Saturday, September 29, 2012

Angels, Saints and Nations Sing

Hubert van Eyck (c. 1385–90 – 18 September 1426) and Jan van Eyck (c. 1395 – before c. 9 July 1441)
The Ghent Altarpiece or The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb
(1) Overview
(2) The Face of God
(3) Angels: Singers Left hand panel
(4) Angels: Musicians, right hand panel
Tempera and oil on panel
11' 5" x 15' (open panels), 
Cathedral of Saint Bavo, Ghent, Belgium

The Ghent Altarpiece recently underwent much-needed emergency conservation 

The altarpiece was scrutinised and professionally photographed at extremely high resolution in both regular and infrared light. The photographs were then digitally stitched together 

The result is that in the comfort of one`s home one can examine the work in 100 billion pixels on the website: Closer to Van Eyck: Rediscovering the Ghent Altarpiece

The new website is part of the Getty’s Panel Paintings Initiative.

The Metropolitan Museum in New York has on its website an erudite essay on the whole altarpiece:
Susan Jones  "The Ghent Altarpiece". In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–.

The Web Gallery of Art also devotes a large section to this important work

In essence the theme of the painting can be summed up in the words of the traditional Catholic hymn Hail Redeemer, King Divine

Often derided by the cognoscenti but still extremely popular among Catholic and other Christian  parishoners
"Angels, saints and nations sing : 
"Praise be Jesus Christ our King"

The words of the hymn are by a Redemptorist who passed away in 1952:  Patrick Brennan (1877 - 1952).  The music  is by Charles Rigby (1901- 1962)

Christ is shown as Lamb and as King. In his Encyclical Quas Primas, (1925) Pope Pius XI explained the theological basis when he established the feast of Christ The King:

"13. The foundation of this power and dignity of Our Lord is rightly indicated by Cyril of Alexandria. "Christ," he says, "has dominion over all creatures, a dominion not seized by violence nor usurped, but his by essence and by nature."[20] 
His kingship is founded upon the ineffable hypostatic union. From this it follows not only that Christ is to be adored by angels and men, but that to him as man angels and men are subject, and must recognize his empire; by reason of the hypostatic union Christ has power over all creatures.  
But a thought that must give us even greater joy and consolation is this that Christ is our King by acquired, as well as by natural right, for he is our Redeemer.  
Would that they who forget what they have cost their Savior might recall the words: 
"You were not redeemed with corruptible things, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb unspotted and undefiled."[21] 
We are no longer our own property, for Christ has purchased us "with a great price";[22] our very bodies are the "members of Christ."[23]  

20. In huc. x.
21. I Pet. i, 18-19.
22. 1 Cor. vi, 20.
23. I Cor. vi, 15.