Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Divine Mercy

The image of the Divine Mercy originates from a vision that Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska (1905-1938) had in Plock on February 22, 1931.

In that vision Christ expressed His desire to have such an image painted and that the words in the signature beneath it be: Jezu, ufam tobie; Jesus, I trust in You.

On 30th April 2000, Pope John Paul II said in his homily at the Mass for the Canonisation of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska:

"Sister Faustina Kowalska wrote in her Diary: "I feel tremendous pain when I see the sufferings of my neighbours. All my neighbours' sufferings reverberate in my own heart; I carry their anguish in my heart in such a way that it even physically destroys me. I would like all their sorrows to fall upon me, in order to relieve my neighbour" (Diary, p. 365). This is the degree of compassion to which love leads, when it takes the love of God as its measure!

It is this love which must inspire humanity today, if it is to face the crisis of the meaning of life, the challenges of the most diverse needs and, especially, the duty to defend the dignity of every human person.

Thus the message of divine mercy is also implicitly a message about the value of every human being. Each person is precious in God's eyes; Christ gave his life for each one; to everyone the Father gives his Spirit and offers intimacy.

This consoling message is addressed above all to those who, afflicted by a particularly harsh trial or crushed by the weight of the sins they committed, have lost all confidence in life and are tempted to give in to despair. To them the gentle face of Christ is offered; those rays from his heart touch them and shine upon them, warm them, show them the way and fill them with hope.

How many souls have been consoled by the prayer "Jesus, I trust in you", which Providence intimated through Sr Faustina! This simple act of abandonment to Jesus dispels the thickest clouds and lets a ray of light penetrate every life. Jezu, ufam tobie."

Friday, May 30, 2008

Beuron and The Sacred Heart

Gabriel Wüger OSB 1829 - 1892/5/Father Lukas Steiner OSB 1849-1906
Herz Jesu /The Sacred Heart of Jesus 1873-4

The Conception Abbey (Missouri) website has this to say about the Beuronese School of Art and its theorist, Desiderius Lenz:
"The most significant principle or canon of the Beuronese school is the role which geometry played in determining proportions.

Lenz thought that sacred art should reflect the natural laws of aesthetics through formulae he believed were forgotten after the Greeks and Egyptians.

Geometrical proportions determine ideal forms, and the result is an innate harmony comparable to the mathematical relationships in musical composition. ...

Other canons of the school include:

The orientation of the art is hieratic, speaking to the spirit of the viewer. The art itself worships and invites the viewer to join in the worship of God. As such, it should not stand out boldly of itself but be part of a worshipping environment.

Works are anonymous, done by a group effort, and not for the glory of the artist, but of God.

Imitation is favored over originality, with freehand copying revealing an artist’s genius.

There is full integration of art and architecture. Painting and sculpture are not “additions” to an architectural given but an integral part of it. Thus Beuronese art encompasses painting, architecture, and furnishings."

Annigoni and Monte Cassino

Pietro Annigoni (June 7, 1910 - October 28, 1988)
Pope Victor III (Abbot Desiderius) receives from St. Benedict the Rule and the Pastoral Letter 1972
Fresco 284x422,
Chapel of the Vestry , Monte Cassino

Abbot Desiderius (abbot 1058 - 1087), later became Pope Victor III. The monastery reached the zenith of its influence under Abbot Desiderius.

Pietro Annigoni (June 7, 1910 - October 28, 1988)
The Glory of St. Benedict 1979
Fresco 549x391
The Basilica at Monte Cassino

During the Second World War, the monastery buildings complex was pulverised by aerial bombardments. Restoration followed and the monastery and basilica were re-consecrated by Pope Paul VI in 1964.

The restoration work has continued since then.

The distinguished artist Annigoni was only one who contributed his services.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

El Sagrado Corazón de Jesús

Salvador Dalí. (1904-1989)
El Sagrado Corazón de Jesús/ The Sacred Heart of Jesus 1962
Oil on canvas 86.5 x 61 cm
Private collection

"When we practise this devotion, not only do we recognize God's love with gratitude but we continue to open ourselves to this love so that our lives are ever more closely patterned upon it. God, who poured out his love "into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us" (cf. Rom 5: 5), invites us tirelessly to accept his love.

The main aim of the invitation to give ourselves entirely to the saving love of Christ and to consecrate ourselves to it (cf. Haurietis Aquas, n. 4) is, consequently, to bring about our relationship with God.

This explains why the devotion, which is totally oriented to the love of God who sacrificed himself for us, has an irreplaceable importance for our faith and for our life in love. "

Pope Benedict XVI, Letter on the 50th anniversary of Haurietis Aquas (15 May 2006 )

1856 Blessed Pope Pius IX extended the Feast of the Sacred Heart to the Roman Catholic Church under the rite of double major.

In 1889 Pope Leo XIII raised the Feast to the double rite of first class

On 25 May 1899 Pope Leo XIII issued his Encyclical Annum Sacrum and consecrated the world to the Sacred Heart. Leo XIII called this "the great act" of his pontificate.

In 1928 Pope Pius XI issued his Encyclical Miserentissimus Redemptor. In the Encyclical the Pope confirmed the Church's position with respect to the visions of Jesus Christ reported by Saint Marguerite Marie Alacoque in the 17th Century. He said that Jesus Christ had "manifested Himself" to Saint Margaret and had "promised her that all those who rendered this honour to His Heart would be endowed with an abundance of heavenly graces."

On 15th May 1956, Pope Pius XII issued his Encyclical Haurietis Aquas ("You will draw waters"). It was issued on the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus by Blessed Pope Pius IX.

On 15 May 2006 Pope Benedict XVI on the 50th anniversary of Haurietis Aquas issued a letter to Father Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J., the Superior General of the Society of Jesus which emphasised the importance of the devotion to the Sacred Heart.


Annum Sacrum
Miserentissimus Redemptor
Haurietis Aquas
Letter of Pope Benedict XVI on the 50th anniversary of Haurietis Aquas

Art is Global

Miao Xiaochun b.1964
The Last Judgement in Cyberspace - Front View 2006
C-Print 279 x 240 cm

Miao Xiaochun b.1964
The Last Judgement in Cyberspace -The Below View 2006
C-Print 289 x 360 cm

Miao Xiaochun b.1964
The Last Judgement in Cyberspace -The Side View 2006
C-Print 320 x 120 cm

Miao Xiaochun b.1964
The Last Judgement in Cyberspace -The Rear View 2006
C-Print 288 x 240 cm

Miao Xiaochun b.1964
The Last Judgement in Cyberspace -The Vertical View 2006
C-Print 120 x 354 cm

The Saatchi Gallery in London has at present an Exhibiition on contemporary Chinese art which is fascinating.


World attention has focused on the economic development and massive cultural upheavals of China, especially prior to the 2008 Olympics

The world is only beginning to wake up to Chinese art.

Truly due to international trade, travel, media and the Internet, art has become global.

Influences from the West have influenced and do influence Chinese artists and vice versa.

With the Church becoming an immense institution world wide, the problem of communication has become critical. Some have seen the revival of Latin as a common language in the Liturgy as one way to overcome cultural and linguistic differences in the Church.

Art used to be seen as the way of communicating the faith to the illiterate. Is it not also a way of communicating the faith to people of many different cultures and languages ?

Modern technology ensures that the speed of communication and spread of the message is virtually instantaneous. Something undreamed of by people in past centuries.

In the above works entitled The Last Judgement in Cyberspace, the artist uses as inspiration Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel fresco.

The website commentary explains:

"Developed on computer, Miao has built a virtual model of the Apocalypse, architecturally structuring the tiers of Christian afterlife.

Replacing each of the 400 figures in Michelangelo’s iconic work with his own image and placing them in corresponding pose and position to the original painting, Miao ‘photographs’ the scene from various vantages, ‘documenting’ the Second Coming from viewpoints both within and outside of the scene.

Printed in black and white. Miao’s photos conceive the celestial as a silvery futuristic tableau that’s enchantingly serene and threateningly industrial. In combining the sublime awe of religious painting with malevolent science fiction theme, Miao uses photography to engage the viewer in an ultra-modern way.

In using digital process to create his subject ‘from scratch’, Miao’s photographs authenticate a virtual world rather than document reality.

Similar to video game graphics and ‘screen shots’, Miao’s images involve the viewer by casting them as ‘avatars’ within the action. Presenting his scenes at obscure angles, Miao positions the viewer as seraphs, saints, or in the case of The Below View, the damned."

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


Jean-Georges Cornelius (1880-1963). Bois.
Oil on wood
Musée eucharistique du Hiéron, Paray Le Monial

The original Museum of the Eucharist was inaugurated in 1894 at the shrine town of Paray Le Monial. The term "Hiéron" is derived from a Greek term meaning "sacred art".

Monday, May 26, 2008


Said to be the largest mosaic in the world at 475 square metres, the great mosaic in the chancel of the Basilique du Sacré-Cœur de Montmartre depicts the Sacred Heart of Jesus glorified by the Catholic Church and by France.

The mosaic was designed by the French painter Luc-Olivier Merson.

The mosaic took from 1900 to 1922 to be executed.

For a closer inspection of each detail of the mosaic see also:Luc-Olivier Merson : Mosaïques du Sacré-Coeur de Montmartre

Images of the Sacred Heart

Saint Marguerite Marie Alacoque or Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque (22 July 1647 – 17 October 1690) who promoted devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus in its modern form was prevailed upon to produce images for the devotion to the Sacred Heart.

The second image was produced by the Saint in September 1686. It was sent by the saint to Mother de Soudeilles in Moulins. She gave two images: one a large image for placing by a crucifix; the other much smaller which could be carried about for peronal devotion.

The original is in the Monastery of the Visitation at Nevers.

In her autobiography, the saint describes her first attempts on 20th July 1685 at producing an image. The original is in the Convent of the Visitation in Turin. The monastery at Paray had given it to the Convent on 7th October 1738 as the Convent which had been founded by St Francis de Sales was favoured by the Dukes of Savoy.

The word "Charitas" is inscribed in gold letters in the middle.

Batoni: The Artist of the Sacred Heart

Chapel of the Sacred Heart, Church of the Gesu, Rome with the Oil on copper painting of the Sacred Heart painting of the Sacred Heart (1767) by Battoni and Domenico Maria Saverio Calvi

Just finished at The National Gallery in London (18th May 2008) is an exhibition of the paintings of Pompeo Batoni (1708-1787), "Italy`s Last Old Master". See here.

In his day Pompeo Batoni was the most celebrated painter in Rome and one of the most famous in Europe.

But only two years after his death in 1787, Sir Joshua Reynolds predicted that Batoni's name would quickly fall into oblivion - and he was absolutely right.

Throughout the 19th and for most of the 20th centuries few artists were more completely forgotten - or, if remembered, more thoroughly despised.

Amongst his many achievements was to provide a series of paintings that could be used as a model for religious art.

His representations of the Sacred Heart of Jesus were perhaps essential in the popularisation and spread of the devotion.

One of the best-known representations of the Sacred Heart is the small painting, designed in 1767 by Pompeo Batoni and the Jesuit Domenico Maria Saverio Calvi for Rome's Church of the Gesu. It is of course well known from reproductions in many Catholic homes

In the 1780s the Portuguese queen also commissioned Pompeo Batoni to produce seven large altar pieces of the Sacred Heart for Lisbon's new Basilica of the Sacred Heart (Estrela)

Prophetic Voice ?

The controversial Scottish poet Hugh MacDiarmid [Christopher Murray Grieve, b. August 11, 1892, Langholm - September 9, 1978, Edinburgh] attempted to revive the Scottish language in poetry as a means of asserting Scotland's artistic independence and re-invigorating a literature suffering from sentimentality.

He often mourned the fact that his fellow countrymen seemed so obsessed with football rather than culture.

In 1935, he wrote the poem Glasgow 1960. Set in the future, MacDiarmid imagines the narrator as a Scottish exile returning to Glasgow. He discovers to his delight that in his absence there has been a cultural transformation.

Glasgow, 1960

Returning to Glasgow after long exile
Nothing seemed to me to have changed its style,
Buses and trams all labelled 'To Ibrox'
Swung past tight as they'd hold with folks.
Football match, I concluded, but just to make sure
I asked; and the man looked at me fell dour,
Then said, 'Where in God's name are you frae, sir?
It'll be a record gate, but the cause o' the stir
Is a debate on"la loi de l'effort converti"
Between Professor MacFadyen and a Spainish pairty."
I gasped. The newsboys came running along,
'Special! Turkish Poet's Abstruse New Song.
Scottish Authors' Opinions' - and, holy snakes,
I saw the edition sell like hot cakes!

Unbelievable ? For some reason I thought of this poem when I came across a recent report of an audience of 15,000 people who listened intently to a talk about Romano di Melode, a sixth century Syrian poet and composer.

For more about this event, see here and here

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Why visit a Monastery ?

Extract of the Speech of Pope Benedict XVI at Heiligenkreuz Abbey, the Cistercian monastery in the village of Heiligenkreuz in the southern part of the Vienna woods, on Sunday, 9 September 2007

The monastery has existed without interruption since its foundation in 1133, and is thus the oldest continuously occupied Cistercian monastery in the world (the second oldest after Rein Abbey).

"The soul of prayer, ultimately, is the Holy Spirit. Whenever we pray, it is he who “helps us in our weakness, interceding for us with sighs too deep for words” (Rom 8:26).

Trusting in these words of the Apostle Paul, I assure you, dear brothers and sisters, that prayer will produce in you the same effect which once led to the custom of calling priests and consecrated persons simply “spirituals” (Geistliche).

Bishop Sailer of Regensburg once said that priests should be first and foremost spiritual persons. I would like to see a revival of the word “Geistliche”.

More importantly, though, the content of that word should become a part of our lives: namely, that in following the Lord, we become, by the power of the Spirit, “spiritual” men and women.

Austria (Österreich) is, in an old play on words, truly Klösterreich: a realm of monasteries and a land rich in monasteries. Your ancient abbeys whose origins and traditions date back many centuries are places where “God is put first”. Dear friends, make this priority given to God very apparent to people!

As a spiritual oasis, a monastery reminds today’s world of the most important, and indeed, in the end, the only decisive thing: that there is an ultimate reason why life is worth living: God and his unfathomable love.

And I ask you, dear members of the faithful: see your abbeys and monasteries for what they are and always wish to be: not mere strongholds of culture and tradition, or even simple business enterprises. Structure, organization and finances are necessary in the Church too, but they are not what is essential.

A monastery is above all this: a place of spiritual power.

Coming to one of your monasteries here in Austria, we have the same impression as when, after a strenuous hike in the Alps, we finally find refreshment at a clear mountain spring… Take advantage of these springs of God’s closeness in your country; treasure the religious communities, the monasteries and abbeys; and make use of the spiritual service that consecrated person are willing to offer you!"

The whole speech is reported here.

A Young Benedict

Montserrat Gudiol b. 1933
The Young Saint Benedict of Nursia 1980
Oil on canvas
The Basilica of Montserrat, near Barcelona, Spain

One of the most beautiful (of the many) things to see at the Shrine of Our Lady at Monserrat, near Barcelona is a very large modern and extremely striking painting by the Catalonian artist, Montserrat Gudiol. It is of the young St Benedict of Nursia.

The painting was commissioned to commemorate the 1500th anniversary of the birth of St Benedict, the patron saint of Europe.

It was the introduction of modern art to the shrine complex.

It shows Saint Benedict dressed in the black habit of the Benedictines.

In about the year 500, Benedict became so upset by the immorality of society in Rome that he gave up his studies there and chose the life of an ascetic monk in the pursuit of personal holiness, living as a hermit in a cave near the rugged region of Subiaco

Solitary, energetic, austere, and committed in his beliefs. In his hands he holds the Rule he wrote to order monastic life, a treatise that has had so much influence over the centuries in the Christian world.

Faith and Foreign Policy

On Tuesday 12 February 2008 in Belfast as part of a series of Talks on faith in public life, HM Ambassador to the Holy See Francis Campbell delivered a lecture entitled 'Faith and Foreign Policy' .

He explained why ``to understand the world in which we live, we have to comprehend religion as a source of influence and motivation in peoples lives.'

He set the context by looking first at foreign policy and religion more generally; then why religion was often ignored in foreign policy considerations; and why it now deserves to be taken seriously and in a balanced perspective.

In light of the forthcoming Papal Encyclical, the second part of the Ambassador`s speech makes interesting reading.

The second part of the talk focused on the practical application of religion and foreign policy: International Development as an example of one area of engagement with the world of faith in which faith communities can play a major part.

"It is an area which shows the new dimension to foreign policy and faith – and aims to build a partnership which can lead to a noble joint endeavour. It is the challenge of achieving the Millennium Development Goals by 2015."

The speech can be accessed and downloaded here on the Embassy website (Note. pdf file )

Big is not always Best

Peter von Cornelius, (b. 1783, Düsseldorf, d. 1867, Berlin)
The Last Judgment (1836-39)
Fresco 60' 5" high and 37' 3" wide
Ludwigskirche Munich

The largest fresco in the world was commissioned by King Ludwig I of Bavaria. It stands in the church also commissioned by the King: the Ludwigskirche in Munich

The fresco decorations were for the most part designed and executed by von Cornelius

The king had championed Cornelius, whom he had first met in Rome in 1818. Cornelius was a leading member of the Lukasbund (Brotherhood of St. Luke), a fraternity of young German artists who were to be the founders of the Nazarene Movement.

Cornelius courageously based his painting on the Last Judgment by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel. Twenty years after his first sight of the Michelangelo masterpiece, von Cornelius was given an opportunity to execute his long held ambition: to paint a Last Judgment.

However the differences with the Michelangelo work are apparent: static and abstract rather than dynamic and dramatic; rather than the figures being material and natural, they appear idealistic and symbolic, abstract figures closely resembling medieval Christian prototypes. The individual elements simply would not resolve into a unified composition.

The work displeased Ludwig I. He thought it archaic and austere. It met a chorus of criticism directed at the Romantic conception underlying the painting.

Ludwig broke with Cornelius and Cornelius left to work for the Prussian king Friedrich Wilhelm IV in Berlin

Cardinal Pierre de Bérulle and St Philip Neri

Jacques Sarazin or Sarrazin (1588/90 — December 3, 1660)
Funeral Monument to the Heart of Cardinal Pierre de Bérulle (including panel of the Mass of St Philip Neri) 1653-1657
Musée du Louvre, Paris

Jacques Sarazin or Sarrazin (1588/90 — December 3, 1660) was a French sculptor and painter, but is less known for his paintings.

His best-known work was the decoration of the great portal and the dome of the western facade of the interior court of the Louvre.

He exercised great influence on 17th century art and was one of the founders of L'Académie royale de Peinture et de Sculpture in 1648

The work above is the centotaph for the heart of Cardinal Pierre de Bérulle (1575-1629), originally commissioned for the Sainte-Madeleine Chapel of the Great Convent of the Carmelites in Paris.

Cardinal de Bérulle was a French cardinal and statesman, one of the most important mystics of the 17th century in France, and founder of the French school of spirituality.

Amongst his friends and disciples were St. Vincent de Paul and St. Francis de Sales.

Bérulle founded the Congregation of the French Oratory in Paris (1611) and introduced the Carmelite nuns into France

He named the new congregation after that of St. Philip Neri, and adopted in part the rules and constitutions of the congregation of St Philip Neri. However in the Italian congregation the houses were independent of one another. De Bérulle placed the government of all the houses in the hands of the superior-general.

One of the panels of the Cenotaph represents the saying of Mass by St Philip Neri.

Of De Berulle, Professor Daniel A. Helminiak OMI wrote in Catholicism's Spiritual Limbo: A Shift in "Incarnational" Spirituality SPIRITUALITY TODAY Winter 1987, Vol. 39, pp. 331-348.

"Cardinal Pierre de Berulle (1575-1629) was the founder of "the French School." His devotion was so focused on Christ as God-become-human that Pope Urban VIII called him Apostolus Verbi Incarnati, The Apostle of the Incarnate Word.

Berulle wanted to emphasize Christ both in his greatness and in his abasement. Berulle's contribution here was significant. It represents an advance over previous approaches, for Berulle reverenced Jesus not just in his humanity but in his entirety, in the mystery of the Incarnation, in the unity of humanity and divinity.

Still, Berulle's notion of humanity was not lofty. The Word's acceptance of humanity represented an abasement, a self-surrender, a renunciation of self, a humiliation, a servitude -- all terms used by Berulle himself. Here the main thrust of the spirituality of the French School is already foreshadowed. ...

To Berulle ...: in imitation of the subservience in Christ, the Christian must take on an attitude of servitude to Christ. The Christian is to become completely empty of self. For according to de Berulle, the human is "the most vile and useless creature of all, indeed, as dust, mud, and a mass of corruption."One can overcome this sinful state only by total surrender of self, heroic self-renunciation. Berulle uses the term "annihilation." One must hold on to nothing of self.

Berulle elaborates on the meaning of annihilation, the proper relation to Christ, by use of two terms: abnegation and adherence.

Abnegation implies that one has no self left. One gives up all authority over self, all moral decision-making. Like the bread of the consecrated host, one is wholly lost in Christ. Adherence implies that one reproduce in oneself the mysteries that is, the states or dispositions -- of Christ during his life on earth.

Berulle's teaching about adherence to the "states" of Christ constitutes the profound and elaborate practical core of his spirituality. But, the important point to be noted here is that the fundamental disposition to be imitated is servitude.

In fact, however, Berulle had worked out this spirituality before he elaborated its christological basis. His position was really more sociological than theological.

Berulle was a product of his own age. Highly influenced by sixteenth and seventeenth century deference to monarchs, well aware of the honor due to kings and princes, Berulle projected the same attitudes onto spirituality.

He held that the most fundamental of all virtues was religion, that is, proper reverence for God. In brief, religion requires two attitudes: a very low esteem of all creatures, especially of oneself, and a very high idea of God. ...

[T]he so-called French School of Spirituality, ... colored Roman Catholic spirituality in the age of Jeanne de Matel and highly influenced her and the centuries that followed, until the midtwentieth century. ...

The seventeenth century response to the mystery of the Incarnate Word was adoration; the appropriate activity was servitude. The result was a certain demeaning of self in the face of the exaltation of God.

The twentieth century response to the Incarnation is the optimistic embrace of our common human condition; the appropriate activity is self-assertiveness, self development, and service in this world. "

Friday, May 23, 2008

St Hildegard

Father Paulus Krebs OSB 1849 -1935
St Hildegard founds the monastery at Eibingen and heals a blind boy in Rüdesheim [detail] 1907-1913
The Abbey Church of St Hildegard. Eibingen

"[T]he church was consecrated on September 7th, 1908. Between 1907 and 1913 the interior of the church was painted, a project led by Fr Paulus Krebs (1849-1935) of Beuron, a student of the famous artist-monk Fr Desiderius Lenz (1832-1928), the founder of the Beuron School of Art.

The abbey church at Eibingen is considered his most important work and one of the best complete compositions of the Beuron School of Art. The Abbey Church of St Hildegard was modelled on the old basilicas in the Romanesque style. ...

The paintings in the arches of the northern (left) side wall of the nave are dedicated to the Abbey's patron, St Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179). As Fr Paulus Krebs considered himself the "painter of St Hildegard", the paintings were executed with a special love and devotion. ...

[The paintings] are not painted in a historically realistic way, but rather stylised, as a sign that the artist was not concerned with historical religious painting, but with symbolic character and its message of faith."

Mary: A Fresco at Beuron

Father Paulus Krebs OSB 1849 -1935
The Glorification of Mary 1898-1904
Gnadenkapelle, Abteikirche St. Martin, Beuron


Brother Gabriel Wüger OSB (1829-1892)
St Benedict 1868-70
(Design by Desiderius Lenz (1832-1928))
St.-Maurus-Kapelle, Beuron (Donautal)

The Beuron art school was founded by a confederation of Benedictine monks in Germany in the late nineteenth century

The early leaders of the school were Maurus Wolter the founder of the Abbey with his brother Placidus Wolter, Father Desiderius Lenz and Gabriel Wuger. Several Benedictine artists worked within the school, including Jan Verkade (18 September 1868 - 19 July 1946). Verkade was one of Les Nabis before entering the Benedictine order.

Lenz elaborated the philosophy and canon of the new school of painting.

In his apostolic letter Archicoenobium Casinense (1913), Pope St. Pius X likened the artistic efforts of the Benedictines of Beuron to the revival of Gregorian chant by the Benedictines of Solesmes. He said: "...together with sacred music, it proves itself to be a powerful aid to the liturgy"

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Some Argentine art

Alejandro Xul Solar (1887-1963)
Dos anjos (Two angels) 1915
Watercolour on paper. 36 x 27 cm
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Xul Solar was the adopted name of Oscar Agustín Alejandro Schulz Solari , the Argentine painter, sculptor, and writer

In 1912 he travelled to Europe and lived in many different cities but mainly in Italy.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

La Fête-Dieu (or Corpus Christi)

Alexandre ANTIGNA (1817-1878)
La Fête-Dieu 1855
Oil on canvas 140 cm - 195 cm
Musée d'Orsay (Paris)

In France and other Western countries, the middle of the 19th century was distinguished by a new religious sensibility.

The Church encouraged this by encouraging the celebration of religious feast days.

In France, the celebration of Corpus Christi (known as la Fête-Dieu) was particularly encouraged. One of the centre pieces of the festival was a procession of the Blessed Sacrament on a carpet of petals placed down by children.

Until 1845 paintings of Alexandre Antigna were generally religious scenes and portraits. Then paintings of the urban poor also became his subjects. He was a pupil of Paul Delaroche

By the 1848 Revolution Antigna was devoted to the Realist style, and continued to paint in this manner until1860 when he began to produce paintings in the Naturalist style.

Christ and Sinner

Henryk Siemiradzki (1843-1902)
Christ and Sinner. The First Meeting of Christ and Mary Magdalene. 1873.
Oil on canvas. 550 x 350 cm.
The Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

Henryk Siemiradzki (1843-1902) was a Polish Academic painter. He was particularly known for his depictions of scenes from the ancient Graeco-Roman world and the New Testament.

From 1864 until 1870 he studied painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Saint-Petersburg. There he was to become an adherent of the academic classicism taught there.

He also studied at Munich under Piloty. Later he went to Rome, where he permanently settled.

Christ and Sinner. The First Meeting of Christ and Mary Magdalene (1872), brought him success and European fame. In his works, landscape is an important feature which unites the charatcters and theme. He painted several paintings on this theme.

His body is now in the national Pantheon on Skałka in Kraków.

Cedars of Lebanon

Tivadar Csontváry Kosztka (1853, Kisszeben - 1919, Budapest)
The Solitary Cedar 1907
Oil on canvas, 194 x 248 cm
Janus Pannonius Museum, Pécs

Tivadar Csontváry Kosztka (1853, Kisszeben - 1919, Budapest)
Pilgrimage to the Cedars in Lebanon 1907
Oil on canvas, 200 x 205 cm
Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest

In 1907, Kosztka travelled to Lebanon. The cedars of Lebanon appear to have more than caught his attention.

The Lebanon Cedar is an evergreen coniferous tree growing up to 40 m (130 ft) tall, with a trunk up to 2.5 m (8 ft 2 in) diameter

Jewish priests were ordered by Moses to use the bark of the Lebanon Cedar in circumcision and treatment of leprosy.

Isaiah used the Lebanon Cedar as a metaphor for the pride of the world.

According to the Talmud, Jews once burned Lebanese cedar wood on the Mount of Olives to announce the new year.

Kings far and near requested the wood for religious and civil buildings including King Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem and David's and Solomon's Palaces.

References to the Cedars of Lebanon abound in Scripture. Here is only one from Psalm 92: (v 12-16)

The righteous man will flourish like the palm tree,
He will grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
Planted in the house of the Lord,
They will flourish in the courts of our God.
They will still yield fruit in old age;
They shall be full of sap and very green,
To declare that the Lord is upright;
He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Praying Saviour

Tivadar Csontváry Kosztka (1853, Kisszeben - 1919, Budapest)
Praying Saviour 1903
Oil on canvas, 100 x 82 cm
Janus Pannonius Museum, Pécs

"The angular figure of the Saviour is standing in the middle isolated from everything and everybody. He is raising up his hands as if praying or preaching. The group of the twelve apostles are looking out of the picture.

Dr. Rezső Pertorini, author of the Csontváry pathogaph, grouped them as people shouting, "Crucify him," as if they were a choir in a Greek tragedy.

Faces are suggestive, those of the Saviour and Moses are expressive. The picture condenses events.

Moses is standing with stone tablets on the left. The silhouette of a town can be seen in the background, it is Jerusalem.

On the right, there is a thin tree with a block of stone at its foot with two black figures on it.

Behind the tree, there is a modern church which is lit: it can be approached on a steep slope.

Next to it, there are three columns with winged sculptures and a domed building on the left. A group of people are approaching the church.

The picture has a complicated and symbolic message, in fact, the painter attempted to sum up the History of Christianity. He portrayed the Old Testament on the left and the New Testament on the right: the former being represented by Moses and the tablets of the Decalogue, and the New Testament by Jesus' Sermon on the Mount and the disciples,

The tree symbolises the Cross, and the mourners with a stone suggests a grave. There are symbolic objects and scenes on both sides. The background stretches out to the distance."

Commentary from the website of Fine Arts in Hungary

Mary`s Well

Tivadar Csontváry Kosztka (1853, Kisszeben - 1919, Budapest)
Mary's Well at Nazareth 1908
Oil on canvas, 362 x 515 cm
Janus Pannonius Museum, Pécs

A great Hungarian artist, but sadly affected by schizophrenia.

From 1890 onwards he traveled around the world. He visited Paris, the Mediterraneum (Dalmatia, Italy, Greece), North Africa and the Middle East (Lebanon, Palestine, Egypt, Syria) and painted pictures. His symbolic paintings of mysterious atmosphere were painted in the Middle East.

He painted his major pictures between 1903 and 1909. Sadly, after 1909, he hardly painted due to amongst other things his medical condition.

Ignored during his lifetime, his reputation ascended after his death. After his death, an entire museum in Pécs, Hungary, was and is devoted to his paintings

His vision of the world is both tormented and idyllic. Picasso saw an exhibition of his work and referred to him as the "other" artistic genius of the 20th century.

Mary's Well is a modern public fountain in Nazareth built over a well that has been in public use since ancient times. It is fed by Mary's Spring, which runs under the altar of the nearby Orthodox Church of St. Gabriel

Although not recorded in the Bible, the tradition of Mary receiving the Annunciation while fetching water is ancient. It is written down in the 2nd-century Christian text known as the Protevangelium of James (or Proto-Gospel of James), which fills out the biblical story of Mary and the birth of Jesus with more details.

The Protevangelium says that Mary was one of seven unblemished virgins from the line of David chosen to weave a new curtain for the Holy of Holies in the Jerusalem Temple. She was working on this task in her Nazareth home when she went out to fetch some water from the city well.

"She took the jar and went out to fetch water. Then a voice spoke to her: 'Greetings, you who have received grace. The Lord is with you, you blessed among women.' She looked right and left to see where the voice came from and began to tremble. Then she went back into the house, put the jar aside, sat down, took the purple and began to spin. Then an angel stepped before her..."

The biblical account in Luke 1:26-38 only says that "God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth" and that "the angel went to her." It does not record the place of the Annunciation or what Mary was doing at the time.

Even for those who do not accept the tradition of the Annunciation at the well, Mary's Well is significant as the likely spot at which Mary would have fetched water on a regular basis. When Jesus was a boy, she would have brought him along with her.

The Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation, located a little further up the hill from the current site of Mary's Well, is a Byzantine era church built over the spring , based on the belief that the Annunciation took place at the site.

The Catholic Church believes the Annuciation to have take place less than 0.5km away at the Basilica of the Annunciation, a now modern structure which houses an older church inside of it that dates from the early Christian era.

There is an informative Wikipedia article on the subject of the Well.

Art Criticism

Gabriel Cornelius von Max (1840 - 1915)
Monkeys as Judges of Art 1889
Oil on canvas, 84,5 x 107,5 cm
Neue Pinakothek, Munich, Germany

Gabriel Cornelius von Max (1840 - 1915) studied at the Prague Academy and thereafter, starting 1858, at the Academy in Vienna, Max travelled to Munich in 1863 and then to Paris where he was inspired by Gustave Courbet and Éduard Manet.

Essentially a Symbolist painter but as the above painting shows he did not lack a sense of humour.

He surrounded himself with a family of monkeys, which he painted often.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Ehret die frauen

Marianne Stokes (1855-1927)/ Morris and Company (Merton Abbey)
Ehret die Frauen (Honour the Women) 1912
Tapestry 174 x 256 cm
Whitworth Art Gallery , Manchester

The theme is inspired by Friedrich von Schiller's 1796 poem Wurde der frauen (Woman's worth).

A group of figures represents (from left to right): Courage, Caring, Love, Wisdom and Fidelity.

The verse, designed in gothic type, reads:

Ehret die frauen sie flechten und meben • himmlische rosen ins irdische leben

(Honour the women, thy wife and weave heavenly roses into earthly life).

Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill

The Times reports that today that as expected, the House of Commons has approved the most controversial measures contained within the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill

In other words measures which other countries have refused to permit will be allowed within the United Kingdom.

"An amendment to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill that would have outlawed the creation of “human admixed embryos” for medical research was defeated in a free vote by a majority of 160, preserving what Gordon Brown regards as a central element of the legislation.

The Government, however, is braced for defeat tomorrow on a separate clause that would scrap the requirement that fertility clinics consider a child’s “need for a father” before treating patients. MPs will also tomorrow consider amendments that would cut the legal limit for abortion from 24 weeks to 22 or 20 weeks.

A second amendment, that would have banned the creation only of “true hybrids” made by fertilising an animal egg with human sperm, or vice-versa, was also defeated by a majority of 63. Another free vote later tonight is expected to approve the use of embryo-screening to create “saviour siblings” suitable to donate umbilical cord blood to sick children.

Edward Leigh, Conservative MP for Gainsborough, moving the amendment to ban all admixed embryos, said mingling animal and human DNA crossed an “ultimate boundary”. He said that exaggerated claims were giving patients false hope and that the dangers of the research were unknown.

He said: "In many ways we are like children playing with landmines without any concept of the dangers of the technology that we are handling.”

Mark Simmonds, a shadow health minister, who moved the amendment to ban “true hybrids”, said there was no compelling evidence of their research utility.

Evan Harris, Liberal Democrat MP for Oxford West, challenged those who accepted admixed embryos in principle but rejected “true hybrids” to explain the ethical difference between an embryo that was 99 per cent human and one that was 50 per cent human.

Dawn Primarolo, the Health Minister, agreed: “Once we go down that road it seems illogical to oppose a particular mix.” Ms Primarolo said the shortage of human eggs was the major barrier to embryonic stem cell research. The minister admitted that the Bill “was not a promise” that cures to diseases could be found. “It’s an aspiration that it may.”

The amendment to ban all admixed embryos was defeated by 336 votes to 176. The prohibition on true hybrids was defeated by 286 votes to 223.

The main type of admixed embryo permitted by the Bill are “cytoplasmic hybrids” or “cybrids”, made by moving a human nucleus into an empty animal egg. These are genetically 99.9 per cent human. As well as true hybrids, it also allows chimeras that combine human and animal cells and transgenic human embryos that include a little animal DNA.

The most immediate implication of the Commons vote will be to allow teams at the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne and King’s College, London, who already hold licences to create a particular type of admixed embryo, to continue their research.

Though they were cleared to start these experiments by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority in January, these licences would have been rescinded had MPs voted for a ban.

Both teams are trying to create cybrids, which could carry the DNA of patients with genetic conditions to create stem-cell models.

The idea is to make stem cell models of diseases, to study their progress and to test new treatments. Human eggs could be used, but they are in short supply as they cannot be donated without risk to women.

It is legal to culture admixed embryos for a maximum of 14 days but it is illegal to transfer them to a human or animal womb. A Times/Populus poll found last month that 50 per cent of the public supports this work, with only 30 per cent opposed.

The decision will also encourage a third team, who plans to use admixed embryos to study motor neuron disease, to apply for a licence. The group, led by Professor Chris Shaw of the Institute of Psychiatry in London, had been waiting for the vote."

The Sanctuary of Nostra Signora della Guardia

The Sanctuary of Nostra Signora della Guardia near the Italian sea port of Genova commemorates the apparition of the Madonna that took place on "Monte Figogna" on 29th August 1490 to a local peasant "Benedetto Pareto".

The Sanctuary rises at 804 m above sea level, with a unique panoramic view (from Corsica to the Matterhorn).

Yesterday Pope Benedict XVI commenced his visit to the Italian city of Genova by first visiting the shrine at Monte Figogna.

Later he said:

"Many times Pope Benedict XV, your illustrious fellow citizen, went as a pilgrim to that mountain oasis, and in the Vatican Gardens he had a reproduction made of that dear image of the Madonna della Guardia.

And just as my venerable predecessor, John Paul II did, in his first apostolic pilgrimage to Genoa, I too wanted to begin my pastoral visit by offering homage to the heavenly Mother of God, who from the height of Mount Figogna watches over the city and all its inhabitants.

Tradition tells of how the Madonna, in her first appearance to Benedetto Pareto -- who was worried about how he would go about building a church in that place so far from the city -- said: “Trust in me! You will not lack the means. With my help everything will be easy. Only be firm in your will.”

“Trust in me!” Mary repeats this again to us today. An ancient prayer, very dear to popular tradition, has us address these words to her, that today we make our own: “Remember, O, most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help or sought thy intercession was left unaided.”

Unfortunately when he visited the Sanctuary, the weather was unseasonably wet and the views would have been restricting.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Marianne Stokes

Marianne Stokes 1855 - 1927
Madonna and Child 1907-8
Tempera on board 80 cm (31.5 in.),x 59.5 cm (23.43 in.)
Wolverhampton Art Gallery

Marianne Stokes (Marianne Preindlsberger) (1855-1927) was born in Graz, Austria.

She studied under Wilhelm von Lindenschmidt in Munich

In 1884, while painting in Brittany at Pont-Avon, she met and later married British artist Adrian Stokes. The couple moved to St Ives and both became leading figures in the art colony there. Together they travelled throughout Europe

In the 1890's she steadily moved towards religious subjects. A strong spirituality pervades her later works.

She won a medal at the 1893 Exposition.

She was considered one of the leading women artists in Britain

In 1923 she became an associate of the Royal Society of Painters in Water Colours.

She exhibited in London with these bodies as well as at the Royal Academy, Royal Institute of Oil Painters, Fine Art Society, Grosvenor Gallery, New Gallery and Royal Society of British Artists

She abandoned oils towards the turn of the century in favour of tempera painting. She associated the use of tempera with the purity and simplicity of an earlier art. She said: ‘It seems to me a medium which lends itself most to spirituality, sincerity and purity of colour’.

In 2005, the Royal Mail used one of her paintings "Madonna and Child" for the First Class Christmas stamp. More than 200 million 1st Class stamps were printed. Because of this the Art Gallery brought the painting out of storage.

Painted in Regusa on the Dalmatian coast in Italy around 1907-8, Stokes used a local village girl to model as the Holy Mother. The costume is representative of a traditional Dalmatian costume from the time

Stokes died in London. She did not have any children.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Albert Herbert

Albert Herbert (1925-2008)
Jonah Arrives at Nineveh 2004
Oil on canvas
20 x 24 inches
Private collection

Albert Herbert ( 1925-2008) painter and teacher died on May 10th, 2008.

"Always interested in mysticism, Herbert converted finally to Roman Catholicism, though remaining on an intellectual level fascinated by Buddhism in particular. All this soon showed in his art, with his gradual adoption of religious and mythical subjects, which he saw as an important link between himself and a possibly uncomprehending public. ...

Finally arriving at his mature style, he continued to paint primarily biblical subjects, both Old and New Testament, in what one might call a sophisticated primitive style, much influenced by his intense interest in children’s art.

And as representational art gradually crept back into favour, fashion finally began to catch up with him, culminating in an extensive and impressive retrospective at the gallery England & Co in Notting Hill in 2004.

At last people could understand exactly what he meant when he said: “Art is not about meanings, but about feelings.”


Max Liebermann (Germany, 1847–1935)
The Twelve-Year-Old Jesus in the Temple with the Scholars, 1879
Oil on canvas, (150.5 x 132 cm)
Hamburger Kunsthalle

Max Liebermann (Germany, 1847–1935)
Study of the painting "The twelve-year-old Jesus in the Temple with the Scholars" 1878.
Chalk drawing
22,7 x 11,7
Private collection South Germany

Max Liebermann (July 20, 1847 in Berlin - February 8, 1935) is regarded as the foremost proponent of Impressionism in Germany

He led the premier avant-garde formation in Germany, the Berliner Secession. Beginning in 1920 he was president of the Prussian academy of arts.

With the rise of the Nazi regime in 1933, he was ousted from the Presidency of the Academy, his paintings were removed from all German museums, and he was forbidden either to exhibit or to work.

After his death in 1935, his house was looted and his collection stolen and scattered.

The artist's wife, Martha Liebermann, was forced to sell the home in 1940. In 1943 she committed suicide in the family home, Haus Liebermann, hours before police came to arrest her.

He painted The Twelve-Year-Old Jesus in the Temple with the Scholars, in 1879. The painting we now see is not as it was originally painted.

When first exhibited at Munich’s First International Art Exhibition in 1879, the painting provoked a controversy.

Originally he painted the boy Jesus in a Realist style -- as a barefoot Jewish urchin, dark and swarthy, conspicuously using his hands to argue doctrine with his elders.

The art critic for the Augsburger Allgemeine Zeitung, Friedrich Pecht, declared that Liebermann had painted “the ugliest, know-it-all Jewish boy imaginable,” adding that the artist had shown the Jewish elders as “a rabble of the filthiest haggling Jews.”

It was debated in the Bavarian Parliament and condemned as blasphemous and anti-Christian. The Crown Prince of Bavaria was said to have been outraged

The uproar seems to have been caused by a Jew painting an explicitly Jewish Jesus.

In a later canvas he toned down Jesus' Semitic appearance, giving him blond hair, softer facial features and less emphatic gestures. This is the one we see now.

Fritz von Uhde bought and kept the painting until 1911

The painting was not exhibited again until the Berlin Secession exhibition of 1907. .

The Hard Path

Fritz von Uhde (1848 - 1911)
Schwerer Gang/ The Hard Path 1890
Oil on Canvas, 117,0 x 127,0 cm
Neue Pinakothek, Munich

"When you can assume that your audiences holds the same beliefs you do, you can relax a little and use more normal means of talking to it; when you have to assume that it does not, then you have to make your vision apparent by shock-to the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost-blind you draw large and startling figures."
Flannery O'Connor

On the Way to Emmaus

Fritz von Uhde 1848 – 1911
Walking to Emmaus 1891
Oil on Canvas
Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden

Fritz von Uhde (1848 - 1911) made the acquaintance of Hans Makart in Vienna. In 1876 he left military service in order to dedicate himself to painting.

He developed a naturalistic-impressionistic style. In 1892 he belonged to the group of founders of the Munich Secession.

Along with Lovis Corinth and Max Slevogt, Uhde is considered to be one of the most important German Impressionists.

In his many religious paintings, Uhde wanted to express the timelessness of Jesus’ story by depicting him in contemporary settings. At the time they were painted, these religious paintings were popular and praised

Historians of central Europe agree that the fin de siècle was a time of artistic ferment. It was also a time of renewal and renovation in religious thought.

In particular, it was a time when some sought to return to an ideal purity of the early Church. One of the themes was to regard Christ as "man amongst men". It involved a quest to discover the historical Jesus.

In the Salon at the turn of the century one anti-clerical Frenchman (Mirabeau) noted:

"[c'est] une épidémie, Jésus-Christ anarchiste, socialiste, libéral et révolutionnaire, réaliste, historique, symboliste, naturaliste [est partout]…"
(Le Journal, 28 April 1901).

But to turn back to Uhde, his paintings did not go down well in all quarters. The popularity of his "contemporary" vision of Christ did not last long. In The Religious Situation (1926/1932), at page 89 the theologian Paul Tillich said memorably:

"It is not an exaggeration to ascribe more of the quality of sacredness to a still-life by Cézanne or a tree by Van Gogh than to a picture of Jesus by Uhde."

Later Tillich rowed back from such an extreme view:

"Cézanne proclaims a mystical devotion to life, and does so with the tools of a very great artist. Uhde proclaims ethical-social devotion with the tools of a minor artist. But basically he, too, is religious."
(Tillich, My Travel Diary, p. 108.)

All of which illustrates the unbridgeable historic gap faced by the Christian artist in portraying a historic Jesus. Studying history inevitably involves a measure of self-projection, a creative intuition. The “past” one views is always the past one re-creates by projection and intuition.

The Walk to Emmaus, also called the Meeting at Emmaus, has been treated by comparatively few painters. The Blessed Fra Angelico is one. The theme of the Supper at Emmaus seems to have found more favour. But:

"The image of the disciples on the way to Emmaus can serve as a fitting guide for a Year when the Church will be particularly engaged in living out the mystery of the Holy Eucharist.

Amid our questions and difficulties, and even our bitter disappointments, the divine Wayfarer continues to walk at our side, opening to us the Scriptures and leading us to a deeper understanding of the mysteries of God.

When we meet him fully, we will pass from the light of the Word to the light streaming from the “Bread of life”, the supreme fulfilment of his promise to “be with us always, to the end of the age” (cf. Mt 28:20)."

Pope John Paul II. Apostolic Letter Mane Nobiscum Domine 7th October 2004