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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Saint Vincent de Paul by Jean-Léon Gérôme (Art)

Image result for saint vincent de paul jean leon gerome
“Monumentally poised between photographic precision and painterly inspiration, Jean-Léon Gérôme’s pointing of Saint Vincent de Paul heralded a new era in religious art.  The meticulous detail of the lace of the surplice, the crisp linen of the veil, and the portrait-like depiction of the saint reflect the reality offered by the newly invented at of photography, while the powerful composition, with its low vantage point, was drawn from the tradition of Christian apses and altarpieces.

In 1847, twenty-three year old  Gérôme  had just returned from studying in Rome with his teacher Hippolyte Delaroche, where he had produced both this work and his more famous The Cock Fight.  While in the latter work, preparing for his debut in the Paris Salon, Gérôme  had evoked the idealized era of ancient Greece, his depiction of Saint Vincent, painted for the Sisters of Charity in Gérôme’s hometown of Vesoul, is strikingly Roman in its form and composition.

Centered in the painting and elevated from the ground by a plinth, the figure of Saint Vincent is reminiscent of the depictions of Christ or the saints common in Roman altarpieces.   Gérôme was deeply influenced by Raphael during his journey, in particular his Santa Cecilia, which inspired the composition of this work.
Here, Saint Vincent stands erect in the center, holding up a small child-an iconographic theme typical to this saint.  The Solomonic columns (similar to those in Saint Peter’s Basilica) decorated with Cosmatesque inlay, the triumphal arch opening into a niche, and the two male figures, one holding a crosier, who emerge from the Caravaggesque background, summon to mind the grandeur of Christian art in the Eternal City.
In Contrast to the tenebrous deacons, two women join Saint Vincent in the illuminated foreground.  One is a Sister of Charity, a member of the order co-founded by the saint, and the other is a young noblewoman whose face is unseen as she turns toward Saint Vincent.  Two forms of charity-donating material goods to help the poor and donating one’s life to the service of the needy-suggest the virtues so often painted and sculpted in Roman funerary monuments….

Vincent de Paul devoted much of his life to the service of the poor and of children in need, and it was the concrete circumstances of those he met face to face that inspired him to his life of charity…

The true witness of Saint Vincent and the reason he bears the title “apostle of charity,” lies in his ability to recognize the needs of the poor before min and to be moved with the love of Christ to act on their behalf…

The Composition itself demonstrates the Christian call to respond to the sight of Christ in the poor.  As the young noblewoman offers a chest overflowing with jewels and pearls, the poor infant dispassionately draws forth from it a golden chain.  This gentle communication and motion between the young woman and the child says everything.  She has seen Christ doubly: in the priestly alter Christus of Saint Vincent but also in the face of the small child.  It is to this little one that the young woman offers her wealth and livelihood, as Saint Vincent did through his dedication to serving the poor and the orphaned, and to the reform of the Church."

    (Excerpt by Father Garrett Ahlers from Magnificat September 2017, Vol 19, No 7)

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Art - Saint John Chrysostom and the Empress Eudoxia

"Seldom in the history of painting is one's field of vision restricted to the back of the protagonist. But here the artist wants us to engage with the primary subject of the painting, Saint John Chrysostom, in the act of doing what he did best, preaching.

Chysostom means "golden tongued."  The saint was considered to be the greatest preacher of the early Church...However, as the patriarch of Constantinople he was also drawn into the politics of the imperial court of Byzantium, and this forced him to preach on the loose morals of the powerful aristocrats whom he felt neglected their duties to the poor...One of the greatest objects of his disdain was the ambitious Empress Eudoxia...

Here in this painting by Jean-Paul Laurens, the empress stands regally and haughtily in the tribune of the Hagia Sophia while the patriarch levels a blistering sermon against her...

In a visually stunning and yet simple composition, the artist shows the power of the church clashing with that of the State.  And even though the office of patriarch was revered and influential, it could not always withstand the undertow of intrigue that perpetually plagued the Byzantine court.  John was exiled, not just once but twice.  It was on the second banishment that his frail body, weakened as it was by his harsh ascetic practices, finally collapsed.  He died uttering his last phrase:  "Glory be to God in all things."" (Excerpt by Father Michael Morris, O.P., from Magnificat Magazine October 2010)

For devotional items related to the Catholic Faith please visit Lynn's Timeless Treasures 
Saint John Chrysostom and the Empress Eudoxia by Jean-Paul Laurens (Magnificat Magazine, October 2010)

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Monday, August 28, 2017

Art - Saint Mary Magdalene by Antonio Veneziano

"In contemplating this “portrait” of Mary Magdalene by Antonio Veneziano, one discerns how, in the crucible of the Most Serene Republic, the Italian genius ushered in the art of the Renaissance via a subtle alchemy of influences...

Here we see “the sinner of love” represented not as a penitent overwhelmed with remorse, but radiant in the charm of her liberated and redeemed beauty. In her left hand she holds the Gospel, the book of the Good News of salvation, source of the profound joy that illuminates her face. With her right hand, as if bearing a monstrance, she presents the vessel which contained the precious nard that served in advance for the embalming of the Body of Christ. Her free-flowing hair attests that, as a daughter of Eve, she has renounced none of her feminine splendor. Nevertheless it ripples down her shoulders in six tresses, the number which signifies imperfection and the limits of human nature ..
." (
Magnificat July cover 2011, excerpt by Pierre-Marie Dumont)

For devotional items related to the Catholic Faith please visit Lynn's Timeless Treasures

Art Mary Magdalene by Antonio Veneziano 

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Art - The Sistine Madonna by Raphael

"This painting is considered one of the most important works of Western civilization...This was the last painting that the artist Raphael executed completely by his own hand, and it was his crowning achievement.  He died six years later, at the age of thirty-seven.  To honor his late uncle, Pope Sixtus IV, Pope Julius II commissioned this image in 1512 to be hung in the Benedictine basilica of San Sisto in Piacenza, a foundation that had long been patronized by the pope's family.  The martyr Pope Saint Sixtus II (whose name is memorialized in the Canon of the Mass and gives this painting its informal title, The Sistine Madonna) was the foundation's patron saint, and the basilica proudly guarded the relics of another early Christian martyr, the virgin Saint Barbara - hence the two heavenly figures that accompany the Madonna and Child in the composition, who were deliberately included to reflect the basilica's pride of place...

The Virgin Mary holds her divine Son in such a way that their bodies are intertwined, his limbs curved round her supporting hands.  Her veil billows away from her face as if it were a sail, creating a larger circle that frames both Mother and Child...

The artist has composed the painting in such a way that it appears to be a peek into paradise. The stage-like setting which parted curtains supports this effect.  While the disturbing and haunting stares of both Virgin and Child hold the center of the painting with a gripping command...

Recent scholarship has discovered that inside the basilica the painting was designed to hang opposite a scene of the crucifixion.  Thus the look of fear that envelops the infant Jesus reveals a natural human response to the sight of pain and death...

The virgin's cheek brushes against her Child's forehead in a protective and consoling gesture, yet her eyes betray a hint of that sadness that characterizes the Mater Dolorosa, sharing in the suffering of her Son's destiny.

The figure of Pope Saint Sixtus points to the cross outside this canvas in support of that destiny. His papal tiara placed at his feet, he glances up toward the Child and rests his left hand on his breast, as if to include himself as one of the many martyrs who embraced death for the sake of the kingdom...

Opposite the pontiff, Saint Barbara kneels with her head bowed in serene dignity...the visual shorthand that enabled medieval viewers to recognize a saint by an object drawn from her legend has been marginalized here in this masterpiece of the High Renaissance.  Raphael has tucked Barbara's hagiographic attribute - that tower in which she was imprisoned by her pagan father (giving rise to the fairy tale of Rapunzel) - behind a sweep of curtain, giving the viewer just a hint of her identity..." (by Fr. Michael Morris, O.P. - Except from Magnificat August 2015, Vol 17, No.6)

For devotional items related to the Catholic Saints please visit Lynn's Timeless Treasures 
Art The Madonna Standing on the Clouds (The Sistine Madonna) Raphael

Art - The Sacrifice of Isaac by Gentileschi

The Supreme Sacrifice
Pierre-Marie Dumont

"In this painting, Gentileschi proposes a multi-level interpretation.  On the first level, that of the first Covenant, the angel abruptly stops the horrible act of infanticide.  His expression is severe, and with his left hand raised toward heaven he points, in a sort of anticipation of Sinai, to the Law of God: You shall not kill!  God thus gives a harsh lesson to Abraham, guilty of having believed it possible that the Lord would have asked him to adopt the monstrous practice of that period - offering first-born sons in sacrifice to the titular deity.  Later, Moses will explain that offering first-born sons to God means to consecrate them, not to sacrifice them.  On the second level, that of the new and eternal Covenant, Gentileschi, unlike Caravaggio and Rembrandt, represents Issac as neither constrained nor terrified.  He who carried the wood for his own sacrifice is here the figure of Jesus Christ.  Now, Jesus testifies that God his Father, our Father, does not wish to sacrifice his Son, just as he did not want Abraham to sacrifice Isaac:  No one takes my life from me, but I lay it down on my own, he affirms.  But as Savior of the world, it is no less true that Jesus exalts the greatness of the supreme sacrifice, since he is the only offering pleasing to God:  No one shows greater love than by laying down his life for those he loves." (Excerpt from Magnificat July 2013 Vol 15 No.5 page 432) 

For devotional items related to the Catholic Saints please visit Lynn's Timeless Treasures 
Art The Sacrifice of Issac - Gentileschi
Galleria Nazionale della Liguria, Genoa
Palazzo Spinola

Sunday, July 30, 2017

St. Peter Chrysologus - July 30

For devotional items related to the Catholic Faith please visit Lynn's Timeless Treasures