Friday, May 02, 2008

The Ascension

Anton Raphael Mengs (1728-1779)
Christi Himmelfahrt 1752
9,30 m x 4,20 m
Kathedrale St. Trinitatis (Katholische Hofkirche) Dresden

The Ascension is a national holiday in Germany. It is known as Christi Himmelfahrt.

In Germany, it was the custom for the priest to lift high a crucifix after the reading of the Ascension Gospel.

The link between the Cross and the Ascension is implicit in Jesus' words when he says, And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself. (John 12:32)

In 1750 Mengs was commissioned to produce three altarpieces for the Dresden Hofkirche, including the commission for the Ascension (installed 1766 in situ) for the main altar

When chosen to paint an 'Ascension of Christ` altarpiece for Dresden’s catholic church, the artist took himself to Venice in order to study Titian’s 'Assumption'.

Titian had a profound influence in Mengs` work.It is shown in his book regarding works from antiquity and the Renaissance: Riflessioni sopra i tre gran pittori Raffaello, Correggio, Tiziano e sopra gli antichi.

Mengs is perhaps not as well known as he should be. In his lifetime, his reputation was that of the greatest living artist of his age. His reputation declined sharply after his death.

The setting and the grandeur of the painting illustrates the profound importance to the German Church of the message implicit in the Feast of the Ascension.