Andrea Previtali ( "il Cordeliaghi") (c. 1480 – 1528)
1523 - 1525
Oil on canvas
145 cm x 206 cm
Accademia Carrara, Bergamo
This is one of the foundational works of the Accademia Carrara in Bergamo.
It was in the possession of the founder. Carrara acquired it from a church in the small town of Alzano Lombardo, an ancient mountain town in the Valle Seriana
It came under the rule of Venice
It is a town crammed full of religious art but appears relatively unknown
Previtali was a pupil of Giovanni Bellini in Venice, and later on his return to Bergamo of Lorenzo Lotto in 1513–1525
This is a work of the mature artist
Like the Venetian and Bergamesque artists of his generation he makes real the entirely different orders of reality, one supernatural, the other earthly
The Holy Spirit is not just a figment of religious imagination but a metaphysically real being who comes to those who earnestly pray
The Holy Spirit acts corporeally. He does not only act subjectively or "spiritually".
The setting is that mysterious Upper Room in Jerusalem: the setting of the Last Supper, the appearance of Christ to the Apostles after the Resurrection and of the first Pentecost
Recently Pope Francis gave a homily in the Upper Room in that Upper Room (Jerusalem) on Monday, 26 May 2014 during his visit to the Holy Land
"Here, where Jesus shared the Last Supper with the apostles; where, after his resurrection, he appeared in their midst; where the Holy Spirit descended with power upon Mary and the disciples, here the Church was born, and she was born to go forth.
From here she set out, with the broken bread in her hands, the wounds of Christ before her eyes, and the Spirit of love in her heart.
In the Upper Room, the risen Jesus, sent by the Father, bestowed upon the apostles his own Spirit and with his power he sent them forth to renew the face of the earth (cf. Ps 104:30)."
Previtali follows the tradition of Leonardo`s The Last Supper and of other artists in the Renaissance.
This is no first century Palestinian house.
This is a contemporary 16th century Italian villa or palazzo built according to the principles of Classical architecture as rediscovered in the Italian Renaissance
Mary is the centre of the composition as Christ is the centre of the composition in The Last Supper. She stands on a golden pedestal surrounded by the Apostles
The two Apostles who flank her are Saints Peter and St John the Evangelist, the same two who were instructed by Jesus to find the Upper Room and make the preparations for The Last Supper
Rather incongruously is also depicted St Paul - who was of course not there at the first Pentecost
Perhaps not so incongruous
Saint John Paul II ended his homily in the Upper Room in Jerusalem (23 March 2000) thus:
"Celebrating this Eucharist in the Upper Room in Jerusalem, we are united with the Church of every time and place.
United with the Head, we are in communion with Peter and the Apostles and their Successors down the ages.
In union with Mary, the Saints and Martyrs, and all the baptized who have lived in the grace of the Holy Spirit, we cry out: Marana tha! “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Cf. Rev 22:17). Bring us, and all your chosen ones, to the fullness of grace in your eternal Kingdom. Amen."
And is St Paul not the author of one of the kerygma in Acts, one of the fruits of Pentecost ? (1 Corinthians 15) ?
The event depicted is described by Luke in Acts 2
"The Coming of the Spirit.
1 When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together.2 And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were.3 Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them.4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim."
The Holy Father recently completed a series of catecheses on the gifts of the Holy Spirit
In the first, he said this about the Holy Spirit:
"You know that the Holy Spirit constitutes the soul, the life blood of the Church and of every individual Christian:
He is the Love of God who makes of our hearts his dwelling place and enters into communion with us. The Holy Spirit abides with us always, he is always within us, in our hearts.
The Spirit himself is “the gift of God” par excellence (cf. Jn 4:10), he is a gift of God, and he in turn communicates various spiritual gifts to those who receive him.
The Church identifies seven, a number which symbolically speaks of fullness, completeness; they are those we learn about when we prepare for the Sacrament of Confirmation and which we invoke in the ancient prayer called the “Sequence of the Holy Spirit”.
The gifts of the Holy Spirit are: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord."