Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Crespi and Penance

Giuseppe Maria Crespi 1665 - 1747
Saint John of Nepomuk confesses the Queen of Bohemia
c. 1735
Oil on canvas
185 x 150 cm
Galleria Sabauda, Turin

According to tradition the saint was martyred in 1383 when he refused to reveal to King Wenceslas IV what the Queen of Bohemia had confessed in the Sacrament of Penance

The painting would have been commissioned about the time that the Saint was canonised in 1729

It can be compared to another work by Crespi on the Sacrament which was one of a series of seven depicting the Seven Sacraments

Giuseppe Maria Crespi 1665 - 1747
Oil on canvas
127 x 95 cm
Gemäldegalerie, Dresden

In 1739, while Crespi was still alive, the Bolognese Gianpietro Zanotti gave a thorough account of the origin of the series of the paintings: 

'One day Crespi saw a man in the confessional at San Benedetto's confessing his sins to the priest. A ray of sunlight fell on the man's head and shoulders, and was reflected inside the small chamber to produce the most beautiful contrast between light and dark that can be imagined. 
He [Crespi] studied it very carefully and, as soon as he was back home, did a small drawing of the scene. 
Then he sent two porters to fetch him a confessional, which he promptly installed in his room with staged lighting. He introduced Ludovico Mattioli, who chanced to be there, into the scene of the confession, and painted him so well that everyone recognised him, as they did the priest, who was the same person who had lent him the confessional.' 

Zanotti further recounts that Crespi made a gift of the painting to Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni in Rome, who was highly delighted and commissioned the remaining six paintings.

Pope Francis said of the Sacrament:

"[T]he protagonist of the ministry of Reconciliation is the Holy Spirit. 
The forgiveness which the Sacrament confers is the new life transmitted by the Risen Lord by means of his Spirit: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (Jn 20:22-23). 
Therefore, you are called always to be “men of the Holy Spirit”, joyous and strong witnesses and proclaimers of the Lord’s Resurrection. 
This witness is seen on the face, is heard in the voice of the priest who administers the Sacrament of Reconciliation with faith and “anointing”. 
He receives penitents not with the attitude of a judge, nor with that of a simple friend, but with the charity of God, with the love of a father who sees his son returning and goes out to meet him, of the shepherd who has found his lost sheep. 
The heart of a priest is a heart capable of being moved by compassion, not through sentimentalism or mere emotion, but through the “bowels of mercy” of the Lord! 
If it is true that Tradition points us to the dual role of physician and judge for confessors, let us never forget how the physician is called to heal and how the judge is called to absolve."

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