Friday, June 13, 2014

Depictions of the Trinity

Bartolo di Fredi (also known as Bartolo Battiloro)(1330-1410)
Detail of The Trinity
Tempera on wood panel
Musée des Beaux-Arts, Chambéry

The Gothic and the Renaissance periods were not separate discrete periods or movements

The terms are artificial distinctions used by art historians to impose order on what might otherwise be a series of discrete  events and circumstances happening in different places at different times in vastly different circumstances

Artists did  not wake up one day and say - enough of the Gothic, on with the Renaissance

Styles existed side by side

Artists trained in one style would learn or discover new techniques and combine these into their own methods

As distinct from the "supply" side, customer demand would favour new fashions or approaches

Certain cities like Siena were slower than others in Tuscany to take on board the new fashions all the rage in Florence. But they did see what was happening and did adapt their existing styles

And we see this here in di Fredi

Here he adheres to the Gothic  tradition: the  balanced and symmetrical composition, the use of gold, the use of hieratic characters and in his colours. But we also see the search for depth and perspective 

The epitome of the "new style" in the depiction of The Trinity can be seen in Masaccio`s celebrated Trinity in Santa Maria Novella in Florence, thus:

Tommaso di Ser Giovanni di Simone (Masaccio) (1401 – 1428)
The Trinity
667 cm × 317 cm 
Santa Maria Novella, Florence

But in looking at these great depictions one is apt to overlook the substance of what is being conveyed

There is a commonality but there are also differences

Both artists  in their different ways are conveying different aspects of that mystery which we call the Trinity, the central mystery of the Christian faith and of Christian life.

In di Fredi we see an image of the Father who bears a resemblance to the Son

On either side of the Son and beneath Him are the closest members of his human family: Mary and St John

Mary is, apart from Christ, is the only human who ever got the closest to God without being God: the Immaculate Conception; the Annunciation; the Nativity; the Marriage Feast at Cana; the Crucifixion; the Resurrection; the Ascension; the Pentecost; the Assumption

Mary, in both pictures, is the one who faces the viewer and presents the viewer to her Son and thence the Trinity

John is the one to whom Christ entrusted his mother

It is in his Gospel and Letters that we see the exposition of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit especially in John 17: the Farewell Discourse or the High Priestly Prayer
"22 And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, 
23 I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me. 
24 Father, they are your gift to me. I wish that where I am they also may be with me, that they may see my glory that you gave me, because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 
25 Righteous Father, the world also does not know you, but I know you, and they know that you sent me. 
26 I made known to them your name and I will make it known, that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them."

The same elements are present in Masaccio

In this version of The Trinity in the London Rothschild Hours or the Hours of Joanna I of Castile we see a version of The Trinity in its barest essentials

The workshop of the Maximilian Master (active at Ghent c 1475 - 85)
The Trinity
From The Suffrage of the Saints in the London Rothschild Hours or the Hours of Joanna I of Castile 
235 x 165 mm
f.210v, Add MS 35313
The British Library, London

The Trinity is One: one God in three persons

Each of them is God whole and entire but wholly distinct from one another

Each is in relation to each other

God is eternal blessedness, undying life, unfading light as well as  Love: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Each divine person performs the common work according to his unique personal property. 

Thus the Church confesses, following the New Testament, "one God and Father from whom all things are, and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom all things are, and one Holy Spirit in whom all things are" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, paras 232 - 267)