Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Holy Family

François-Xavier Fabre (1766-1837)
La Sainte Famille (The Holy Family)
Oil on canvas
224 x 160 cm
Musée Fabre, Montpellier

In France, religious paintings were still rare in the early nineteenth after the revolutionary turmoil. 

Fabre stayed away from Paris 

The circle in which he moved in Florence included  the Countess of Albany widow of the last of the Stuarts 

He was a pupil of David

Fabre was a classicist  and not a Romantic

Here from an earlier time in French neo-Classicism is the same theme this time by François-Guillaume Ménageot (1744-1816)

François-Guillaume Ménageot (1744-1816)
Le Repos de la Sainte Famille en Egypte avec saint Jean-Baptiste enfant (The rest of the Holy Family in Egypt with the Infant St John the Baptist)
Oil on canvas
149 x 96 cm
Galerie Michel Descours, Lyon

In this Adoration of the Magi by Vignon from a earlier era of French painting, one half of the work is taken up by the Holy Family

Claude Vignon (1593-1670)
L’Adoration des mages (Adoration of the Magi)
Oil on canvas
165 x 262 cm
Eglise de Saint-Gervais-saint-Protais, Paris

The emphasis on the example of The Holy Family in religious art is not new. It is a profound image which goes to the heart of Christian teaching

Recently the Instrumentum Laboris for the forthcoming Synod of Bishops said this:

"The Holy Family of Nazareth and Learning to Love 
36. A recurring subject in almost all the responses is the importance of the Holy Family of Nazareth as the model and example for the Christian family. The mystery of the Word of God’s becoming incarnate within a family reveals how it is the privileged place for God’s revelation to humanity. In fact, the family is acknowledged to be the ordinary and everyday place to encounter Christ. The Christian people look to the Holy Family of Nazareth as a model in relationships and love, as a point of reference for every family and as a comfort in time of trial. The Church invokes the Holy Family of Nazareth, entrusting all families, in their moments of joy, hope and sorrow, to the care of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. 
37. The responses highlight the importance of love in the family, referring to it as “an efficacious sign of the existence of God's Love” and calling the family itself “the sanctuary of life and love.” The initial experience of love and human relationships takes place within the family. Every child needs to live in the warmth and protective care of loving parents in a home where peace abides. Children must be able to see that Jesus is always with them and that they are never alone. Because of an obvious weakening in family ties, particularly in some parts of the world, children experience loneliness. Even when children need correction, it should be done so as to ensure that they grow in a familial atmosphere of love and that parents might realize their vocation to be God's collaborators in the development of the human family. 
38. Considerable emphasis is placed on the formative value of love in the family for not only children but all its members. As such, the family is a “school of love,” a “school of communion,” and a “gymnasium for relationships,” that is, the privileged place to learn to build meaningful relationships which help a person develop a capacity for giving one’s self. Some of the responses suggest that a relation might exists between the knowledge of the mystery and vocation of the human person and the acknowledgment and acceptance of each’s unique gifts and abilities within the family. In this sense, the family can be considered as the “basic school of humanity,” and thus regarded as irreplaceable."

The Instrumentum also spoke of the family as an Image of Trinitarian Love. The Holy Family is likewise such an image. The Instrumentum said:
"35. A number of responses focuses on the image of the Trinity reflected in the family. The experience of the mutual love between the spouses is an assistance in understanding the life of the Trinity as love. Through a communion lived in the family, children can glimpse an image of the Trinity. 
Recently, the Holy Father, Pope Francis, in his catechesis on the sacraments, recalled that “when a man and woman celebrate the Sacrament of Matrimony God as it were ‘is mirrored’ in them; he impresses in them his own features and the indelible character of his love. Marriage is the icon of God’s love for us. Indeed, God is communion too: the three Persons of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit live eternally in perfect unity. And this is precisely the mystery of Matrimony: God makes of the two spouses one single life” (General Audience, 2 April 2014)."

Thursday, June 26, 2014

St John the Baptist by Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci 1452 –  1519
St John the Baptist
Oil on walnut wood
69 cm × 57 cm (27.2 in × 22.4 in)
Louvre, Paris

It is one of the master`s final (if not final) paintings

A young St. John comes out  from a dark background where there is no indication of space or of time.

The young saint is looking intently at the viewer but only by means of his right eye and not his left. He seems to be glancing at something else with his left eye. 

The eyes were generally regarded as the windows to the soul

Indeed in one of his Notebooks, Leonardo made precisely the same remark.

Leonardo was driven in his anatomical studies to find the seat of the soul

He called the location of the soul  the sensus communis, or confluence of the mental and imaginative faculties of man and the seat of the soul.

In these drawings from one of his Notebooks in HM The Queen`s collection at Windsor, he thought he had discovered its location. Notwithstanding that, these works are superb anatomical drawings and are landmarks in the history of anatomical illustration

Sometimes geniuses do not always get it right all the time

Leonardo da Vinci 1452 –  1519
Recto: The skull sectioned. Verso: The cranium
Pen and ink over black chalk
18.8 x 13.4 cm

In Windsor, RL :19019r in HM The Queen`s Collection, Leonardo wrote:
""The soul seems to reside in the part of judgment, and the part of judgment appears to reside in that place where all the senses meet; and this is called sensa comune; and [the soul] is not all-pervading throughout the body, as many have thought, rather it is entirely in one part. 
Because if it [the soul] were all-pervading and the same in every part, there would have been no need to make the instruments of the senses follow the same path to meet in one single spot."
(Jean Paul Richter,  The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci :1970, vol. 2, p.101, no. 838)

This is therefore not just a portrait of an ordinary man but of someone who has been singled out by God, an important actor  in the history of Salvation

We see his face full on, a curtain which hides a pure soul which has been touched by the divine

With our imagination we might glimpse what Leonardo has depicted behind the thin and delicate curtain of flesh, bone, muscle and blood

But it is also a portrait

Of portraiture, Leonardo had this advice in his Notebooks:
"If you should have a court yard that you can at pleasure cover with a linen awning that
light will be good. Or when you want to take a portrait do it in dull weather, or as evening falls, making the sitter stand with his back to one of the walls of the court yard. 
Note in the streets, as evening falls, the faces  of the men and women, and when the weather is
dull, what softness and delicacy you may perceive in them. 
Hence, Oh Painter! have a court arranged with the walls tinted black and a narrow roof projecting within the walls. It should be 10 braccia wide and 20 braccia long and 10 braccia high and covered with a linen awning; or else paint a work towards evening or when it is cloudy or misty, and this is a perfect light."
(Richter  The Literary Works of Leonardo  da Vinci  Volume I, para 520 (1888))

The physiognomy is of course that of a Florentine. Florence`s patron saint was and is John the Baptist, the Precursor

The famous Baptistry in the city is called Battistero di San Giovanni Battista, the Baptistry of St John the Baptist

One of his relics, a finger bone, was donated to the city by the anti-pope John XXIII (1370 - 1419) which is still preserved in a precious monstrance in the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo in Florence

The legend is that it is the finger which the Baptist used to point out Christ when he said "Ecce Agnus Dei"

Leonardo as a Tuscan and as sometime resident of Florence would have been well aware of the relic and the devotion of the city for the saint

Hence the pose in the painting

The saint points to Heaven: the traditional gesture of John the Baptist in art but also the gesture of St Anne in Leonardo's cartoon The Virgin and Child with St Anne and St John the Baptist (The Burlington House Cartoon) in The National Gallery in London

There are only two saints who were born without sin: the Virgin Mary and John the Baptist

Mary was conceived without sin

John was  cleansed of original sin in the womb of his mother at the time of the Visitation of Mary to St Elizabeth when in the womb he was filled with the Holy Spirit

Along with the Virgin Mary, he is  the only saint whose birth is commemorated because it marked the beginning of the fulfillment of the divine promises

But it was not a case of Tuscan parochialism and local pride that made Leonardo paint this great figure more than once in his career

Even before his birth, Gabriel told Zachary how great his son would be: Luke 1: 5 -20
"3 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall name him John. 
14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 
15 for he will be great in the sight of [the] Lord. He will drink neither wine nor strong drink. 
He will be filled with the holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb, 
16 and he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. 
17 He will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah to turn the hearts of fathers toward children and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous, to prepare a people fit for the Lord.”
We also recall that in Luke 7:28 and in Matthew, Christ himself said of John:
"I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John; yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he."
The name John, derives from the  Hebrew; Jehohanan,  "Jahweh hath mercy"

His mission was the call to repentance and to proclaim the way of the Lord

The face is frankly androgynous. 

There is a gentle smile of greeting, of acceptance but it has been described as mysterious and sphinx like

The face is certainly beautiful. The sitter or model has not been identified

It could be an amalgam of various people the artist had noticed or studied over the years including himself. There are even signs that some Florentine depictions of David (another patron of Florence) may have entered the mix

Again in his Notebooks, Leonardo wrote:
"It seems to me to be no small charm in a painter when he gives his figures a pleasing air, and this grace, if he have it not by nature, he may acquire by incidental study in this way: 
Look about you and take the best parts of many beautiful faces, of which the beauty is confirmed rather by public fame than by your own judgment; for you might be mistaken and choose faces which have some resemblance to your own. 
For it would seem that such resemblances often please us; and if you should be ugly, you would select faces that were not beautiful and you would then make ugly faces, as many painters do. 
For often a master's work resembles himself. So select beauties as I tell you, and fix them in your mind."
Richter  The Literary Works of Leonardo da Vinci  Volume I, para 587

Some have wrongly assumed that there is a homoerotic quality to the painting. Sigmund Freud has a lot to answer for. He based his false thesis on an error in translation

Some even that it is pagan on the basis of the thyrsus, vine leaves and panther skin with an alleged likeness to Bacchus. However Leonardo knew his Scripture. He would have recalled the words of the Archangel:
"He will drink neither wine nor strong drink"
This is not a John the Baptist by Caravaggio

The saint may have qualities of both sexes or of none. In that, the figure shares the same qualities as the Angels - the Messengers of God and the greatest of the prophets such as Elijah for whom the libido may or may not be the most important element of his or her life or may be non-existent

He is a youth.

In Luke we recall:
""[T]he child [John the Baptist] grew and was strengthened in spirit, and was in the deserts until the day of his manifestation to Israel." 

The face is proportionate. But do we really notice how much work, effort and study went in to making it so - and apparently so effortlessly

In his Notebooks from which he intended to compile a book on Painting he once wrote:
"310. The space between the parting of the lips [the mouth] and the base of the nose is one-seventh of the face. 
The space from the mouth to the bottom of the chin _c d_ is the fourth part of the face and equal to the width of the mouth. 
The space from the chin to the base of the nose _e f_ is the third part of the face and equal to the length of the nose and to the forehead. 
The distance from the middle of the nose to the bottom of the chin _g h_, is half the length of the face. 
The distance from the top of the nose, where the eyebrows begin, to the bottom of the chin, _i k_, is two thirds of the face. 
The space from the parting of the lips to the top of the chin _l m_, that is where the chin ends and passes into the lower lip of the mouth, is the third of the distance from the parting of the lips to the bottom of the chin and is the twelfth part of the face. 
From the top to the bottom of the chin _m n_ is the sixth part of the face and is the fifty fourth part of a man's height. 
From the farthest projection of the chin to the throat _o p_ is equal to the space between the mouth and the bottom of the chin, and a fourth of the face.
The distance from the top of the throat to the pit of the throat below _q r_ is half the length of the face and the eighteenth part of a man's height. 
From the chin to the back of the neck _s t_, is the same distance as between the mouth and the roots of the hair, that is three quarters of the head. 
From the chin to the jaw bone _v x_ is half the head and equal to the thickness of the neck in profile. 
The thickness of the head from the brow to the nape is once and 3/4 that of the neck."
(The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci, Volume I, translated by Jean Paul Richter (1888))

For some reason the famous quote of Jesus in Luke 12:7 comes to mind:
" Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows"

In his left hand (barely visible) he holds a cross which he holds to his breast, next to his heart

A lamb holding a cross was the recognised symbol of the "Agnus Dei"

Yet another reference to John 1:29, where John the Baptist sees Jesus and exclaims, "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world."

The next day he repeats the appellation (John 1:36)

But St John himself may also be "a lamb"

The lamb "without blemish and without stain"  appears in the Old Testament. At the original Passover the Jews were instructed to kill a lamb "without blemish" and sprinkle its blood on the doors so that The Angel of Death would pass by

Immaculate, pure, virtuous, atonement, baptism, baptism by blood

The Precursor, like Jesus, was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and did not open his mouth as his life was extinguished

As the Baptist is reported to have said in John 3:
"He must become greater; I must become less"

He  is bending round his torso so that he comes under a light coming from the left.

The figure has long curly hair which hangs down in such a way as to provide a counterpoint to the degree of rotation of the torso

The face and the neck follow a curve which starts at the breast

It looks deceptively easy. The verisimilitude derives from his years of study and experience especially in his study of anatomy

Below in his notebook we see his depiction of the surface muscles of the neck and the shoulder. 

In the long note on the right, he has written:
"The neck has four movements. The first to raise the face, the second to lower it, the third to turn it to the right and the left, the fourth to bend the head to the right and the left."
Other movements he calls "mixed"

Leonardo subtly highlights the saint`s neck. It will be that neck which suffers the blow that causes his death

Leonardo da Vinci 1452 –  1519
The surface muscles of the neck and the shoulder
Pen and ink over black chalk
292 x 199 mm
RL 19003R
The Royal Collection Trust, Windsor Castle  © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014

In the following depiction of the muscles of the shoulder, he depicts the mechanics of the movement of the shoulder joint

He has divided the pectoralis major into sections which depict the lines of force along which the muscle acts

In this way he depicts a proper geometrical and mechanical pattern and explains how following such a scheme a proper and accurate depiction of the musculature of the shoulder and its muscles are delineated

Leonardo da Vinci 1452 –  1519
The muscles of the shoulder
Pen and ink over black chalk
292 x 199 mm
RL 19003V
The Royal Collection Trust, Windsor Castle  © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014

In his Notebooks, Leonardo wrote:
"The limbs should be adapted to the body with grace and with reference to the effect that you wish the figure to produce. And if you wish to produce a figure that shall of itself look light and graceful you must make the limbs elegant and extended, and without too much display of the muscles; and those few that are needed for your purpose you must indicate softly, that is, not very prominent and without strong shadows ; the limbs, and particularly the arms easy; that is, none of the limbs should be in a straight line with the adjoining parts... 
The positions of the head and arms are endless and I shall therefore not enlarge on any rules for them. Still, let them be easy and pleasing, with various turns and twists, and the joints gracefully bent, that they may not look like pieces of wood."
(The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci, Volume I, translated by Jean Paul Richter (1888))
And so we see the study that went into depicting the saint`s neck

This  of course only goes a short way to explain why Leonardo is regarded as a genius in art and why his St John the Baptist is a masterwork of genius,  religious art and intense personal devotion

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Written Word, the Printed Word, the Screen Word

John Bromyard reading in the Initial "P"
From John Bromyard, Summa praedicantium
15th century
Dijon - BM - inc. 20410, f. 001
Public Library, Dijon

John Bromyard (d. c. 1352) was an influential English Dominican friar and prolific compiler of preaching aids. His output of the written word on parchment and in print was prolific and influential

He lived at the Dominican priory at Hereford in England

His Summa Predicantium was  first printed about 1484 in Basel and went through several editions, the last in 1627 in Antwerp. 

Extracts are here

And now we are in the throes of another Information Revolution.

E-books and their progeny look as if they may replace ( in large part) the printed word on paper

In an article in the Financial Times, Julian  Baggini reflected on "Screen Culture"

He wrote:
"Choosing books to take on holiday has got more difficult in recent years. Now it is a question not just of what to read but how – on paper, tablet, e-reader, or perhaps even a phone – and people have strong opinions on which is best. But is there any more to the decision than cost and convenience? On this question, the answer suggested by numerous studies into the neuroscience and psychology of reading in different formats is an emphatic yes."

Monday, June 23, 2014

Sunday 28th June 1914

The photograph shows Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife descending  the steps of the City Hall, Sarajevo to their motor car, just a few moments before their assassination on Sunday 28th June 1914

There is a Hungarian language version of a newsreel of that day and the aftermath also on the website of the Imperial War Museum here

The event bears a slight resemblance to what happened in Dallas in 1963. But the events which followed on from the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife dwarfed those which followed in Dallas

In a recent lecture in London, Professor Vernon Bogdanor FBA CBE, Professor of Government at the University of Oxford, described the events of 28th June 2014 and explained why ‘Nations slithered over the brink into the boiling cauldron of war without any trace of apprehension or dismay’, (Lloyd George, 1934)

On August 1st 1914 war was declared and on August 9th the British sent an Expeditionary Force to France expecting to reach Berlin by Christmas. 

So began a period of four years of trench warfare during which the Allied trenches stretched for over 500 miles from the coast of France to the Swiss Border with similar entrenchments on the German side. 

More and more countries over the globe entered the conflict on opposing sides and for different reasons. It became literally a World War. The battlefields were land, sea and the air

The total number of deaths, military and civilian, is usually given as 16 million, 6 million civilian and 10 million military of which 4 million were Central Powers and 6 million Entente. 

What is generally agreed, however, is that of the 10 million military deaths, 6-7 million died in combat and 3-4 million died from infectious diseases,

Professor Francis Cox DSc, former Professor of Zoology and Professor of Parasite Immunology and Dean of Science in the University of London. delivered a recent lecture entitled The First World War: Disease, The Only Victor. 

In the lecture he said that the massive dislocation caused by War caused many millions more deaths

He said:
"One other circumstance that sways the figures towards deaths due to combat and away from those due to disease is the exclusion of ‘Spanish ‘flu’, or the H1N1 virus its proper name, from the statistics of war deaths. Never in modern times has there been a more important infectious disease, nor one more poorly understood or its origin and spread more poorly interpreted,  than  the 1918 influenza pandemic caused by the  H1N1 virus. ... 
Joining all the dots together the most likely scenario seems to be that it arose in China, was transported to Europe with American troops and began to spread in the winter of 1916 and by 1918 had been recorded not only in Europe but also in places as diverse as Kansas, Aldershot and Freetown.   
Influenza might have remained a significant health threat but an amazing act of folly created a catastrophe. Any epidemic requires not only an origin but also an epicentre.  
Professor John Oxford argues strongly that this epicentre was Étaples in North West France. 
The Allies’ camp at Étaples was massive and contained numerous medical facilities including 24 hospitals. At first these were  mainly concerned with getting the sick and wounded back into action and later returning casualties to the own countries. Altogether over 1 million troops passed though the camp and at any one time it accommodated up to 100,000. Care was taken to reduce the risks posed by the water-borne diseases, cholera and typhoid, which are easy to control, but little, if any, attention was given to communicable diseases that often required quarantine facilities. ... 
The net result is well known; some 500 million people were infected of whom 50 million died. ...
After the armistice in November 1918, Europe, both West and East, was in ruin, crops had failed and people were starving and water supplies were contaminated. This represented another ‘perfect’ storm for the spread of infectious diseases with the result that immediately following the war diseases in Europe and other places touched by the war were more prevalent than they had been at the beginning of the war in 1914.  
One aspect, particularly worthy of note was that many diseases virtually on  the fringe of control or eradication retuned with new vigour and this was most marked on the Eastern  Front  where tremendous progress had been made, for example in controlling smallpox. It is not possible to quantify the effects of all infectious diseases or to list them all but one, tuberculosis, has been particularly well documented.   
In England and Wales the incidence of tuberculosis was 135/100,000 in 1914 and 170/10,000 in 1918. Crude death rates are even more informative. In Germany there were 97, 000 deaths from tuberculosis in 1914 and 148,000 in 1918 (rounded figures). One more example, typhus killed three million people mainly in refugee camps before delousing could be employed and new clothing provided.  
Between 1914 and 1920, 800,000 people died of tuberculosis in Germany. In addition there were countless numbers who died in refugee and prisoner of war camps.  
Taking Spanish ‘Flu and all the other infectious diseases into account, the point I am making here is that counting the military dead is only part of the picture and the numbers of the dead should also include those who died as a direct result of the war. It is almost impossible to make any meaningful comparisons between the numbers of those who died in combat and those who died from disease as a direct result of combat."

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Oballe Chapel, Toledo

El Greco (1541 - 1614)
The Virgin of the Immaculate Conception
Oil on canvas
348 x 174,5 cm
Museo de Santa Cruz, Toledo

It looks very much like an Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. But no. It is a depiction of The Immaculate Conception

The connection between the Assumption and the Immaculate Conception is a strong one. See Munificentissimus Deus

In her Will, Doña Isabel Oballe of Lima in Peru left money for the foundation of a chapel in the church of San Vicente in Toledo

The chapel is now known as the Oballe Chapel after the founder

El Greco changed the original  scheme or composition of the chapel

Instead of fresco, the main work was to be an oil canvas for the main altar on The Immaculate Conception

At the bottom of the painting one can see the city of Toledo. The event is happening over the contemporary city

Within that city the devotion to the Immaculate Conception was strong through the Franciscan Order and the Order founded by Saint Beatriz de Silva

(The Conceptionists, or the Congregation of the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady, were a Spanish order founded in 1484 by St Beatrice of Silva Menezes (1424-90). The order still continues today.)

The medieval Pope who championed the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception was the Franciscan, Pope Sixtus IV (1414 -1484; pontiff 1471 - 1484)

On 8 December 1448 Sixtus delivered a famous sermon on The Immaculate Conception in the Duomo of St Antony of Padua. He stated that the theme of the sermon is in fact generation: ‘All generations will call me blessed’. 

He considered the use of the word generatio, and said:
with the angelic salutation and her divine response to the angel, in a clear vision appeared all the generations of the Virgin Mary, those who would be saved through Jesus Christ.

He said that ‘generations’ refers not only to the ancestors, but also to contemporary humanity, those who praise the Virgin’s intercessory power.

We also see the traditional symbols associated with the Virgin and the Immaculate Conception in particular: roses, lilies, mirror, fountain of clear water

The key note is purity

An ecstatic Mary (Tota Pulchra) is being raised up towards God

We recall the Canticle of Canticles 4:7, "Thou art all fair, O my love, and there is not a spot in thee"

She, the angels and The Holy Spirit are transfigured by Light and by Colour

The Virgin is situated in a space inhabited by light, clouds and angels, and seems carried aloft in an ethereal atmosphere.

One also recalls that the Spouse of the Canticles "that goes up by the desert, as a pillar of smoke of aromatical spices, of myrrh and frankincense" to be crowned (Song of Songs 3:6)

She wears the then traditional blue and red. It is not until the 16th century that the popularisation of the vision of Saint Beatriz de Silva led to her being clothed in blue and white

That the idea of Mary existed at the time of Creation before the creation of Man was one which fascinated medieval theologians. The Catholic idea of "original sin" is not the same as others

In his sermon Sixtus IV said:
For is it not said in Genesis chapter 1 ‘Fiat lux’ and that holy and pure light that shines forth from the darkness is made, without whom nothing is done, (she) who nursed the divine sun on earth by whom humankind was saved?

Pope Sixtus IV commissioned a new Office from Leonardo Nogarolo (1477), the Officium Immaculatae Virginis Mariae, and later the Officium Conceptionis Virginis Mariae by Bernardino Busti (1492)

There was a Papal bull granting a generous indulgence to those celebrating the Mass and the Office

It was of course Sixtus who commissioned and built two chapels in the Vatican. One was for the Vatican Palace, the Sistine Chapel which he dedicated to the Assumption

The other was the chapel of St Peter which he built in the Old St Peter`s and which was dedicated to The Immaculate Conception. It was within this chapel that Michelangelo`s Pieta was originally located

On the top left of the work we see the figure of St John the Apostle

He is writing in a book

We are reminded of the Vision of St John the Evangelist (Revelation 12:1) of a 'woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars'. 

In addition to the main wall where the main altar was, there were three other paintings:vtwo paintings of Saint Peter and Saint Ildefonso (Patron saint of Toledo) on the side walls, and the Visitation on the ceiling.

The paintings of Saint Peter and Saint Ildefonso found their way, possibly throught Velázquez, into the Royal Palace in Madrid and from there to the Escorial. 

The Visitation, is now in the Dumbarton Oaks Collection in Washington DC

El Greco (1541 - 1614)
San Ildefonso. 
Oil on canvas
 219 x 105 cm
Monasterio de San Lorenzo, El Escorial

El Greco (1541 - 1614)
San Pedro
Oil on canvas
209 x 106 cm
Monasterio de San Lorenzo, El Escorial

El Greco (1541 - 1614)
The Visitation
Oil on canvas
96.52 cm x 71.44 cm
Dumbarton Oaks Museum, Washington DC

There are similarities in The Vistation to El Greco`s The Vision of Saint John (1608–14) in The Metropolitan Museum in New York

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Sensus fidei fidelium

Attributed to the Workshop of the Maître de l'Epître d'Othéa
The Immaculate Conception
c. 1400 - 1457
From Pèlerinage de Jésus-Christ
Paris - Bibl. de l'Institut de France - ms. 0009, f. 011
Bibl. de l'Institut de France, Paris

Attributed to Germain Hardouyn
The Immaculate Conception
From Hours according to the Roman Rite
Avignon - BM - rés. 203, f. I 5
Municipal Library, Avignon

Lombard school
The Immaculate Conception with Saints Anne and Joachim
1700 - 1724
Oil on canvas
120 x 175 cm
The Province of Sondrio, Italy

Clayton, The Cult of Mary, pp. 42 - 50 provides detailed evidence of the introduction of the Byzantine feasts of the Conception and Presentation of Mary at the Temple or at Winchester in England in c. 1030.

In medieval times the Immaculate Conception of Mary was depicted in delicate terms in the Meeting of Saints Anne and Joachim at the Golden Gate of Jerusalem

Master of Moulins (Jean Hey) (active 1483 or earlier - about 1500) 
Charlemagne, and the Meeting of Saints Joachim and Anne at the Golden Gate (detail)
c 1500 
Oil on oak 
72 x 59 cm
The National Gallery, London

The popularity of this particular apocryphal theme is clearly reflected in French religious art of the 13th century

Émile Mâle in Religious Art in France of the Thirteenth Century (2000: 140) points out that the story of Joachim and Anna was carved in full on the capitals of the west porch at Chartres, and later even carved in the north porch as well. 

He also notes that the legend is also represented in Notre-Dame de Paris, on the lower lintel of the Portail Sainte-Anne, where the illustrated scene  continued round the arches to the right showing Joachim among the shepherds and the meeting at the Golden Gate 

The story is also represented in a window in the chapel of the Virgin at Le Mans 

The idea of an Immaculate Conception for Mary was opposed by most of the eminent theologians of the day, among them Bernard of Clairvaux, Peter Lombard, Alexander of Hales, Albertus Magnus, Bonaventure, and Thomas Aquinas, who argued instead that Mary had been freed from original sin after her conception but before her birth —  a doctrine referred to as the Maculate Conception

But the proponents of the Doctrine were not cowed.

They took a relatively simple view of the matter and one which seems to have eventually carried the day

Abbot Anselm  and Osbert of Clare corresponded  on the topic. In his letter to Abbot Anselm, as in his Sermo de Conceptione, Osbert expressed his reasons for believing in the Immaculate Conception. It  was the beginning of the Redemption. 

In Epistola ad Anselmum, Osbert writes that God ' so thoroughly purified and illumined it [Mary] that He left no impurity in that flesh from which the flesh of our Redemption was destined to be taken.' as quoted and translated in Balic  The Mediaeval Controversy over the Immaculate Conception in O' Connor, ed., The Dogma of the Immaculate Conception, 161 - 212 (p. 176)

It was an example par excellence of the sensus fidei fidelium

The International Theological Commission has recently published a text on “Sensus fidei in the Life of the Church” (June 2014)

In it the Commission says of the development of the doctrine of sensus fidei fidelium and Ineffabilis Deus
"34. The 19th century was a decisive period for the doctrine of the sensus fidei fidelium.  
It saw, in the Catholic Church, partly in response to criticism from representatives of modern culture and from Christians of other traditions, and partly from an inner maturation, the rise of historical consciousness, a revival of interest in the Fathers of the Church and in medieval theologians, and a renewed exploration of the mystery of the Church. 
In this context, Catholic theologians such as Johann Adam Möhler (1796-1838), Giovanni Perrone (1794-1876), and John Henry Newman gave new attention to the sensus fidei fidelium as a locus theologicus in order to explain how the Holy Spirit maintains the whole Church in truth and to justify developments in the Church’s doctrine.  
Theologians highlighted the active role of the whole Church, especially the contribution of the lay faithful, in preserving and transmitting the Church’s faith; and the magisterium implicitly confirmed this insight in the process leading to the definition of the Immaculate Conception (1854). 
35. To defend the Catholic faith against Rationalism, the Tübingen scholar, Johann Adam Möhler, sought to portray the Church as a living organism and to grasp the principles that governed the development of doctrine.  
In his view, it is the Holy Spirit who animates, guides, and unites the faithful as a community in Christ, bringing about in them an ecclesial ‘consciousness’ of the faith (Gemeingeist or Gesamtsinn), something akin to a Volksgeist or national spirit. 
This sensus fidei, which is the subjective dimension of Tradition, necessarily includes an objective element, the Church’s teaching, for the Christian ‘sense’ of the faithful, which lives in their hearts and is virtually equivalent to Tradition, is never divorced from its content. 
36. John Henry Newman initially investigated the sensus fidei fidelium to resolve his difficulty concerning the development of doctrine.  
He was the first to publish an entire treatise on the latter topic, An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine (1845), and to spell out the characteristics of faithful development. To distinguish between true and false developments, he adopted Augustine’s norm - the general consent of the whole Church, ‘Securus judicat orbis terrarum’ – but he saw that an infallible authority is necessary to maintain the Church in the truth. 
37. Using insights from Möhler and Newman, Perrone retrieved the patristic understanding of the sensus fidelium in order to respond to a widespread desire for a papal definition of Mary’s Immaculate Conception; he found in the unanimous consent, or conspiratio, of the faithful and their pastors a warrant for the apostolic origin of this doctrine.  
He maintained that the most distinguished theologians attributed probative force to the sensus fidelium, and that the strength of one ‘instrument of tradition’ can make up for the deficit of another, e.g., ‘the silence of the Fathers’. 
38. The influence of Perrone’s research on Pope Pius IX’s decision to proceed with the definition of the Immaculate Conception is evident from the fact that before he defined it the Pope asked the bishops of the world to report to him in writing regarding the devotion of their clergy and faithful people to the conception of the Immaculate Virgin.  
In the apostolic constitution containing the definition, Ineffabilis Deus (1854), Pope Pius IX said that although he already knew the mind of the bishops on this matter, he had particularly asked the bishops to inform him of the piety and devotion of their faithful in this regard, and he concluded that ‘Holy Scripture, venerable Tradition, the constant mind of the Church [perpetuus Ecclesiae sensus], the remarkable agreement of Catholic bishops and the faithful [singularis catholicorum Antistitum ac fidelium conspiratio], and the memorable Acts and Constitutions of our predecessors’ all wonderfully illustrated and proclaimed the doctrine. 
He thus used the language of Perrone’s treatise to describe the combined testimony of the bishops and the faithful.  
Newman highlighted the word, conspiratio, and commented: ‘the two, the Church teaching and the Church taught, are put together, as one twofold testimony, illustrating each other, and never to be divided’. 
39. When Newman later wrote On Consulting the Faithful in Matters of Doctrine (1859), it was to demonstrate that the faithful (as distinct from their pastors) have their own, active role to play in conserving and transmitting the faith.  
‘[T]he tradition of the Apostles’ is ‘committed to the whole Church in its various constituents and functions per modum unius’, but the bishops and the lay faithful bear witness to it in diverse ways.  
The tradition, he says, ‘manifests itself variously at various times: sometimes by the mouth of the episcopacy, sometimes by the doctors, sometimes by the people, sometimes by liturgies, rites, ceremonies, and customs, by events, disputes, movements, and all those other phenomena which are comprised under the name of history’. 
For Newman, ‘there is something in the “pastorum et fidelium conspiratio” which is not in the pastors alone’.  
In this work, Newman quoted at length from the arguments proposed over a decade earlier by Giovanni Perrone in favor of the definition of the Immaculate Conception."

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Los defensores de la Eucaristía

Peter  Paul Rubens 1577 – 1640
Los defensores de la Eucaristía
The Defenders of the Eucharist
Oil on canvas
65,5 cm x 68 cm
Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid

Rubens  was one of the leading voices of the Catholic Counter-Reformation style of painting

In September 1609 Rubens was appointed as court painter by Albert VII, Archduke of Austria and Infanta Isabella Clara Eugenia of Spain, sovereigns of the Low Countries.

Rubens was twice knighted: by Philip IV of Spain in 1624, and then by Charles I of England in 1630. 

He was also awarded an honorary Master of Arts degree from Cambridge University in 1629

In  1625  the Infanta commissioned Rubens to design a series of seventeen tapestries destined for the Monasterio de las Descalzas in  Madrid

Painted panels were needed for the tapenstries

Six of these panels are in the Prado and this is one of them - the tenth in the series

Each panel is a triumphant procession

This is no exception

One can almost hear the accompanying music

In this procession, St Clare of Assisi holds the monstrance

Her face has the face of the Infanta. Rubens was of course a consummate diplomat

St Clare  had a special devotion to the Holy Eucharist

In art St Clare always carries a ciborium or a monstrance from the legend that in 1234, she repelled attackers from the army of Frederick II who were engaged on  an assault upon Assisi, by taking the ciborium from the little chapel adjoining her cell, proceeded to face the invaders at an open window against which they had already placed a ladder and then raised the Sacrament on high

Beside the figure of St Clare is St Thomas Aquinas, the author of Lauda Sion Salvatorem, the sequence for the Mass of Corpus Christi around 1264, at the request of Pope Urban IV for the new Mass of  the  Feast
Dies enim solemnis agitur
In qua mensæ prima recolitur
Hujus institutio.
("For on this solemn day is again celebrated the first institution of the Supper")
He is of course also author of Pange lingua, Sacris solemniis, Adoro te devote, and Verbum supernum prodiens, which are used in the Divine Office. 

Also present are the four great Doctors of the Church. At the end of the procession is St Jerome
Leading the procession are Saints Ambrose, Augustine and Gregory the Great

Completing the procession is St Norbert of Xanten (c. 1080 – 6 June 1134), also known as Norbert Gennep,  founder of the Premonstratensian order of canons regular at Prémontré in the Diocese of Laon in France

He was known as the "Apostle of Antwerp" and therefore is an apt saint for a commissioner and artist from Antwerp

The saint was also noted for his defence of the Eucharist

Indeed he was called the “Apostle of the Blessed Sacrament”

In the iconography of Norbert he stands holding a monstrance or some Eucharistic symbol, perhaps a chalice or ciborium, or kneeling in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament.

He preached against the eucharistic heresy of Tanchelm in Antwerp which is perhaps why the Infanta and Rubens thought his inclusion in the tapestry most appropriate

His cult was revived during the Counter-Reformation and he was canonised by Gregory XIII in 1582 (at the same time as that of St. Romuald and St. Bruno)

Here we see the finished tapestry in the Salón de Tapices in the Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales in Madrid. It is 500 x 492 cm and made from wool and silk. It was manufactured by Jan II Raes, Hans Vervoert, and Jacques Fobert in Brussels 1627-1632

Apart from the mirror image, one important change is the prominent position given to the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit is not the dove but the bird seen by St Teresa of Avila in her vision of the Holy Spirit

Rubens was more than familiar with the Vision of St Teresa on the Vigil of Pentecost 1569. See Vision of the Dove

St  Teresa described her vision in this way:
"One day-it was the vigil of Pentecost-I went, after Mass, to a very solitary spot, where I used often to say my prayers, and began to read about this festival in the Carthusian's Life of Christ
As I read about the signs by which beginners, proficients, and the perfect may know if the Holy Spirit is with them, it seemed to me, when I had read about these three states, that by the goodness of God, and so far as I could understand, He was certainly with me then....  
While I was meditating in this way a strong impulse seized me without my realising why.   
It seemed as if my soul were about to leave my body, because it could no longer contain itself and was incapable of waiting for so great a blessing....   
I had to seek some physical support, for so completely did my natural strength fail me that I could not even remain seated.  
While in this condition, I saw a dove over my head, very different from those we see on earth, for it had not feathers like theirs but its wings were made of little shells which emitted a great brilliance.   
It was larger than a dove; I seemed to hear the rustling of its wings. It must have been fluttering like this for the space of an Ave Maria.   
But my soul was in such a state that, as it became lost to itself, it also lost sight of the dove."

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Saint Albert of Sicily (Trapani)

Antonio de Pereda y Salgado 1611 - 1678
San Alberto de Sicilia (Saint Albert of Sicily or Trapani)
Oil on canvas
116 cm x 78 cm
Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid

On the death of his patron Crescenzi, Pereda was expelled from the Royal Spanish Court in 1635

He was then commissioned by religious institutions to carry out religious works or with a religious theme

This work was commissioned for the Carmelite (Discalced) convent of Saint Damasus in Madrid

The Carmelite saint was born in Trapani, about 1240, and became provincial of his order in the island of Sicily

He died in Messina in 1307

He is considered another patron and protector, or ‘Father of the Order’

There is often confusion between Saint Albert of Jerusalem – lawgiver of Carmel – and  Saint Albert of  Trapani – father of the Order – which has caused the latter to be somewhat overlooked.

Albert of Trapani  was distinguished for his preaching, working miracles, and his desire for prayer.

From the 16th century pictures of Albert were in practically all the convents and monasteries of the Order

In particular among  the many with a devotion to this saint were Saint Teresa of Jesus (Teresa of Avila) and Saint Mary Magdalene de' Pazzi.

St Teresa asked the Dominican Diego de Yanguas to write a biography of St Albert which he did. She asked Don Teutonio to publish it. She wanted this book published with her Way of Perfection

The books were published in February 1583, four months after Teresa’s death.

He is shown picured holding a lily, a book, or a crucifix

In the late 15th century Sforza Book of Hours we see him preaching and healing

Giovan Pietro Birago (active 1471 - 1513)
St Albert of Trapani
c. 1490-1494
Add MS 34294, f 204
The Sforza Book of Hours Volume 3
130 x 95 mm
The British Library, London

In the Cathedral at Prato in Italy, his image occupies a prominent place  on the end wall of the choir beside the cycle on the lives of Sts Stephen and John the Baptist. The work is also by Fra Filippo Lippi and was composed while he was in safety in Prato from 1452-1465

Lippi was also a Carmelite

Fra Filippo di Tommaso Lippi (1406 circa – 1469)
St Alberto of Trapani
The Duomo, Prato

Here we see him depicted  in a print by the Carmelite artist Giovanni Maria da Brescia (active 1500 - 1512).

He is second from the right at the bottom pictured along side other saints

Giovanni Maria da Brescia (active 1500 - 1512)
The Virgin and Christ Child appearing to five saints, from left John the Baptist, Angelus, Cyril of Constantinople, Albert of Sicily and St Jerome
331  x 231 mm
The British Museum, London

And in this print from about  1615 by Hieronymus Wierix we  see the adoration of God and veneration of Mary by St Albert and his "companion saint", St Angelus, Martyr

Hieronymus Wierix (1553 - 1619)
The Adoration of God and Veneration of the Virgin by Saints Albert of Trapani and Angelus, Martyr
c. 1615
92 mm x 60 mm
The British Museum, London