Monday, March 17, 2014

Elijah comforted by the Angel

Alessandro Bonvicino (known as  Il Moretto da Brescia) (c. 1498 – December 22, 1554)
Elijah comforted by the Angel
Duomo Vecchio, Brescia

The theme of the painting is 1 Kings 19

Elijah, the dejected prophet of Carmel, is in fear of his life and has to flee the forces of Evil, intent on destroying him

He prays for death

“Enough, LORD! Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.”

He falls asleep under a solitary juniper tree
"5 He lay down and fell asleep under the solitary broom tree, but suddenly a messenger touched him and said, “Get up and eat!” 
6 He looked and there at his head was a hearth cake and a jug of water. After he ate and drank, he lay down again, 
7 but the angel of the LORD came back a second time, touched him, and said, “Get up and eat or the journey will be too much for you!” 
8 He got up, ate, and drank; then strengthened by that food, he walked forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God, Horeb."

The Lord provides sustenance and help in times of adversity and he that shall endure to the end, shall be saved.

Il Moretto was apparently a man of great personal piety and painted many religious art works in the Venetian and Lombardan style

This of course should not be a surprise as Brescia is roughly half way between Venice and Milan

Flair and invention combined with a concern for realism

The work was in the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament in the Old cathedral of Brescia

Moretto was often commissioned by Confraternities in Brescia to decorate their chapels, a number also situated in the Old Cathedral and elsewhere in Brescia and other cities and towns in Northern Italy

It was the time before the Council of Trent when lay people through Confraternities aware of the corruptions in the Church became inflamed by religious zeal and attempted reform themselves but within the Church and not outside it. But reforming themselves they realised they would reform the Church

Il Moretto  himself was a member of the Scuola del Santissimo Sacramento in the cathedral

In this work we see Elijah ("My God is Yahweh") as an awesome figure

Up against the forces of Baal and Jezebel, it appears that even this giant is in the throes of defeat and dejection

Elijah is on the run, solitary and apart from the society around him who are apparently getting on with daily life oblivious to his torment. Where else have you seen an image in a church of a man relieving himself ?

Yet. He is given assistance. From a small seemingly insignificant figure, A figure who looks like a baby,  one of the weakest and the most helpless. Elijah is then transformed and restored

He listens to the word of the Lord and is given sustenance to carry on his journey and his mission

Through perseverance he encounters the Lord

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