Sunday, May 31, 2015

Dispute on the Trinity

Andrea del Sarto (1486 - 1530)
Disputa sulla Trinità / Debate on the Trinity
Oil on wood panel
232 x 193 cm
Galleria Palatina e Appartamenti, Palazzo Pitti, Florence

The saints in contemplation are Saints Augustine, Laurence, Peter Martyr, Francis, Sebastian and Mary Magdalene

It was commissioned for the Peri Chapel in the Chiesa di San Gallo in Florence

The Peri family had distinguished itself in republican service. The so called "inventor" of opera Jacopo Peri (1561 - 1633) was (to be) a member of this family

In 1529 when the church was destroyed in the Siege by Charles V,  it was transferred to the Church of San Jacopo de' Fossi in Florence where it stayed for about 100 years before falling into the ownership of the Medici family

The Church of San Gallo was with the Augustinian Order hence the significance of St Augustine and one of St Augustine`s great field of study: The Trinity

The models for the work are two works by Raphael: The Disputa of the Eucharist (1508) in the Stanze Vaticane and his Ecstasy of Saint Cecilia (1514)

Del Sarto produced two other works for this Church: the Annunciation and Noli me tangere (1510)

One sees the Trinity and a variety of saints of different times, situations and backgrounds but all of major importance

In De Trinitate, VIII, 8, 12, Saint Augustine wrote:
“If you see charity, you see the Trinity”
As Pope Leo XIII said (see below),  the worship paid to the saints and angels, to the Mother of God, and to Christ Himself, finally redounds to the honour of the Blessed Trinity.

In Divinum Illus Munus, (1897) Pope Leo XIII with reference to St Augustine tried to explain some aspects of the Catholic Doctrine of the Trinity:

"The Catholic Doctrine of the Blessed Trinity 
3. Before We enter upon this subject, it will be both desirable and useful to say a few words about the Mystery of the Blessed Trinity. 
This dogma is called by the doctors of the Church "the substance of the New Testament," that is to say, the greatest of all mysteries, since it is the fountain and origin of them all. In order to know and contemplate this mystery, the angels were created in Heaven and men upon earth. In order to teach more fully this mystery, which was but foreshadowed in the Old Testament, God Himself came down from the angels unto men:
"No man bath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him" (John i., 18). 
Whosoever then writes or speaks of the Trinity must keep before His eyes the prudent warning of the Angelic Doctor: 
"When we speak of the Trinity, we must do so with caution and modesty, for, as St. Augustine saith, nowhere else are more dangerous errors made, or is research more difficult, or discovery more fruitful" (Summ. Th. la., q. xxxi. De Trin. 1 L, c. 3). 
The danger that arises is lest the Divine Persons be confounded one with the other in faith or worship, or lest the one Nature in them be separated: for 
"This is the Catholic Faith, that we should adore one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity." 
Therefore Our predecessor Innocent XII, absolutely refused the petition of those who desired a special festival in honour of God the Father. For, although the separate mysteries connected with the Incarnate Word are celebrated on certain fixed days, yet there is no special feast on which the Word is honoured according to His Divine Nature alone. 
And even the Feast of Pentecost was instituted in the earliest times, not simply to honour the Holy Ghost in Himself, but to commemorate His coming, or His external mission. 
And all this has been wisely ordained, lest from distinguishing the Persons men should be led to distinguish the Divine Essence. Moreover the Church, in order to preserve in her children the purity of faith, instituted the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity, which John XXII. afterwards extended to the Universal Church. 
He also permitted altars and churches to be dedicated to the Blessed Trinity,and, with the divine approval, sanctioned the Order for the Ransom of Captives,which is specially devoted to the Blessed Trinity and bears Its name. 
Many facts confirm its truths. 
The worship paid to the saints and angels, to the Mother of God, and to Christ Himself, finally redounds to the honour of the Blessed Trinity. In prayers addressed to one Person, there is also mention of the others; in the litanies after the individual Persons have been separately invoked, a common invocation of all is added: all psalms and hymns conclude with the doxology to the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; blessings, sacred rites, and sacraments are either accompanied or concluded by the invocation of the Blessed Trinity. 
This was already foreshadowed by the Apostle in those words: 
"For of Him, and by Him, and in Him, are all things: to Him be glory for ever"(Rom. xi., 36)
thereby signifying both the Trinity of Persons and the Unity of Nature: for as this is one and the same in each of the Persons, so to each is equally owing supreme glory, as to one and the same God. 
St. Augustine commenting upon this testimony writes: 
"The words of the Apostle, of Him, and by Him, and in Him are not to be taken indiscriminately; of Him refers to the Father, by Him to the Son, in Him to the Holy Ghost" (De Trin. 1. vi., c. 10; 1. i., c. 6). 
The Church is accustomed most fittingly to attribute to the Father those works of the Divinity in which power excels, to the Son those in which wisdom excels, and those in which love excels to the Holy Ghost. Not that all perfections and external operations are not common to the Divine Persons; for "the operations of the Trinity are indivisible, even as the essence of the Trinity is indivisible" (St. Aug., De Trin., I. 1, cc. 4-5); because as the three Divine Persons "are inseparable, so do they act inseparably" (St. Aug., i6.). 
But by a certain comparison, and a kind of affinity between the operations and the properties of the Persons, these operations are attributed or, as it is said, "appropriated" to One Person rather than to the others. 
"Just as we make use of the traces of similarity or likeness which we find in creatures for the manifestation of the Divine Persons, so do we use Their essential attributes; and this manifestation of the Persons by Their essential attributes is called appropriation" (St. Th. la., q. 39, xxxix., a. 7). 
In this manner the Father, who is "the principle of the whole God-head" (St. Aug. De Trin. 1 iv., c. 20) is also the efficient cause of all things, of the Incarnation of the Word, and the sanctification of souls; "of Him are all things": of Him, referring to the Father. 
But the Son, the Word, the Image of God is also the exemplar cause, whence all creatures borrow their form and beauty, their order and harmony. He is for us the Way, the Truth, and the Life; the Reconciles of man with God. "By Him are all things": by Him, referring to the Son. 
The Holy Ghost is the ultimate cause of all things, since, as the will and all other things finally rest in their end, so He, who is the Divine Goodness and the Mutual Love of the Father and Son, completes and perfects, by His strong yet gentle power, the secret work of man's eternal salvation. "In Him are all things": in Him, referring to the Holy Ghost."

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Francesco Hayez (1791-1882)

Francesco Hayez (1791-1882)
S Michele Arcangelo Traffige Il Drago/ St Michael Archangel Slays The Dragon
Oil on canvas
Parrocchia Sant'Andrea Apostolo, Iseo, Brescia

Hayez was the most important figure in the transition from Neoclassicism to Romanticism in Italian painting

His Romantic leanings come out mainly in subject-matter rather than in technique, 

He trained in Rome in the circle of Canova and Ingres. 

He painted religious, historical, and mythological works in a vein owing something to Delacroix and Delaroche, and Ingres

Ferrari wrote of the picture of St Michael:
".. Ecco uno Spirto / Velocissimo scendere dall’etere / Col dardo in mano fiaccator possente / Dell'altero Satanno: oh son divine / Quelle angeliche forme!"

Below is the depiction of the Gospel of John (8: 3-11) in what might appear to be somewhat in the style of the German Nazarenes:

Francesco Hayez (1791-1882)
Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery
Oil on canvas
43.2 x 53.9 cm
Walters Art Museum, Baltimore

In the next year we find another work depicting Samson`s defeat of the Lion now in Florence

Francesco Hayez (1791-1882)
Sansone e il leone atterrato
Samson and the Lion thrown to the Ground
Oil on canvas
210 x 162 cm
Galleria d'Arte Moderna, Florence

The full title of the work is:
Sansone, atterrato un giovane leone, medita di farlo in brani, provando così il dono della prodigiosa sua forza 
The work was commissioned by Ambrogio Maria Martiniano Uboldo (1785 - 1865) and then exhibited at the Brera

Uboldo was a patron of Hayez. He was a soldier under Napoleon and then under the Austrians

A great part of the income in terms of his Will was left for a Hospital for the poor

The work has a martial feel

The last religious masterpiece by Hayez was one of Christ in the Passion:

Francesco Hayez (1791-1882)
Ecce Homo
c.1870 - 4
Oil on canvas
128 cm x 210 cm
Galleria dell’Accademia Tadini di Lovere,  Brescia 

It was done while not in good health

However it was point of honour to complete it

He had promised his grandson

It was, he wrote a "puntiglio di mantenere la promessa che ho dato a mia nipote di fare avere il dipinto l'Ecce Homo pei primi del venturo Agosto". 

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Saints Flora and Lucilla

Master of Saints Flora and Lucilla, active ca. 1300 - 1340
Saint Flora
ca. 1310
Tempera on panel
90.4 x 55.4 cm
Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Ct

Master of Saints Flora and Lucilla, active ca. 1300 - 1340
Saint Lucilla
ca. 1310
Tempera on panel
90.3 x 54.4 cm
Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Ct

The cult of Saints Flora and Lucilla was strong in Tuscany especially around Arezzo

They appeared to have died martyrs` deaths circa AD 260-265 during the reign of Gallienus

They were two sisters who were virgins who were martyred along with Eugenius, Theodore, Antonius  and another 18 companions

Their feast day was 29th July until their names were expunged from the Roman calendar in 2001 on the basis that their stories were probably a medieval legend

About AD 851 their relics were taken from Ostia to Arezzo by John, Bishop of Arezzo where he placed them in a Benedictine abbey

He later built a church on the Titano (Torrita) hill overlooking the town and an  abbey to house the remains

The church (La Badia delle Sante Flora e Lucilla)was rebuilt in the 1560s by Vasari 

The presbytery is dominated by the monumental altar built by Vasari (a native of Arezzo) for the chapel of his family in the parish church of Santa Maria in 1563 and moved here in 1865. 

A masterpiece of baroque artifice is the false dome, painted on canvas by the celebrated Jesuit brother Andrea Pozzo (1642-1709)  in 1702 and placed above the main altar

In the 9th century their stories were memorialised in The Passio. however it simply copies verbatim the stories of other saints and martyrs with some insignificant changes

The relics are still in the Badia but housed in the altar dedicated to  Saint Rita. 

The cult did spread throughout Tuscany and also into France and Spain

Here is a Mannerist version of the Baptism of St Lucilla by St Valentine by da Ponte:

Jacopo Bassano (Jacopo da Ponte) (1510-1592)
St Valentine Baptizing St Lucilla
Oil on canvas
183.5 x 129.5 cm
Museo Civico, Bassano del Grappa

Bassano has conflated a number of stories and produced a parable on Light

Lucilla as painted is the daughter of a Roman noble who seeks Baptism from the hands of St Valentine

She is blind

On being baptised her sight is restored

Valentine and Lucilla are subsequently martyred

As might be expected from an artistic master of the Veneto and pupil of Titian the light effects in the painting dazzle the viewer reinforcing the theme of the painting

By the early 1560s Bassano freed himself from Mannerist preoccupations, returning to a new objectivity and classicism with compositions based upon the unifying power of light. 

In Baptism we become Children of God, the brothers and sisters of Christ, the Light of the World

Out of the darkness Lucilla will step into the Light and will never be the same again

A religious man and a painter of many religious works, da Ponte is said to have stated:
"Sono di fede et religione cristiana, e chi si ingana, suo dano” ("I am of the Christian faith and religion, and if somebody believes the contrary, he is wrong and it is his problem")

Friday, May 22, 2015

The Whitsun Cassone

Italian School
The Whitsun Cassone
Oil on panel
81 x 198 cm
Campion Hall, University of Oxford

Campion Hall in Oxford was established by the Society of Jesus in 1896 as a private Hall of the University

This cassone is but one

A cassone (or forziere) was a type of decorated wooden dowry chest  from central Italy, used extensively from the end of the fourteenth, through the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. 

The construction and decoration of cassoni closely parallel methods used for contemporary altarpieces

It took about a month to paint a cassone front

According to Vasari, the Florentine Apollonio di Giovanni di Tomaso (1414 – 1465) specialised in the painting of such cassoni

Their decoration changed from painted design in the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries to carving (sometimes partially gilt) in the second half of the sixteenth century.

This cassone  depicts the descent of the Holy Spirit at the First Pentecost or Whitsunday as described in the Acts of the Apostles, 2: 1–4.

Mary is at the centre of the gathering of the Apostles and disciples in Jerusalem

"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"
However there are some differences

The setting is in the open air and not in a house

The tongues of fire are not yet on the people assembled

The scene is the one before the first proclamation (or kerygma) by St Peter of the messianic significance of the death and resurrection of Jesus:
"Exalted at the right hand of God, he received the promise of the Holy Spirit from the Father and poured it forth, as you (both) see and hear ... 
Therefore let the whole house of Israel know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified."