Friday, July 04, 2008

Portrait of a Blessed One

Natalia Tsarkova
The Blessed Father Giacomo da Ghazir Haddad (2008)
Oil on canvas (110 x 170 cm) (3.6 x 5.6 feet)
The Church of St. Mary of the Sea, Beirut.

Father Khalil de Ghazir Haddad ("Father Giacomo") was born in Lebanon in 1875. He joined the Order of Friars Minor Capuchins, taking the name Giacomo, and founded the order of Franciscan Sisters of the Cross in 1930. He died in 1954.

He was recently beatified in a ceremony in the Lebanon (June 2008).

The above painting was specially painted for the beatification ceremony by the celebrated Russian artist, Natalia Tsarkova. Before the ceremony, it was specially blessed by Pope Benedict XVI in Rome. The painting now hangs beside the tomb of the Blessed Father Giacomo in the Church of St. Mary of the Sea in Beirut.

His biography can be read on the website of The Institute of the Lebanese Franciscan Sisters of the Cross

Zenit carries an article by the writer Marta Lago here on the painting.

"Tsarkova, working under a very quick deadline, produced a beautiful image of the saint which stood in the church during his beatification last week.

A richly colored curtain opens in the left-hand corner recalling the embroideries of the Middle East and contrasting with the simple Franciscan robe of Father Giacomo. The saint occupies most of the canvas radiating a golden glow of heavenly light.

Above him, the angel of Divine Providence, upon which the saint reposed much trust, indicates the great hospital he founded at Our Lady of the Sea. Unlike the simple structure that Father Giacomo served in, the building is large and modernized, showing how the saint’s work continues successfully today.

All lines in the work lead to the well worn cross in his hand, a symbol of his constant devotion to Christ’s suffering as well as the great crosses he erected in his homeland.

Father Giacomo tenderly cradles the hand of an ailing priest a reminder of the beginning of his mission to tend the ill, while a Down syndrome child stands at his knee, grateful for his protection and care.

A very sad note to this work is that Tsarkova had terrible difficulties finding a Down child for a model as most are tragically aborted in Italy.

At the feet of the saint, a nurse kneels with a glass of water, reminiscent of Father Giacomo’s instructions to serve the needy on one’s knees. One can faintly recognize the artist in the figure with the modest, downcast eyes and bent shoulders.

To understand the saint’s life better Tsarkova put in many hours of service in a centre caring for the mentally disabled near Rome.

The composition is tightly packed with figures like the saint’s life, but a bright red Bible announces its centrality in Father Giacomo’s mission..."