Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Pius XI Art Historian

Fra Antonio da Monza (active 1492/1503 ) 
1492 - 1503
Miniature on Parchment
33,5 x 27,7 cm
Albertina Museum, Vienna, Austria

Pope Pius XI (Ambrogio Damiano Achille Ratti) (31 May 1857 – 10 February 1939), was Pope from 6 February 1922 to his death in 1939.

Before he became a diplomat, he was a scholar of no mean repute

He was at the Ambrosian Library (the Biblioteca Ambrosiana) in Milan, from 1888 to 1911. He was made Prefect in 1907

In 1911, at Pope Pius X's invitation, he moved to the Vatican to become Vice-Prefect of the Vatican Library, and in 1914 was promoted to Prefect.

While in Milan, he  transcribed and published codices and rare archival documents. He reordered the Library of the Certosa di Pavia, the Library and the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana,as well as  the Museo Settala

He recovered and restored the codices and manuscripts of the Chapter of Milan Cathedral which had been damaged by fire

As Pope he founded the new Vatican Pinacoteca, in a special building near the new entrance to the Museums. He also founded the Missionary-Ethnological Museum in 1926, arranged on the upper floors of the Lateran Palace before it was moved elsewhere

Occasionally one comes across articles and works from his early period in Milan

There was an interesting debate in which he took part concerning the Lombard miniaturist and Franciscan Fra Antonio da Monza (active about 1480 - 1505)

His Pentecost (above)  is now in the Albertina

It was for a  Festmissale for the then  Pope Alexander VI, the Borgia Pope whose features also adorn the work. The choir books were a gift by the Pope for Santa Maria in Aracoeli and  the Observant Franciscans within the Church

Fra Antonio appears to have been a member of the Observant Franciscans

Antonio's artistic style was influenced by the art of Leonardo da Vinci. Scholars have attributed several liturgical books, as well as some miniatures in the Sforza Hours and in Antonio Minuti's Life of Muzio Attendolo Sforza, to him. Minuti was a notary and chancellor to the Sforza family

Here are some works where positive attributions to him have been made

Antonio da Monza (active about 1480 - 1505)
Initial R: The Resurrection
From Introit for Easter, Gradual:  Ms. Ludwig VI 3 (the Ludwig Aracoeli Manuscript,)
late 15th or early 16th century
Tempera colours, gold leaf, and ink on parchment bound between original wood boards covered with brown leather
64.1 x 43.5 cm (25 1/4 x 17 1/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Antonio da Monza (active about 1480 - 1505)
The Crucifixion
c. 1492 - 4
From The Christmas Missal of Pope Alexander VI Ms. Borg. Lat. 425, folio 38v
Missa in Nativitate Domini Nostri Iesu Christi, hora tertiarum Pontifice Maximo celebrante
 Gouache, ink, and gold on vellum,
46.5 x 32.4 cm
Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana. Vatican

The work and identity of Fra Antonio da Monza was only revived by researchers in the late nineteenth century, but little is known about his life or career

He is a mysterious figure

Art historians have attempted to piece together the oeuvre of Fra Antonio da Monza or cited individual works as successful examples of hybrid compositions 

One of these historians was the great German art historian Paul Kristeller (1863 - 1931) not to be confused with the great Columbia University scholar of the Italian renaissance, Paul Oskar Kristeller (1905-1999). {But of course they often are and the works of the earlier are often shown as works of the latter)

Kristeller as one of the leading art historians of the Italian Renaissance became interested in Fra Antonio

In 1901 he published a monograph Fra Antonio da Monza, incisore  in  Rassegna d'arte I (1901), pp 161-164 and wondered whether on the basis of two hitherto unattributed prints he discovered in Milan whether Fra Antonio had also been an engraver and printer

The evidence he adduced was slight and unconvincing but his view was taken up by some art establishment figures such as S. Arthur Strong, Librarian to the House of Lords and at Chatsworth, Sir Sidney Colvin (Keeper of the Department of Prints and Drawings at the British Museum) and Arthur Mayger Hind (later Keeper of the Department of Prints, British Museum) 

They also prayed in aid the views of the Biblioteca Ambrosiana and Monsignor Ratti

This seems to have been the final straw

He poured cold water on the idea, demolished the reasons given for the attribution and clinically advanced reasons why on the basis of the existing evidence Fra Antonio could not have been the engraver

Why the bother ?

Possibly a number of reasons can be envisaged

He wanted the truth to come out and be established according to the hard facts and evidence and be established in a positive rational way and not on the basis of pure subjective opinion and reverie

The thesis which he attacked ignored the possibility or even probability that around 1500 there was in his beloved Milan, his beloved Lombardy a mature and thriving market for art filled with mature and sophisticated artists and their customers

For Kristeller was firmly of the view that the peak of Italian woodcut was to be found in Venice and Florence and that outwith Rome and Naples there were no local schools of woodcut in Italy

Of course he also wished to guard the academic reputation of the highly regarded Biblioteca Ambrosiana

Here is his article with the illustrations:

A work of great erudition and scholarship but both are lightly worn by the very learned author

This was written before the time when academics had research assistants and students who did first or second drafts

One notes the pointed ending with the Classical allusion

The reply came from Kristeller in his Die Lombardische Graphik der Renaissance. Berlin: Bruno Cassirer, 1913.  - in a large passage and a footnote:

The First World War put an end to the debate

However in the 1940s and beyond Father Ratti`s view held sway and Kristeller`s was overruled

Sunday, April 19, 2015

St Teresa de Jesús 2015

Canonisation of St Teresa in Rome 1622 
17th century
Oil on canvas
165 x 211 cm
Museo Carmelitano Teresa de Jesús. Monasterio de la Anunciación de Nuestra Señora. MM. Carmelitas Descalzas. Alba de Tormes, Salamanca, Spain

The ceremony of canonisation took place on March 12, 1622 in the presence of Pope Gregory XV

In front of the Pope is depicted  his nephew Cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi  who was the promoter of the cause of canonisation

Gregorio Fernández 1576 - 1636
Saint Teresa de Jesús 
Circa 1615
Polychrome statue
160 x 74 x 75 cm
Santuario de Nuestra Señora del Carmen  Extramuros. Valladolid

Gregorio Fernández (1576 – 22 January 1636) was a Spanish Baroque sculptor of the Castilian school of sculpture

The most important collection of his work is in the National Sculpture Museum in Valladolid 

He moved to Valladolid which was then the court of the Kings of Spain , between 1601 and 1606 

Another sculpture of the saint by the sculptor is preserved in the Museum:(below)

Gregorio Fernández 1576 - 1636
Saint Teresa de Jesús 
Circa 1625
Polychrome statue
172 x 103 x 85 cm
Museo Nacional de Escultura, Valladolid

The work was commissioned by the Convento de Nuestra Señora del Carmen (Carmelitas Calzados), Valladolid around the time of the canonisation of the saint

In her left hand she  holds an open book inscribed, in which the name of her confessor, Pedro de Alcántara is included. 

Here we see the dynamic saint but also one who meditates and writes

Luca Giordano (1634 – 12 January 1705)
The Transverberation of Saint Teresa
Circa 1664 
Oil on canvas 
202 x 157 cm
MM. Discalced Carmelites. Penaranda de Bracamonte, Salamanca

This work was commissioned by the Spanish diplomat Don Gaspar de Bracamonte 3rd Count of Peñaranda (c.1595 – December 14, 1676) for the Convent of the Incarnation of Discalced Carmelites of Penaranda de Bracamonte (Salamanca)  where the work still  resides

The Neapolitan Giordano was nicknamed 'Luca fa Presto' (Do it quick, Luke) by his contemporaries because of his enormous output and versatility. 

He studied in Naples, Rome, Florence and Venice where he copied works by Tintoretto and Veronese whose style clearly influenced this composition.

The work commemorates the famous event which  happened to the saint in 1559 at the Monastery of the Incarnation in Avila

All images (except from the Museum) are from a websie of an important Spanish exhibition to celebrate the the 500th anniversary of the birth of Mother Teresa of Jesús: "Teresa de Jesús, maestra de oración" Teresa of Jesus - Master of Prayer

The exhibition is organised  by the Foundation of The Ages of Man, the Castilla y León and the Discalced Carmelite Order, in collaboration with other institutions and organizations who have carefully prepared for this important  year in the cities of Avila and Alba de Tormes: the places where she was born to earthly life and eternal life.

More than 200 works of art and literature from all over Spain will be sent for the exhibition 

The 91st General Chapter of her Order  will also begin in Ávila on May 3

Here are two more images from what will prove a landmark exhibition:

Doménico Theotocópuli “El Greco” (1541-1614) (attributed to)
The Holy Face
Circa 1577-1580 / circa 1600
Oil on canvas
46 x 86 cm
Convento de las MM. Carmelitas Descalzas de Jesús Crucificado (antiguas Capuchinas del convento de la Purísima Concepción),  Toledo

Alonso Cano (1601 – 3 September 1667)
St John of God
Oil on canvas
140 x 110 cm.
Archivo-Museo San Juan de Dios. Granada

The saint, dressed in the black habit of the Order, kneeling in profile, holds a crucifix 

His head is tilted and illuminated with pallor mortis

He is on the point of human death and on the threshold of eternal life

The scene is a Transitus

He died on March 8, 1550, his 55th birthday, in Granada. 

John was canonized by Pope Alexander VIII on October 16, 1690,

In a letter John wrote:

"If we kept before us the mercy of God, we would never be deficient in doing good, while strength was in us. For, when we make over to the poor, out of the love of God, what he himself has given us, his promise is that we shall receive a hundredfold in eternal happiness. That indeed is a fortunate and happy way of gaining a profit! 
Who will not give over whatever he has to this best of merchants! He administers our business himself, and begs us with outstretched arms to turn to him and weep for our sins, and become servants in love, first for ourselves, and then for our neighbour. 
For just as water extinguishes a fire, just so does charity blot out our sins. 
So many people come here that I very often wonder how they can possibly be provided for. But Jesus Christ provides all things and feeds everyone. Many of the poor come into this house of God because the city of Granada is large and very cold, especially now in winter. 
There are now more than one hundred and ten people living in this house, including the sick, the healthy, the servants and pilgrims. Because the house is open to everyone, it takes in all manner of sick people. There are people with useless limbs, the maimed, the lepers, the dumb, the insane, paralytics, and some who are suffering from cancer. Others are afflicted with senility, and there are many children, as well as the innumerable travellers and pilgrims who arrive here, and whom we provide with fire, salt and water, as well as pots to cook their food. 
There is no charge made for all this, but Christ is our provider. 
So, I am working here in debt, and I am a captive for the sake of Jesus Christ. 
Often I owe so much that I dare not go out, in case I am seized for my debts. And when I see so many of my brethren in poverty, and my neighbours suffering beyond their strength, and oppressed in mind or body by so many cares, and am unable to help them, it causes me exceeding sorrow. 
But I trust in Christ who knows my heart. 
Then I say, ‘Accursed is the man who puts his trust in men, and not in Christ alone.’ You will be separated from men, whether you like it or not. But Christ is faithful and is with us always, and he provides all things. We are right to give him thanks. Amen." 
St John of God  Cartas y Escritos 18-19; 48-50