New Testament. It teaches the virtues of repentance and forgiveness, thus forming an iconographic programme appropriate to the decoration of a confessional. The Prodigal Son and Mary Magdalene are represented side by side as personifications of the repentant sinner.
The Prodigal Son is shown in the traditional manner wearing rags and a purse attached to his belt. His features are nevertheless extremely expressive and show the artist’s creative talents.