Sunday Gospels (Year A)

 

Each week, the Gospel for that coming Sunday will appear here along with an image to which it relates, previous years can be found in the ‘Faith’ menu at the top.

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The Sunday Gospel

Thirty Fourth Sunday of Year (A) – Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

Matthew 25:31-46

Fra Angelico

 

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, escorted by all the angels, then he will take his seat on his throne of glory. All the nations will be assembled before him and he will separate men one from another as the shepherd separates sheep from goats. He will place the sheep on his right hand and the goats on his left. Then the King will say to those on his right hand, “Come, you whom my Father has blessed, take for your heritage the kingdom prepared for you since the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you made me welcome; naked and you clothed me, sick and you visited me, in prison and you came to see me.” Then the virtuous will say to him in reply, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you; or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and make you welcome; naked and clothe you; sick or in prison and go to see you?” And the King will answer, “I tell you solemnly, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me.” Next he will say to those on his left hand, “Go away from me, with your curse upon you, to the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you never gave me food; I was thirsty and you never gave me anything to drink; I was a stranger and you never made me welcome, naked and you never clothed me, sick and in prison and you never visited me.” Then it will be their turn to ask, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty, a stranger or naked, sick or in prison, and did not come to your help?” Then he will answer, “I tell you solemnly, in so far as you neglected to do this to one of the least of these, you neglected to do it to me.” And they will go away to eternal punishment, and the virtuous to eternal life.’

The Gospel of the Lord

 

Picture: The Last Judgment (tempera on panel) is a painting by the Renaissance artist Fra Angelico. It was commissioned by the Camaldolese Order for the newly elected abbot, the humanist scholar Ambrogio Traversari. It is dated 1425-1430. It was originally sited in the church of Santa Maria degli Angeli and now is in the museum of San Marco, Florence.
Like most of Fra Angelico’s work, the iconography is standard for the contemporary treatments of the Last Judgement. Among the most common subjects of painting in churches, it is found more often on walls. In the top centre of the picture, Christ sits in judgement on a white throne surrounded by angels, Mary, John, and the Saints. Christ is shown as judge of the living and dead, his left hand pointing down to Hell, his right up to Heaven. On Christ’s right hand is paradise, with angels leading the saved through a beautiful garden into a shining city. In the middle are the broken tombs of the risen dead, come out of their graves to be finally judged. On Christ’s left hand demons drive the damned into Hell, where the wicked are tormented.

 

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Thirty Third Sunday of Year (A)

Matthew 25:14-30

Year A - 33rd Sunday - Parable Talents - Willem de Poorter

 

Jesus spoke this parable to his disciples: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a man on his way abroad who summoned his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to a third one; each in proportion to his ability. Then he set out.

The man who had received the five talents promptly went and traded with them and made five more. The man who had received two made two more in the same way. But the man who had received one went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

Now a long time after, the master of those servants came back and went through his accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents came forward bringing five more. “Sir”, he said “you entrusted me with five talents; here are five more that I have made.” His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have shown you can be faithful in small things, I will trust you with greater; come and join in your master’s happiness.”

Next the man with the two talents came forward. “Sir,” he said “you entrusted me with two talents; here are two more that I have made.” His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have shown you can be faithful in small things, I will trust you with greater; come and join in your master’s happiness.” Last came forward the man who had the one talent. “Sir,” said he “I had heard you were a hard man, reaping where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered; so I was afraid, and I went off and hid your talent in the ground. Here it is; it was yours, you have it back.” But his master answered him, “You wicked and lazy servant! So you knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered? Well then, you should have deposited my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have recovered my capital with interest. So now, take the talent from him and give it to the man who has the five talents. For to everyone who has will be given more, and he will have more than enough; but from the man who has not, even what he has will be taken away. As for this good-for-nothing servant, throw him out into the dark, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.” ‘

The Gospel of the Lord

 

Picture: The parable of the talents or minas, painted oil on panel (45x55cm), by Willem de Poorter, around 1640. It is located in the Narodni Galerie, Prague. As Jesus drew ever closer to Jerusalem, Messianic expectations increased as people heard Jesus’ teachings and saw healing and conversions such as that of Zacchaeus. But Jesus sought to make his followers understand that the Kingdom would not appear immediately. To that end, he told the Parable of the Minas (variously translated as pieces of money, talents, pounds, etc.) The parable teaches two main lessons: the kingdom will be delayed, and the king will reward or punish in accord with his subjects’ deserts.

 

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Thirty Second Sunday of Year (A) – Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica

John 2: 13-22

Year A - 32nd - Purification of the Temple - El Greco

 

Just before the Jewish Passover Jesus went up to Jerusalem, and in the Temple he found people selling cattle and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting at their counters there. Making a whip out of some cord, he drove them all out of the Temple, cattle and sheep as well, scattered the money-changers’ coins, knocked their tables over and said to the pigeon-sellers, ‘Take all this out of here and stop turning my Father’s house into a market’.

Then his disciples remembered the words of scripture: Zeal for your house will devour me.

The Jews intervened and said, ‘What sign can you show us to justify what you have done?’ Jesus answered, ‘Destroy this sanctuary, and in three days I will raise it up’. The Jews replied, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this sanctuary: are you going to raise it up in three days?’

But he was speaking of the sanctuary that was his body, and when Jesus rose from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the scripture and the words he had said.

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Oil painting (106 x 130cm) entitled ‘Christ Driving the Money Changers from the Temple’ is a 1600 Christian art painting by El Greco. There exist four copies of the painting and also a faithful reproduction in the National Gallery in London, which has recently been considered as authentic by scholars in the field of visual arts. The picture is dominated by the figure of Christ, poised to unleash his whip. On the left are the traders and on the right are the Apostles. In the 16th century the subject of the Purification of the Temple was used as a symbol of the Church’s need to cleanse itself both through the condemnation of heresy and through internal reform. The reliefs in the background allude to the themes of punishment and deliverance. On the left Adam and Eve‘s expulsion from Paradise prefigures the Purification of the Temple, and on the right, the Sacrifice of Isaac prefigures Christ’s death as the source of redemption. El Greco painted the subject several times throughout his career, both in Italy and in Spain.

 

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Thirty First Sunday of Year (A) – Solemnity of All Saints

Matthew 5: 1-12

Year A - 31st - Sermon On The Mount - Rosselli 3

 

Seeing the crowds, he went up the hill. There he sat down and was joined by his disciples. Then he began to speak. This is what he taught them:

How happy are the poor in spirit, theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Happy the gentle, they shall have the earth for their heritage.

Happy those who mourn, they shall be comforted.

Happy those who hunger and thirst for what is right, they shall be satisfied.

Happy the merciful, they shall have mercy shown them.

Happy the pure in heart, they shall see God.

Happy the peacemakers, they shall be called sons of God.

Happy those who are persecuted in the cause of right, theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Happy are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you on my account.

Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven, this is how they persecuted the prophets before you.

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Cosimo Rosselli’s Sermon on the Mount can be found on the northern wall of the Sistine Chapel (part of a series on the life of Jesus), created 1481-1482. In this painting, Jesus is standing in the midst of masses of people. His disciples are huddled close together behind Jesus and on His left. In the background, you can see Jesus as Rabbi and His disciples walking on the road to the Mount. On right side Christ is seen healing a leper. This is commonplace in many paintings where they contain more than one scriptural subject. The beatitudes speak of blessings and happiness that are counter to any kind of culture. People today – just like in Jesus’ day – are searching for happiness. Perhaps Rosselli chose to add Christ healing a leper to his Sermon on the Mount painting because this was a visual demonstration of happiness in action. There is physical happiness portrayed on the right side of the painting in the leper’s healing and there is spiritual happiness portrayed on the left side in Jesus’ sermon.

 

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Thirtieth Sunday of Year (A)

Matthew 22: 34-40

Year A - 30th Sunday - The Hundred Guilder Print - Rembrandt

 

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees they got together and, to disconcert him, one of them put a question, ‘Master, which is the greatest commandment of the Law?’ Jesus said, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second resembles it: You must love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments hang the whole Law, and the Prophets also.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: The Hundred Guilder Print is an etching by Rembrandt. The etching’s popular name derives from the large sum of money supposedly once paid for an impression. In this work, Rembrandt broke from the long-standing Northern European tradition of ascribing devotional qualities to religious paintings. Instead, Rembrandt depicted Biblical events as tender instances of piety and serenity. The print is reminiscent of many other Christian religious artworks because it clearly focuses on the figure of Jesus in the centre of the scene. It differs, however, in that it is not based on a single biblical story. Through his use of recognisable figures, Rembrandt illustrates various themes and events from Matthew’s Gospel. The wealthy youth seated with his head in his hand recalls Christ’s admonition against amassing excess wealth, and the mothers presenting their babies to be blessed symbolize Christ’s acceptance of all his followers, no matter how individually insignificant. Thus, the etching served an edifying purpose for Rembrandt’s original audience because it presents many religious messages all packed together.

Rembrandt worked on the Hundred Guilder Print in stages throughout the 1640s, and it was the “critical work in the middle of his career”, from which his final etching style began to emerge. He completed it in 1649. Although the print only survives in two states, the first very rare, evidence of much reworking can be seen underneath the final print and many drawings survive for elements of it.

 

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Twenty Ninth Sunday of Year (A)

Matthew 22: 15-21

Year A - 29th Sunday - Render unto Caesar - Titian

 

The Pharisees went away to work out between them how to trap Jesus in what he said. And they sent their disciples to him, together with the Herodians, to say, ‘Master, we know that you are an honest man and teach the way of God in an honest way, and that you are not afraid of anyone, because a man’s rank means nothing to you. Tell us your opinion, then. Is it permissible to pay taxes to Caesar or not?’ But Jesus was aware of their malice and replied, ‘You hypocrites! Why do you set this trap for me? Let me see the money you pay the tax with.’ They handed him a denarius, and he said, ‘Whose head is this? Whose name?’ ‘Caesar’s’ they replied. He then said to them, ‘Very well, give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar – and to God what belongs to God.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: The Tribute Money (Italian: Cristo della moneta – literally Christ of the money) is a circa 1516 oil painting by Titian, now held at the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister in Dresden. It depicts Christ and a Pharisee at the moment in the Gospels when Christ is shown a coin and says “Render unto Caesar…” Giorgio Vasari thought the head of Christ the ‘most stupendous and miraculous’ thing painted by Titian and that all artists at the time believed it to be an insuperable achievement.

 

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Twenty Eighth Sunday of Year (A)

Matthew 22: 1-14

Year A - 28th Sunday - Parable of the great banquet - Jan Luyken

 

Jesus said to the chief priests and elders of the people: ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a feast for his son’s wedding. He sent his servants to call those who had been invited, but they would not come. Next he sent some more servants. “Tell those who have been invited” he said “that I have my banquet all prepared, my oxen and fattened cattle have been slaughtered, everything is ready. Come to the wedding.” But they were not interested: one went off to his farm, another to his business, and the rest seized his servants, maltreated them and killed them. The king was furious. He despatched his troops, destroyed those murderers and burnt their town. Then he said to his servants, “The wedding is ready; but as those who were invited proved to be unworthy, go to the cross-roads in the town and invite everyone you can find to the wedding.” So these servants went out on to the roads and collected together everyone they could find, bad and good alike; and the wedding hall was filled with guests. When the king came in to look at the guests he noticed one man who was not wearing a wedding garment, and said to him, “How did you get in here, my friend, without a wedding garment?” And the man was silent. Then the king said to the attendants, “Bind him hand and foot and throw him out into the dark, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.” For many are called, but few are chosen.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Jan Luyken (April 16, 1649 – April 5, 1712) was a Dutch poet, illustrator and engraver. He was born and died in Amsterdam, where he learned engraving from his father Kaspar Luyken. This picture ‘invitation to the great banquet’ is taken from Robert Bowyer’s illustrated Bible, which he begun in 1791 and finished in 1795, included 32 engravings by James Fittler in the manner of Old Master paintings. Bowyer also bought prints in France that he incorporated into a later edition known as “Bowyer’s Bible”.

 

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Twenty Seventh Sunday of Year (A)

Matthew 21: 33-43

Year A - 27th Sunday - St Matthew - Rembrandt

 

Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people, ‘Listen to another parable. There was a man, a landowner, who planted a vineyard; he fenced it round, dug a winepress in it and built a tower; then he leased it to tenants and went abroad.

When vintage time drew near he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his servants, thrashed one, killed another and stoned a third. Next he sent some more servants, this time a larger number, and they dealt with them in the same way. Finally he sent his son to them. “They will respect my son” he said. But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, “This is the heir. Come on, let us kill him and take over his inheritance.” So they seized him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.

Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?’ They answered, ‘He will bring those wretches to a wretched end and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will deliver the produce to him when the season arrives.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Have you never read in the scriptures:

It was the stone rejected by the builders that became the keystone.

This was the Lord’s doing and it is wonderful to see?

‘I tell you, then, that the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: The Evangelist Matthew Inspired by an Angel, painted by Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn. The painting is housed at the Musée du Louvre, Paris. Rembrandt has the boy whisper something in Matthew’s ear. The boy resembles Rembrandt’s son Titus. This is one of five portraits of apostles Rembrandt made in 1661.

 

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Twenty Sixth Sunday of the Year (A)

Matthew 21: 28-32

Year A - 26th Sunday - John the Baptist - Veneto

 

Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people, ‘What is your opinion? A man had two sons. He went and said to the first, “My boy, you go and work in the vineyard today.” He answered, “I will not go”, but afterwards thought better of it and went. The man then went and said the same thing to the second who answered, “Certainly, sir”, but did not go. Which of the two did the father’s will?’ ‘The first’ they said. Jesus said to them, ‘I tell you solemnly, tax collectors and prostitutes are making their way into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you, a pattern of true righteousness, but you did not believe him, and yet the tax collectors and prostitutes did. Even after seeing that, you refused to think better of it and believe in him.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Painting of John the Baptist, by Bartolomeo Veneto, 16th century. Veneto was an Italian painter who worked in Venice, the Veneto and Lombardy. During his time in Venice, he studied under Gentile Bellini. His best known works are portraits or pictures with portrait-like character. Bartolomeo’s later works, and especially those done on commission in Milan, indicate an influence from the artist Leonardo da Vinci.

 

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Twenty Fifth Sunday of the Year (A)

 Matthew 20:1-16

Year A - 25th Sunday - Vineyard - Rembrandt

 

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner going out at daybreak to hire workers for his vineyard. He made an agreement with the workers for one denarius a day, and sent them to his vineyard. Going out at about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the market place and said to them. “You go to my vineyard too and I will give you a fair wage.” So they went. At about the sixth hour and again at about the ninth hour, he went out and did the same. Then at about the eleventh hour he went out and found more men standing round, and he said to them, “Why have you been standing here idle all day?” “Because no one has hired us” they answered. He said to them, “You go into my vineyard too.”

In the evening, the owner of the vineyard said to his bailiff, “Call the workers and pay them their wages, starting with the last arrivals and ending with the first.” So those who were hired at about the eleventh hour came forward and received one denarius each. When the first came, they expected to get more, but they too received one denarius each. They took it, but grumbled at the landowner. “The men who came last” they said “have done only one hour, and you have treated them the same as us though we have done a heavy day’s work in all the heat.” He answered one of them and said, “My friend, I am not being unjust to you; did we not agree on one denarius? Take your earnings and go. I choose to pay the last-comer as much as I pay you. Have I no right to do what I like with my own? Why be envious because I am generous?” Thus the last will be first, and the first last.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Painting of the parable by Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn. , showing the workers being paid that evening. Painted in 1637, oil on panel. It is housed in the State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia.

 

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Twenty Fourth Sunday of the Year (A)

The Triumph of the Cross

John 3:13-17

Year A - 24th Sunday - Jesus instructing Nicodemus - Hendricksz

 

Jesus said to Nicodemus:
‘No one has gone up to heaven
except the one who came down from heaven,
the Son of Man who is in heaven;
and the Son of Man must be lifted up
as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert,
so that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.
Yes, God loved the world so much
that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost
but may have eternal life.
For God sent his Son into the world
not to condemn the world,
but so that through him the world might be saved.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Oil on panel. ‘Christ Instructing Nicodemus,’ attributed to Crijn Hendricksz Volmarijn (1604-1645), a painter from the Dutch Golden Age. Crijn was a follower of Caravaggio, and known for his historical allegories.

 

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Twenty Third Sunday of the Year (A)

Matthew 18:15-20

Year A - 23rd Sunday - Emmaus - Caravaggio

 

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘If your brother does something wrong, go and have it out with him alone, between your two selves. If he listens to you, you have won back your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you: the evidence of two or three witnesses is required to sustain any charge. But if he refuses to listen to these, report it to the community; and if he refuses to listen to the community, treat him like a pagan or a tax collector.

‘I tell you solemnly, whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.

‘I tell you solemnly once again, if two of you on earth agree to ask anything at all, it will be granted to you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three meet in my name, I shall be there with them.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Supper at Emmaus (1606) is an oil painting by the Italian Baroque master Caravaggio, housed in the Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan. The painting inevitably invites comparison with Caravaggio’s earlier version (1601) of the same subject, housed in the National Gallery, London: the expansive theatrical gestures have become understated and natural, the shadows are darkened, and the colours muted although still saturated. The effect is to emphasise presence more than drama.

 

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Twenty Second Sunday of Year (A)

Matthew 16: 21-27

 

Jesus began to make it clear to his disciples that he was destined to go to Jerusalem and suffer grievously at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, to be put to death and to be raised up on the third day. Then, taking him aside, Peter started to remonstrate with him. ‘Heaven preserve you, Lord,’ he said. ‘This must not happen to you.’ But he turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle in my path, because the way you think is not God’s way but man’s.’

Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it. What, then, will a man gain if he wins the whole world and ruins his life? Or what has a man to offer in exchange for his life?

‘For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of his Father with his angels, and, when he does, he will reward each one according to his behaviour.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Final entry of Christ into Jerusalem, is painted by Jean-Léon Gérôme in 1897. It is oil on canvas and is currently located at the Musee Georges-Garret, Vesoul, France.

Jean-Léon Gérôme (11 May 1824 – 10 January 1904) was a French painter and sculptor in the style now known as academicism. The range of his oeuvre included historical painting, Greek mythology, Orientalism, portraits, and other subjects, bringing the academic painting tradition to an artistic climax. He is considered one of the most important painters from this academic period. He was also a teacher with a long list of students.

In 1852, Gérôme received a commission by Alfred Emilien Comte de Nieuwerkerke, Surintendant des Beaux-Arts to the court of Napoleon III, for the painting of a large historical canvas, the Age of Augustus. In this canvas he combines the birth of Christ with conquered nations paying homage to Augustus. Thanks to a considerable down payment, he was able to travel in 1853 to Constantinople, together with the actor Edmond Got. This would be the first of several travels to the East: in 1854 he made another journey to Greece and Turkey and the shores of the Danube, where he was present at a concert of Russian conscripts, making music under the threat of a lash.

In 1853, Gérôme moved to the Boîte à Thé, a group of studios in the Rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs, Paris. This would become a meeting place for other artists, writers and actors. George Sand entertained in the small theatre of the studio the great artists of her time such as the composers Hector Berlioz, Johannes Brahms and Gioachino Rossini and the novelists Théophile Gautier and Ivan Turgenev. In 1854, he completed another important commission of decorating the Chapel of St. Jerome in the church of St. Séverin in Paris. His Last communion of St. Jerome in this chapel reflects the influence of the school of Ingres on his religious works. To the exhibition of 1855 he contributed a Pifferaro, a Shepherd, A Russian Concert, and The Age of Augustus, the Birth of Christ. The last was somewhat confused in effect, but in recognition of its consummate rendering the State purchased it. However the modest painting, A Russian Concert (also called Recreation in the Camp) was more appreciated than his huge canvases.

Gérôme was elected, on his fifth attempt, a member of the Institut de France in 1865. Already a knight in the Légion d’honneur, he was promoted to an officer in 1867. In 1869, he was elected an honorary member of the British Royal Academy. The King of Prussia Wilhelm I awarded him the Grand Order of the Red Eagle, Third Class. His fame had become such that he was invited, along with the most eminent French artists, to the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869.

He was appointed as one of the three professors at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. He started with sixteen students, most who had come over from his own studio. His influence became extensive and he was a regular guest of Empress Eugénie at the Imperial Court in Compiègne.

Gérôme returned successfully to the Salon in 1873 with his painting L’Eminence Grise (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston), a colourful depiction of the main stair hall of the palace of Cardinal Richelieu, popularly known as the Red Cardinal (L’Eminence Rouge), who was France’s de facto ruler under King Louis XIII beginning in 1624. In the painting, François Le Clerc du Trembly, a Capuchin friar dubbed L’Eminence Grise (the Gray Cardinal), descends the ceremonial staircase immersed in the Bible while subjects either bow before him or fix their gaze on him. As Richelieu’s chief adviser, L’Eminence Grise was called “the power behind the throne,” which became the known definition of his title.

When he started to protest and show a public hostility to “decadent fashion” of Impressionism, his influence started to wane and he became unfashionable. But after the exhibition of Manet in the Ecole in 1884, he eventually admitted that “it was not so bad as I thought.”

In 1896 Gérôme painted Truth Coming Out of Her Well, an attempt to describe the transparency of an illusion. He therefore welcomed the rise of photography as an alternative to his photographic painting. In 1902, he said “Thanks to photography, Truth has at last left her well.”

 

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Twenty First Sunday of Year (A)

Matthew 16: 13-20

 

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi he put this question to his disciples, ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say he is John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ ‘But you,’ he said ‘who do you say I am?’ Then Simon Peter spoke up, ‘You are the Christ,’ he said, ‘the Son of the living God.’ Jesus replied, ‘Simon son of Jonah, you are a happy man! Because it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven. So I now say to you: You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.’ Then he gave the disciples strict orders not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Saint Peter is painted by Bartolome Esteban Murillo. It was painted between 1650 and 1655, oil on canvas, 148cm x 104cm, is located at Bilbao Fine Art Museum, Spain.

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (born late December 1617, baptized January 1, 1618 – April 3, 1682) was a Spanish Baroque painter. Although he is best known for his religious works, Murillo also produced a considerable number of paintings of contemporary women and children. These lively, realist portraits of flower girls, street urchins, and beggars constitute an extensive and appealing record of the everyday life of his times.

Murillo began his art studies in Seville under Juan del Castillo, who was a relative of his mother (Murillo’s uncle, Antonio Pérez, was also a painter). His first works were influenced by Zurbarán, Jusepe de Ribera and Alonzo Cano, and he shared their strongly realist approach. The great commercial importance of Seville at the time ensured that he was subject to artistic influences from other regions. He became familiar with Flemish painting and the “Treatise on Sacred Images” of Molanus (Ian van der Meulen or Molano). As his painting developed, his more important works evolved towards the polished style that suited the bourgeois and aristocratic tastes of the time, demonstrated especially in his Roman Catholic religious works.

In 1642, at the age of 26, he moved to Madrid, where he most likely became familiar with the work of Velázquez, and would have seen the work of Venetian and Flemish masters in the royal collections; the rich colours and softly modelled forms of his subsequent work suggest these influences. In 1645 he returned to Seville and married Beatriz Cabrera y Villalobos, with whom he eventually had eleven children.

In that year, he painted eleven canvases for the convent of St. Francisco el Grande in Seville. These works depicting the miracles of Franciscan saints vary between the Zurbaránesque tenebrism of the Ecstasy of St Francis and a softly luminous style (as in Death of St Clare) that became typical of Murillo’s mature work. According to the art historian Manuela B. Mena Marqués, “in … the Levitation of St Giles (usually known as the “Angel’s Kitchen”, Paris, Louvre) and the Death of St Clare (Dresden, Gemäldegal. Alte Meister), the characteristic elements of Murillo’s work are already evident: the elegance and beauty of the female figures and the angels, the realism of the still-life details and the fusion of reality with the spiritual world, which is extraordinarily well developed in some of the compositions.”

Also completed 1645 was the first of Murillo’s many paintings of children, The Young Beggar (Musée du Louvre), in which the influence of Velázquez is apparent. Following the completion of a pair of pictures for the Seville Cathedral, he began to specialize in the themes that brought him his greatest successes: the Virgin and Child and the Immaculate Conception.

After another period in Madrid, from 1658 to 1660, he returned to Seville. Here he was one of the founders of the Academia de Bellas Artes (Academy of Art), sharing its direction, in 1660, with the architect Francisco Herrera the Younger. This was his period of greatest activity, and he received numerous important commissions, among them the altarpieces for the Augustinian monastery, the paintings for Santa María la Blanca (completed in 1665), and others. He died in Seville in 1682 at the age of 64.

 

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Twentieth Sunday of Year (A)

Matthew 15: 21-28

 

Jesus left that place and withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. Then out came a Canaanite woman from that district and started shouting, ‘Sir, Son of David, take pity on me. My daughter is tormented by a devil.’ But he answered her not a word in answer to her. And his disciples went and pleaded with him, saying, ‘Give her what she wants,’ they said ‘because she is shouting after us.’ He said in reply, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.’ But the woman had come up and was kneeling at his feet. ‘Lord,’ she said, ‘help me.’

He replied, ‘It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the house-dogs.’ She retorted, ‘Ah yes, sir; but even house-dogs can eat the scraps that fall from their masters’ table.’ Then Jesus answered her, ‘Woman, you have great faith. Let your wish be granted.’ And from that moment her daughter was well again.

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Jesus and the woman of Canaan is painted by Michael Angelo Immenraet between 1673 and 1678. It is oil on canvas and is located at Unionskirche Idstein, Germany.

 Michael Angelo Immenraet (1621, Antwerp – 1683, Utrecht), was a Flemish history and portrait painter who is mainly remembered for the lavish Baroque painting series of Biblical scenes which he produced for the Unionskirche, Idstein in Germany. He painted allegorical, history, religious and genre scenes as well as portraits. Aside from the painting cycle in the Unionskirche, Idstein not many of his works are known.

The earliest known work by Immenraet is the Double portrait of Odila en Phillipine van Wassenaer as Shepherdesses of 1661 (‘Hofje van Nieuwkoop’, The Hague). The portrait depicts the two young governesses of het ‘Hofje van Nieuwkoop’ as shepherdesses in an Arcadian landscape. This type of idealized representation was in vogue in the Dutch Republic at the time.

The best-known works from his oeuvre are the series of 38 paintings, which the realized with the assistance of Johann Caspar Bencard for the ceiling of the Unionskirche, Idstein. The commission was given by Johann of Nassau-Idstein (1603–77) who wished to turn the existing church into a Baroque “Predigt- und Hofkirche” (sermon and court church) after the Thirty Years’ War. The Dutch painters Joachim von Sandrart and his nephew Johann von Sandrart also created paintings for the church. The difficulty for the artists was to create a language that corresponded to Lutheran sensitivities. The programme of works all represent scenes from the Bible without any depictions of saints as would typically have been the case in a Catholic church. The works represented the stories from the Bible as ever present, living realities. The Biblical figures are dressed in courtly Baroque garments. The painting of the “Visitation” shows Mary arriving with a servant who carries her cases on his head. Saint Elisabeth’s residence with its formal garden in the background resembles the Idstein residential palace of Johann of Nassau-Idstein, the construction of which was commenced in 1646. The subjects and the use of Baroque optical illusionism in the paintings in the center of the ceiling are intended to make the viewer look up, from altar to the back: The Transfiguration, the Elevation of the Holy Cross, The Resurrection, The Deposition, The Ascension and The Vision of St. John on Patmos.

A number of Immenraet’s compositions for the Unionskirche were based on well-known works by Rubens. For instance The Wedding at Cana on the south wall is largely inspired by Rubens’ painting The Feast of Herod which is in the collection of the National Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh. The series of works were at the time regarded as a remarkably unique Baroque contribution to church decoration in Protestant Germany.

 

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Nineteenth Sunday of Year (A)

Matthew 14: 22-33

 

Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side while he would send the crowds away. After sending the crowds away he went up into the hills by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, while the boat, by now far out on the lake, was battling with a heavy sea, for there was a head-wind. In the fourth watch of the night he went towards them, walking on the lake, and when the disciples saw him walking on the lake they were terrified. ‘It is a ghost’ they said, and cried out in fear. But at once Jesus called out to them, saying, ‘Courage! It is I! Do not be afraid.’ It was Peter who answered. ‘Lord,’ he said ‘if it is you, tell me to come to you across the water.’ ‘Come’ said Jesus. Then Peter got out of the boat and started walking towards Jesus across the water, but as soon as he felt the force of the wind, he took fright and began to sink. ‘Lord! Save me!’ he cried. Jesus put out his hand at once and held him. ‘Man of little faith,’ he said ‘why did you doubt?’ And as they got into the boat the wind dropped. The men in the boat bowed down before him and said, ‘Truly, you are the Son of God.’             

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Walking on water, painted by Ivan Aivazovsky in 1890. It is oil on canvas, 70cm x 50cm and is in a private collection.

Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky (29 July 1817 – 2 May 1900) was a Russian Romantic painter. He is considered one of the greatest marine artists in history. Baptised as Hovhannes Aivazian, Aivazovsky was born into an Armenian family in the Black Sea port of Feodosia in Crimea and was mostly based there.

Following his education at the Imperial Academy of Arts, Aivazovsky travelled to Europe and lived briefly in Italy in the early 1840s. He then returned to Russia and was appointed the main painter of the Russian Navy. Aivazovsky had close ties with the military and political elite of the Russian Empire and often attended military maneuvers. He was sponsored by the state and was well-regarded during his lifetime. The saying “worthy of Aivazovsky’s brush”, popularised by Anton Chekhov, was used in Russia for “describing something ineffably lovely.”

One of the most prominent Russian artists of his time, Aivazovsky was also popular outside Russia. He held numerous solo exhibitions in Europe and the United States. During his almost 60-year career, he created around 6,000 paintings, making him one of the most prolific artists of his time. The vast majority of his works are seascapes, but he often depicted battle scenes, Armenian themes, and portraiture. Most of Aivazovsky’s works are kept in Russian, Ukrainian and Armenian museums as well as private collections.

During his career, Aivazovsky produced around 6,000 paintings of, what one online art magazine describes, “very different value … there are masterpieces and there are very timid works”. However, according to one count as many as 20,000 paintings are attributed to him. The vast majority of Aivazovsky’s works depict the sea. He rarely drew dry-landscapes and created only a handful of portraits. According to Rosa Newmarch Aivazovsky “never painted his pictures from nature, always from memory, and far away from the seaboard.” Rogachevsky wrote that “His artistic memory was legendary. He was able to reproduce what he had seen only for a very short time, without even drawing preliminary sketches.”

 

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Eighteenth Sunday of Year – Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord (A)

Matthew 17: 1-9

 

Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain where they could be alone. There in their presence he was transfigured: his face shone like the sun and his clothes became as white as the light. Suddenly Moses and Elijah appeared to them; they were talking with him. Then Peter spoke to Jesus. ‘Lord,’ he said ‘it is wonderful for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ He was still speaking when suddenly a bright cloud covered them with shadow, and from the cloud there came a voice which said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; he enjoys my favour. Listen to him.’ When they heard this, the disciples fell on their faces, overcome with fear. But Jesus came up and touched them. ‘Stand up,’ he said ‘do not be afraid.’ And when they raised their eyes they saw no one but only Jesus.

As they came down from the mountain Jesus gave them this order, ‘Tell no one about the vision until the Son of Man has risen from the dead.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: The Transfiguration is the last painting by the Italian High Renaissance master Raphael. Commissioned by Cardinal Giulio de Medici, the later Pope Clement VII (1523–1534) and conceived as an altarpiece for the Narbonne Cathedral in France, Raphael worked on it until his death in 1520. The painting exemplifies Raphael’s development as an artist and the culmination of his career. Unusually for a depiction of the Transfiguration of Jesus in Christian art, the subject is combined with an additional episode from the Gospels in the lower part of the painting.

The Transfiguration stands as an allegory of the transformative nature of representation. It is now in the Pinacoteca Vaticana in Vatican City.

By December 1516, the latest date of commission, Cardinal Giulio de Medici, cousin to Pope Leo X (1513–1521), was also the Pope’s vice-chancellor and chief advisor. He had been endowed with the legation of Bologna, the bishoprics of Albi, Ascoli, Worcester, Eger and others. From February 1515, this included the archbishopric of Narbonne. He commissioned two paintings for the cathedral of Narbonne, The Transfiguration of Christ from Raphael and The Raising of Lazarus from Sebastiano del Piombo. With Michelangelo providing drawings for the latter work, Medici was rekindling the rivalry initiated a decade earlier between Michelangelo and Raphael, in the Stanze and Sistine Chapel.

From 11 to 12 December 1516, Michelangelo was in Rome to discuss with Pope Leo X and Cardinal Medici the facade of the Basilica of San Lorenzo in Florence. During this meeting, he was confronted with the commission of The Raising of Lazarus and it was here that he agreed to provide drawings for the endeavour, but not to execute the painting himself. The commission went to Michelangelo’s friend Sebastiano del Piombo. As of this meeting the paintings would become emblematic of a paragone between two approaches to painting, and between painting and sculpture in Italian art.

An early modello for the painting, done in Raphael’s studio by Giulio Romano, depicted a 1:10 scale drawing for the Transfiguration. Here Christ is shown on Mount Tabor. Moses and Eljah float towards him; John and James are kneeling to the right; Peter is to the left. The top of the model depicts God the Father and a throng of angels. A second modello, done by Gianfrancesco Penni, shows a design with two scenes, as the painting was to develop. This modello is held by the Louvre.

The Raising of Lazarus was unofficially on view by October 1518. By this time Raphael had barely started on his altarpiece. By the time Sebastiano del Piombo’s work was officially inspected in the Vatican by Leo X on Sunday, 11 December 1519, the third Sunday of Advent, The Transfiguration was still unfinished.

Raphael would have been familiar with the final form of The Raising of Lazarus as early as the autumn of 1518, and there is considerable evidence that he worked feverishly to compete, adding a second theme and nineteen figures. A surviving modello for the project, now in the Louvre (a workshop copy of a lost drawing by Raphael’s assistant Gianfrancesco Penni) shows the dramatic change in the intended work.

Examination of the final Transfiguration revealed more than sixteen incomplete areas and pentimenti (alterations). An important theory holds that the writings of Blessed Amadeo Menes da Silva was key to the transformation. Amadeo was an influential friar, healer and visionary as well as the Pope’s confessor. He was also diplomat for the Vatican State. In 1502, after his death, many of Amadeo’s writings and sermons were compiled as the Apocalypsis Nova. This tract was well known Pope Leo X. Guillaume Briçonnet, Cardinal Giulio de’ Medici’s predecessor as bishop of Narbonne, and his two sons also consulted the tract as spiritual guide. Cardinal Giulio knew the Apocalypsis Nova and could have influenced the painting’s final composition. Amadeo’s tract describes the episodes of the Transfiguration and the possessed boy consecutively. The Transfiguration represents a prefiguration of the Last Judgement, and of the final defeat of the Devil, something that could only be achieved by Christ, hence the apostles are powerless to cure the possessed boy. 

Raphael died on 6 April 1520. At the time of his death, the artist ‘who lived more like a prince than a painter’ lay in state for a couple of days at his house in the Borgo, with the famous Transfiguration, left unfinished at Raphael’s death, at his head.” A week after his death, the two paintings were exhibited together in the Vatican.

While there is some speculation that Raphael’s pupil, Giulio Romano, and assistant, Gianfrancesco Penni, painted some of the background figures in the lower right half of the painting, there is no evidence that anyone but Raphael finished the substance of the painting. The cleaning of the painting from 1972 to 1976 revealed that assistants only finished some of the lower left figures, while the rest of the painting is by Raphael himself.

Rather than send it to France, Cardinal Giulio retained the picture. In 1523, he installed it on the high altar in the Blessed Amadeo’s church of San Pietro in Montorio, Rome, in a frame which was the work of Giovanni Barile (no longer in existence). A mosaic copy of the painting was completed by Stefano Pozzi in St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City in 1774.

In November 1798, The Transfiguration was on public display in the Grand Salon at the Louvre. As of 4 July 1801, it became the centrepiece of a large Raphael exhibition in the Grande Galerie. More than 20 Raphaels were on display. In 1810, a famous drawing by Benjamin Zix recorded the occasion of Napoleon and Marie Louise’s wedding procession through the Grande Galerie, The Transfiguration on display in the background.

After the fall of Napoleon Bonaparte, in 1815, envoys to Pope Pius VII, Antonio Canova and Marino Marini managed to secure The Transfiguration (along with 66 other pictures) as part of the Treaty of Paris. By agreement with the Congress of Vienna, the works were to be exhibited to the public. The original gallery was in the Borgia Apartment in the Apostolic Palace. After several moves within the Vatican, the painting now resides in the Pinacoteca Vaticana.

 Raphael’s painting depicts two consecutive, but distinct, biblical narratives from the Gospel of Matthew, also related in the Gospel of Mark. In the first, the Transfiguration of Christ itself, Moses and Elijah appear before the transfigured Christ with Peter, James and John looking on (Matthew 17:1-9; Mark 9:2-13). In the second, the Apostles fail to cure a boy from demons and await the return of Christ (Matthew 17:14-21; Mark 9:14). The upper register of the painting shows the Transfiguration itself (on Mount Tabor, according to tradition), with the transfigured Christ floating in front of illuminated clouds, between the prophets Moses, on the right, and Elijah, on the left with whom he is conversing (Matthew 17:3). The two figures kneeling on the left are commonly identified as Justus and Pastor who shared August 6 as a feast day with the Feast of the Transfiguration. These saints were the patrons of Medici’s archbishopric and the cathedral for which the painting was intended. It has also been proposed that the figures might represent the martyrs Saint Felicissimus and Saint Agapitus who are commemorated in the missal on the feast of the Transfiguration.

The upper register of the painting includes, from left to right, James, Peter and John, traditionally read as symbols of faith, hope and love; hence the symbolic colours of blue-yellow, green and red for their robes.

In the lower register, Raphael depicts the Apostles attempting to free the possessed boy of his demonic possession.

Raphael’s Transfiguration can be considered a prefiguration of both Mannerism, as evidenced by the stylised, contorted poses of the figures at the bottom of the picture; and of Baroque painting, as evidenced by the dramatic tension imbued within those figures, and the strong use of chiaroscuro throughout.

As a reflection on the artist, Raphael likely viewed the Transfiguration as his triumph. Raphael uses the contrast of Jesus presiding over men to satiate his commissioners Roman Catholic Church. More interestingly, Raphael uses the cave to symbolise the Renaissance style, easily observed in the extended index finger as a reference to Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. Additionally, he subtly incorporates a landscape in the background, but uses darker colouring to show his disdain for the style. Yet the focal point of to the viewer is the Baroque styled child and his guarding father. In all, Raphael successfully appeased his commissioners, paid homage to his predecessors, and ushered the subsequent predominance of Baroque painting.

On the simplest level, the painting can be interpreted as a depicting a dichotomy: the redemptive power of Christ, as symbolised by the purity and symmetry of the top half of the painting; contrasted with the flaws of Man, as symbolised by the dark, chaotic scenes in the bottom half of the painting.

 

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Seventeenth Sunday of Year (A)

Matthew 13: 44-52

 

Jesus said to the crowds, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field which someone has found; he hides it again, goes off happy, sells everything he owns and buys the field.

‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls; when he finds one of great value he goes and sells everything he owns and buys it.

‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet cast into the sea that brings in a haul of all kinds. When it is full, the fishermen haul it ashore; then, sitting down, they collect the good ones in a basket and throw away those that are no use. This is how it will be at the end of time: the angels will appear and separate the wicked from the just to throw them into the blazing furnace where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.

‘Have you understood all this?’ They said, ‘Yes.’ And he said to them, ‘Well, then, every scribe who becomes a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out from his storeroom things both new and old.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Parable of the hidden treasure painted in the workshop of  Rembrandt; possibly painted by Gerrit Dou and Goveart Flinck. It was painted around 1630 and is currently located at the Museum of Fine Art, Budapest.

This intriguing work, which is unsigned and undated, is characteristic of paintings created in Leiden around 1630, but much debate has surrounded its attribution. It was once thought to have been executed by Rembrandt van Rijn (1606–69), but that traditional assessment was challenged in 1911 when Wilhelm Martin gave the painting to Rembrandt’s pupil, Gerrit Dou. Martin dated it to the period of Dou’s apprenticeship with Rembrandt from 1628 to 1631. Subsequently, Kurt Bauch proposed that Rembrandt retouched the work in critical areas, specifically the face of the artist. Werner Sumowski, who initially accepted Bauch’s proposal, eventually concluded that Dou made the various compositional adjustments himself.

Gerrit Dou (7 April 1613 – 9 February 1675), was a Dutch Golden Age painter, whose small, highly polished paintings are typical of the Leiden fijnschilders. He specialised in genre scenes and is noted for his trompe l’oeil “niche” paintings and candlelit night-scenes with strong chiaroscuro. He was a student of Rembrandt.

He studied drawing under Bartholomeus Dolendo, and then trained in the stained-glass workshop of Pieter Couwenhorn. In February 1628, at the age of fourteen, his father sent him to study painting in the studio of Rembrandt (then aged about 21) who lived nearby. From Rembrandt, with whom he remained for about three years, he acquired his skill in colouring and in the more subtle effects of chiaroscuro, and his master’s style is reflected in several of his earlier pictures, notably a self-portrait at the age of 22 in the Bridgewater Collection, and in the Blind Tobit going to meet his Son, at Wardour Castle.

At a comparatively early point in his career, however, he developed a distinctive manner of his own which diverged considerably from Rembrandt’s, cultivating a minute and elaborate style of treatment. He is said to have spent five days in painting a hand, and his work was so fine that he found it necessary to manufacture his own brushes.

Notwithstanding the minuteness of his touch, the general effect was harmonious and free from stiffness, and his colour was always fresh and transparent. He often represented subjects in lantern or candle light, the effects of which he reproduced with an unparalleled fidelity and skill. He often painted with the aid of a concave mirror, and to obtain exactness looked at his subject through a frame crossed with squares of silk thread. His practice as a portrait painter, which was at first considerable, gradually declined, sitters being unwilling to give him the time that he deemed necessary. His pictures were always small in size. More than 200 are attributed to him, and examples are to be found in most of the major public collections of Europe. His chef-d’oeuvre is generally considered to be The dropsical woman (1663), and The Dutch Housewife (1650), both in the Louvre. The Evening School, in the Amsterdam Rijksmuseum, is the best example of the candlelight scenes in which he excelled. In the National Gallery, London, favourable specimens are to be seen in the Poulterer’s Shop (1672), and a self-portrait. Dou’s pictures brought high prices, and one patron, Pieter Spiering, who acted as Swedish Ambassador in The Hague from the mid-1630s, paid him 500 guilders annually simply for the right of first refusal of his latest works. Queen Christina of Sweden owned eleven paintings by Dou, and Cosimo III de’ Medici visited his house, where he may have bought at least one of the works now in the Uffizi. The Dutch royal court itself, however, preferred work of a more classical tendency.

 

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Sixteenth Sunday of Year (A)

Matthew 13: 24-43

 

Jesus put a parable before the crowds, ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. While everybody was asleep his enemy came, sowed darnel all among the wheat, and made off. When the new wheat sprouted and ripened, the darnel appeared as well. The owner’s servants went to him and said, “Sir, was it not good seed that you sowed in your field? If so, where does the darnel come from?” “Some enemy has done this” he answered. And the servants said, “Do you want us to go and weed it out?” But he said, “No, because when you weed out the darnel you might pull up the wheat with it. Let them both grow till the harvest; and at harvest time I shall say to the reapers: First collect the darnel and tie it in bundles to be burnt, then gather the wheat into my barn.” ‘

He put another parable before them, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the biggest shrub of all and becomes a tree so that the birds of the air come and shelter in its branches.’

He told them another parable, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like the yeast a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour till it was leavened all through.’

In all this Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables; indeed he would never speak to them except in parables. This was to fulfil the prophecy:

I will speak to you in parables and expound things hidden since the foundation of the world.

Then, leaving the crowds, he went to the house; and his disciples came to him and said, ‘Explain the parable about the darnel in the field to us.’ He said in reply, ‘The sower of the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world; the good seed is the subjects of the kingdom; the darnel, the subjects of the evil one; the enemy who sowed them, the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; the reapers are the angels. Well then, just as the darnel is gathered up and burnt in the fire, so it will be at the end of time. The Son of Man will send his angels and they will gather out of his kingdom all things that provoke offences and all who do evil, and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth. Then the virtuous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Listen, anyone who has ears!’

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Parable of the Wheat and the Tares is a painting by Abraham Bloemaert in 1624 during the baroque period. It is oil on canvas, 101cm x 133cm, and is located at the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, USA.

In this parable from the Gospel of Matthew, the devil, identified by his horns and tail, sows weeds (or tares) in the field where wheat has been planted, while the lazy peasants are sleeping. Christians considered sloth one of the Seven Deadly Sins to which mankind was subject as a result of the Original Sin of Adam and Eve, to whom the two sleepers allude. The dovecote (a birdhouse to attract doves or pigeons that can be trapped for food without the bother of raising them) was associated with the morally lazy who take the easy way. The goat, known for its lust, alludes to self-indulgence, and the peacock, to pride. Bloemaert was gifted in depicting natural detail, but he never painted pure landscapes, preferring pictures with a lesson. He was one of the leading artists of Utrecht and trained many major artists of the next generation.

 Abraham Bloemaert (1566 – 1651) was a Dutch painter and printmaker in etching and engraving. He was one of the “Haarlem Mannerists” from about 1585, but in the new century altered his style to fit new Baroque trends. He mostly painted history subjects and some landscapes. He was an important teacher, who trained most of the Utrecht Caravaggisti, at least for a period.

Bloemaert was born in Gorinchem, Habsburg Netherlands, the son of the architect Cornelis Bloemaert I, who moved his family to Utrecht in 1575, where Abraham was first a pupil of Gerrit Splinter (pupil of Frans Floris) and of Joos de Beer. From the age of 15 or 16, he then spent three years in Paris from 1581–1583, studying six weeks under a Jehan Bassot (possibly Jean Cousin the Younger) and then under a Maistre Herry. While in the School of Fontainebleau he received further training from his fellow countryman Hieronymus Francken. He returned to Utrecht in 1583, just before the French Wars of Religion began, which destroyed much of the work at the Chateau of Fontainebleau.

When his father was appointed city architect (Stads-bouwmeester) in Amsterdam 1591 he accompanied him there, and on his father’s death in 1593 returned finally to Utrecht, where he set up a workshop and in 1594 became dean (“deken”) of the “zadelaarsgilde”, as from 1367 the painters were included in the saddlemaker’s guild, with no Guild of St. Luke of their own. In 1611, along with the two other leading Utrecht painters, Joachim Wtewael and Paulus Moreelse, he was one of the founders of the Utrecht Guild of Saint Luke (St Lucas-gilde) a new Utrecht painters’ guild, and became its deken in 1618. Many of Bloemaert’s paintings were commissioned by Utrecht’s clandestine Catholic churches. He died in Utrecht.

 According to the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, “[h]e excelled more as a colourist than as a draughtsman, was extremely productive, and painted and etched historical and allegorical pictures, landscapes, still-life, animal pictures and flower pieces.” In the first decade of the seventeenth-century, Bloemaert began formulating his landscape paintings to include picturesque ruined cottages and other pastoral elements. In these works, the religious or mythological figures play a subordinate role. Country life was to remain Bloemaert’s favourite subject, which he depicted with increasing naturalism. He drew motifs such as peasant cottages, dovecotes and trees from life and then on his return to the studio worked them up into complex imaginary scenes.

 

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Fifteenth Sunday of Year (A)

Matthew 13:1-23

 

Jesus left the house and sat by the lakeside, but such crowds gathered round him that he got into a boat and sat there. The people all stood on the beach, and he told them many things in parables.

He said, ‘Imagine a sower going out to sow. As he sowed, some seeds fell on the edge of the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Others fell on patches of rock where they found little soil and sprang up straight away, because there was no depth of earth; but as soon as the sun came up they were scorched and, not having any roots, they withered away. Others fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Others fell on rich soil and produced their crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Listen, anyone who has ears!’

Then the disciples went up to him and asked, ‘Why do you talk to them in parables?’ ‘Because’ he replied ‘the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven are revealed to you, but they are not revealed to them. For anyone who has will be given more, and he will have more than enough; but from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away. The reason I talk to them in parables is that they look without seeing and listen without hearing or understanding. So in their case this prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled:

You will listen and listen again, but not understand,

see and see again, but not perceive.

For the heart of this nation has grown coarse,

their ears are dull of hearing,

and they have shut their eyes,

for fear they should see with their eyes,

hear with their ears,

understand with their heart,

and be converted

and be healed by me.

‘But happy are your eyes because they see, your ears because they hear! I tell you solemnly, many prophets and holy men longed to see what you see, and never saw it; to hear what you hear, and never heard it.

‘You, therefore, are to hear the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom without understanding, the evil one comes and carries off what was sown in his heart: this is the man who received the seed on the edge of the path. The one who received it on patches of rock is the man who hears the word and welcomes it at once with joy. But he has no root in him, he does not last; let some trial come, or some persecution on account of the word, and he falls away at once. The one who received the seed in thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this world and the lure of riches choke the word and so he produces nothing. And the one who received the seed in rich soil is the man who hears the word and understands it; he is the one who yields a harvest and produces now a hundredfold, now sixty, now thirty.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Christ of the Cornfield is a painting by Thomas Francis Dickee in 1883. It is oil on canvas, 140cm x 105cm and is currently in a private collection, sold at Christie’s, London for £67,000 in 2012.

Thomas Francis Dicksee (1819–1895) was an English painter born in France. He was a portraitist and painter of historical, genre subjects — often from Shakespeare — who was the pupil of H. P. Briggs. He exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1841 until the year of his death. His brother John Robert Dicksee was also a painter, and his children, Sir Francis Dicksee and Margaret likewise became painters. In The Dictionary of Victorian Painters, Herbert Dicksee is given as his son also, but according to the City of London School, where Herbert taught, he was the son of John Robert Dicksee.

Thomas Dicksee produced a series of portraits of family members, and also painted idealised portraits, including the Shakespearean characters Ophelia, Beatrice, Miranda and Ariel. A Juliet is in the Sunderland Art Gallery, and At the Opera is in the collection of Leicester Art Gallery. A portrait of Lady Teasdale is in the Adelaide Art Gallery, Australia and an Ophelia (1875) is in the Mead Art Museum, Amherst, Massachusetts. Dicksee would become particularly well known for his depictions of Shakespearean heroines and exhibited a total of seven at the Royal Academy. Other oil paintings, have been seen in several auctions, these include the painting above, his religious painting ‘Christ of the Cornfield’, as well as ‘Distant Thoughts’, and paintings of Beatrice, Miranda, and Amy Robsart.

 

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Fourteenth Sunday of Year (A)

Matthew 11: 25-30

 

Jesus exclaimed, ‘I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children. Yes, Father, for that is what it pleased you to do. Everything has been entrusted to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, just as no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

‘Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: The Calling of Saint Matthew is a painting by Caravaggio, painted 1600. It is oil on canvas, dimensions 322cm x 340cm and is located at the San Luigi dei Francesi, Rome.

The subject traditionally was represented either indoors or out; sometimes Saint Matthew is shown inside a building, with Christ outside (following the Biblical text) summoning him through a window. Both before and after Caravaggio the subject was often used as a pretext for anecdotal genre paintings. Caravaggio may well have been familiar with earlier Netherlandish paintings of money lenders or of gamblers seated around a table like Saint Matthew and his associates.

Caravaggio represented the event as a nearly silent, dramatic narrative. The sequence of actions before and after this moment can be easily and convincingly re-created. The tax-gatherer Levi (Saint Matthew’s name before he became the apostle) was seated at a table with his four assistants, counting the day’s proceeds, the group lighted from a source at the upper right of the painting. Christ, His eyes veiled, with His halo the only hint of divinity, enters with Saint Peter. A gesture of His right hand, all the more powerful and compelling because of its languor, summons Levi. Surprised by the intrusion and perhaps dazzled by the sudden light from the just-opened door, Levi draws back and gestures toward himself with his left hand as if to say, “Who, me?”, his right hand remaining on the coin he had been counting before Christ’s entrance.

The two figures on the left, derived from a 1545 Hans Holbein print representing gamblers unaware of the appearance of Death, are so concerned with counting the money that they do not even notice Christ’s arrival; symbolically their inattention to Christ deprives them of the opportunity He offers for eternal life, and condemns them to death. The two boys in the center do respond, the younger one drawing back against Levi as if seeking his protection, the swaggering older one, who is armed, leaning forward a little menacingly. Saint Peter gestures firmly with his hand to calm his potential resistance. The dramatic point of the picture is that for this moment, no one does anything. Christ’s appearance is so unexpected and His gesture so commanding as to suspend action for a shocked instant, before reaction can take place. In another second, Levi will rise up and follow Christ – in fact, Christ’s feet are already turned as if to leave the room. The particular power of the picture is in this cessation of action. It utilizes the fundamentally static medium of painting to convey characteristic human indecision after a challenge or command and before reaction.

The picture is divided into two parts. The standing figures on the right form a vertical rectangle; those gathered around the table on the left a horizontal block. The costumes reinforce the contrast. Levi and his subordinates, who are involved in affairs of this world, are dressed in a contemporary mode, while the barefoot Christ and Saint Peter, who summon Levi to another life and world, appear in timeless cloaks. The two groups are also separated by a void, bridged literally and symbolically by Christ’s hand. This hand, like Adam’s in Michelangelo’s Creation, unifies the two parts formally and psychologically. Underlying the shallow stage-like space of the picture is a grid pattern of verticals and horizontals, which knit it together structurally.

The light has been no less carefully manipulated: the visible window covered with oilskin, very likely to provide diffused light in the painter’s studio; the upper light, to illuminate Saint Matthew’s face and the seated group; and the light behind Christ and Saint Peter, introduced only with them. It may be that this third source of light is intended as miraculous. Otherwise, why does Saint Peter cast no shadow on the defensive youth facing him?

 

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Thirteenth Sunday of Year (A)

Matthew 10: 37-42

 

Jesus instructed the Twelve as follows: ‘Anyone who prefers father or mother to me is not worthy of me. Anyone who prefers son or daughter to me is not worthy of me. Anyone who does not take his cross and follow in my footsteps is not worthy of me. Anyone who finds his life will lose it; anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it.

‘Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me; and those who welcome me welcome the one who sent me.

‘Anyone who welcomes a prophet because he is a prophet will have a prophet’s reward; and anyone who welcomes a holy man because he is a holy man will have a holy man’s reward.

‘If anyone gives so much as a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is a disciple, then I tell you solemnly, he will most certainly not lose his reward.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew is painted by Caravaggio, around 1600. It is oil on canvas, 323cm x 343cm and is located at Chiesa di San Luigi dei Francesi (Rome).

Saint Matthew’s history continues with his death. The king of Ethiopia, Hirticus, wished to marry his niece Iphigenia, the abbess of a convent, whose resurrection by Saint Matthew and conversion to Christianity provided the subject for D’Arpino’s fresco in the vault. When Saint Matthew forbade the marriage, Hirticus had him killed.

The scene takes place in the foreground of a vast, dark interior, where nearly nude converts to the left and right of a pool await baptism. An altar is in the background. Muziano had painted the subject a few years earlier in the Roman church of Santa Maria Aracoeli, but it was not very often represented. Caravaggio must have been familiar with Muziano’s painting and perhaps with a now-lost drawing for the scene made by the Cavaliere d’Arpino while he was still under contract to do the lateral paintings. Caravaggio seems to have been most influenced, however, by more distant works: Titian’s famous painting (destroyed by fire in 1867) of The Death of Saint Peter Martyr in the church of Santi Giovanni Paolo in Venice, of which there were many prints in circulation by the end of the sixteenth century; Marcantonio Raimondi’s engraving after Raphael’s Massacre of the Innocents; and comparable derivative works.

From these sources, all appropriate to a scene of Christian martyrdom, Caravaggio took various poses. He focused on the executioner in the center, at the critical moment when he seizes the supine, helpless Saint Matthew. While Matthew raises his right hand beseechingly toward the executioner, the angel hands down the martyr’s palm and the other figures scatter in dismay. We see only fragments of these fleeing figures; light falls jaggedly on them like a strobe, emphasizing their confusion. This outburst of action contrasts with the inaction of the Calling; the movements of those figures seem to be momentarily suspended, while these appear to be congealed in their poses. The pause in the movement of the figures in the Calling is a part of the narrative and contributes to its authenticity; these men in flight, on the other hand, have been portrayed in an instant of continuing action. The executioner and the saint might pause, just before the fatal blow is struck; but the fleeing figures are in precarious, unsustainable poses, so that the effect is artificial, as if the instant of the outburst of response had been quick-frozen.

The confusion of movement and the almost jigsaw pattern of sharply contrasting lights and darks are stabilised by the horizontals of the steps and the altar and by the dim architectural background verticals. Less evident than in the Calling but faintly discernible is an underlying grid composition underpinning the jumble of actions around the central figure. The harshness of the act of assassination is modified by the graceful S-curve connecting the body of the angel through his arm and the palm branch to Saint Matthew’s arms. The juxtaposition of the saint’s right hand, the executioner’s left hand, and the martyr’s palm over the Maltese cross on the altarpiece cannot have been accidental; their proximity provides a focus for the meaning of the painting. Perhaps the single candle burning on the altar is symbolic, representing the all-seeing eye of God, ever present and aware of His martyr’s sacrifice; it may also refer to the fugitiveness of human life.

The most distant figure is a self-portrait of Caravaggio; it provides a very specific reference point for the viewer, as if Caravaggio were participating in the tragedy, and thus making it contemporary. He looks out at the martyrdom, as if to involve the spectator in it.

 

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Twelfth Sunday of Year (A)

Matthew 10: 26-33

 

Jesus instructed the Twelve as follows: ‘Do not be afraid. For everything that is now covered will be uncovered, and everything now hidden will be made clear. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the daylight; what you hear in whispers, proclaim from the housetops.

‘Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; fear him rather who can destroy both body and soul in hell. Can you not buy two sparrows for a penny? And yet not one falls to the ground without your Father knowing. Why, every hair on your head has been counted. So there is no need to be afraid; you are worth more than hundreds of sparrows.

‘So if anyone declares himself for me in the presence of men, I will declare myself for him in the presence of my Father in heaven. But the one who disowns me in the presence of men, I will disown in the presence of my Father in heaven.’            

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: The Inspiration of Saint Matthew is a painting by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, painted in 1602. It is oil on canvas and is currently located at the Contarelli Chapel, Church of San Luigi dei Francesi, Rome.

This painting is Caravaggio’s second version of the subject, was the last in the series, although it is over the high altar and therefore central in location as well as meaning. Unlike the lateral canvases, it is visible from all points in the chapel, a constant reminder of the importance of the Gospel. The angelic messenger is evidently dictating to the saint, ticking off points on the fingers of his left hand. The reading of the text of the Gospel demonstrates that he has reached the second part of the introduction, that is, Christ’s genealogy and hence His continuity with the past.

Saint Matthew appears to have been portrayed from the same model as in the Martyrdom, and, appropriately enough, to be older than he was in the Calling. Despite his dignity, his noble, bearded face and bald head, and his robes reminiscent of an ancient philosopher’s, he is in a very unsettled pose, not having had time to sit down, and with the bench under his knee tipping a little whimsically over the edge of a ledge. Obviously he is writing on the inspiration of the moment, coached by the angel. His role as a divine instrument is also implied by his name, which was believed to derive from the words “manus” (hand) and “Theos” (God).

Cardinal Contarelli originally intended that the two figures be placed side by side, as they were in the first version. By changing this scheme for the traditional arrangement of the angel’s flying in, Caravaggio emphasized the divinity of Matthew’s inspiration and thus the authority of his Gospel. No doubt Caravaggio referred to some of the numerous sixteenth-century prototypes for the composition. Perhaps he had access to Taddeo Zuccaro’s drawing of The Flight to Egypt, where the poses and some of the gestures of Joseph and the angel, and the relation between them, are similar. Or he may have been influenced by one of the many Venetian prototypes, of which the closest seems to be the reversed composition of The Inspiration of Saint John the Evangelist that Francesco Bassano had painted a few years earlier.

The ledge beneath the bench precisely defines the saint’s spatial position in relation to the altar and to the whole chapel. But the placement of the angel is ambiguous. He must be not only above Matthew but also in front of him, judging from the saint’s direction of regard. But in the whole context he is difficult to place, as if, like the blank, amorphous background, he were out of time and place. Nonetheless, he is fully corporeal and probably was inspired by actors in the contemporary theater, who were flown across the stage on wires. Of the three paintings in the chapel, this shows the most use of the grooves that are incised in some of Caravaggio’s paintings. Perhaps Caravaggio had been experimenting with this method of preparation in the two lateral canvases and perfected it only in this, the last. The contours of the painted image as we now see it do not correspond exactly with these grooves, so it is possible that Caravaggio first conceived of the bodies undraped, incised these contours in the wet priming, and then painted the drapery over them as if he were actually clothing.

 

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Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ – Corpus Christi (A)

John 6: 51-58

 

Jesus said to the Jews:

‘I am the living bread which has come down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world.’

Then the Jews started arguing with one another: ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ they said. Jesus replied:

‘I tell you most solemnly,

if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood,

you will not have life in you.

Anyone who does eat my flesh and drink my blood has eternal life,

and I shall raise him up on the last day.

For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.

He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me

and I live in him.

As I, who am sent by the living Father,

myself draw life from the Father,

so whoever eats me will draw life from me.

This is the bread come down from heaven;

not like the bread our ancestors ate:

they are dead,

but anyone who eats this bread will live for ever.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Corpus Christi procession is painted by Caril Emil Doepler the Elder in 1860. It is oil on canvas, 46cm x 37cm and is located in Germany.

Carl Emil Doepler (1824–1905) was a German painter, illustrator and costume designer. He created the costumes for Richard Wagner’s opera Der Ring des Nibelungen at the Bayreuther Festspiele in 1876. His son, Emil Doepler, was also an artist.

The Feast of Corpus Christi (Latin for Body of Christ) is a Latin Rite liturgical solemnity celebrating the belief in the body and blood of Jesus Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist. It emphasises the joy of the institution of the Eucharist. The latter had previously been observed only on Maundy Thursday, in the somber atmosphere leading to Good Friday.

The feast is liturgically celebrated on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday or, “where the Solemnity of The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ is not a holy day of obligation, it is assigned to the Sunday after the Most Holy Trinity as its proper day”. It was reported in 2017, however, that Pope Francis had moved the feast from Thursday to the following Sunday, when it is celebrated in Italy.

At the end of Holy Mass, there is often a procession of the Blessed Sacrament, generally displayed in a monstrance. The procession is followed by Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. A notable Eucharistic procession is that presided over by the Pope each year in Rome, where it begins at the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran and passes to the Basilica of Saint Mary Major, where it concludes with Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.

 

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Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity (A)

John 3: 16-18

 

Jesus said to Nicodemus,

‘God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son,

so that everyone who believes in him

may not be lost but may have eternal life.

For God sent his Son into the world not to condemn the world,

but so that through him the world might be saved.

No one who believes in him will be condemned;

but whoever refuses to believe is condemned already,

because he has refused to believe in the name of God’s only Son.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: ‘Holy Trinity’ is painted by Hendrick van Balen in 1620. It is oil on panel and is located at Sint-Jaconskerk, Antwerp.

Hendrick van Balen (1575 – 1632) was a Flemish Baroque painter and stained glass designer. Hendrick van Balen specialised in small cabinet pictures often painted on a copper support. His favourite themes were mythological and religious subjects. The artist played an important role in the renewal of Flemish painting in the early 17th century and was one of the teachers of Anthony van Dyck.

The Trinity is most commonly seen in Christian art with the Spirit represented by a dove, as specified in the Gospel accounts of the Baptism of Christ; he is nearly always shown with wings outspread. However depictions using three anthropomorphic figures appear occasionally in most periods of art.

The Father and the Son are usually differentiated by age, and later by dress, but this too is not always the case. The usual depiction of the Father as an older man with a white beard may derive from the biblical Ancient of Days, which is often cited in defense of this sometimes controversial representation. However, in Eastern Orthodoxy the Ancient of Days is usually understood to be God the Son, not God the Father – early Byzantine images show Christ as the Ancient of Days, but this iconography became rare. When the Father is depicted in art, he is sometimes shown with a halo shaped like an equilateral triangle, instead of a circle. The Son is often shown at the Father’s right hand. He may be represented by a symbol—typically the Lamb or a cross—or on a crucifix, so that the Father is the only human figure shown at full size. In early medieval art, the Father may be represented by a hand appearing from a cloud in a blessing gesture, for example in scenes of the Baptism of Christ. Later, in the West, the Throne of Mercy (or ‘Throne of Grace’) became a common depiction. In this style, the Father (sometimes seated on a throne) is shown supporting either a crucifix or, later, a slumped crucified Son, similar to the Pietà (this type is distinguished in German as the Not Gottes) in his outstretched arms, while the Dove hovers above or in between them. This subject continued to be popular until the 18th century.

By the end of the 15th century, larger representations, other than the Throne of Mercy, became effectively standardised, showing an older figure in plain robes for the Father, Christ with his torso partly bare to display the wounds of his Passion, and the dove above or around them. In earlier representations both Father, especially, and Son often wear elaborate robes and crowns. Sometimes the Father alone wears a crown, or even a papal tiara.

 

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Ninth Sunday of Year (A) – Solemnity of Pentecost

John 20: 19-23


In the evening of the first day of the week, the doors were closed in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood among them. He said to them, ‘Peace be with you’, and showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord, and he said to them again, ‘Peace be with you.

‘As the Father sent me,

so am I sending you.’

After saying this he breathed on them and said:

‘Receive the Holy Spirit.

For those whose sins you forgive,

they are forgiven:

for those whose sins you retain,

they are retained.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: ‘Pentecost’ is a work of El Greco, painted with oil on canvas between 1597 and 1600, during his last period of Toledo. It is exhibited in one of the halls of the Prado Museum in Madrid. It belonged to the group painted the altarpiece for the church of an Augustinian seminary of Madrid , known as the “School of Doña María de Aragón”.

 El Greco promised in 1596 to make the altarpiece of the church of Doña María de Aragón school. The popular name alludes to the seminar María de Aragón, the patron who paid work. El Greco was commissioned by the Council of Castile, who had taken over the work after the death of Dona Maria. There are documents that testify that it had to be done in three years and value the work into something more than sixty-three thousand reale, the highest price that reached to his life. However, there are references to the number of pictures that were, or the structure of the altar, or the field concerned.

 This work was in part superior altarpiece. Like many of the other pieces, El Greco organised composition based on a triangle reversed. The scene revolves around the Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene and the Apostles. In the background is the dove of the Holy Spirit, which radiates a light that enlightens every stage and affects the costumes of the characters.

 The scene is based on a passage concerning the Acts of the Apostles, uses elongated figures that move away from the traditional stereotype of classical beauty. There is a sense of perspective, while the strong tones of certain sections are direct inheritance of Tintoretto and Michelangelo.

 

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Seventh Sunday of Easter (A) – Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord

Matthew 28: 16-20

 

The eleven disciples set out for Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had arranged to meet them. When they saw him they fell down before him, though some hesitated. Jesus came up and spoke to them. He said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations; baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you. And know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.’         

The Gospel of the Lord

 

Picture: Ascension painted by John Singleton Copley in 1775. It is oil on canvas and is currently located in the Museum of Fine Art, Boston, USA.

John Singleton Copley RA (1738 – 1815) was an American painter, active in both colonial America and England. He was probably born in Boston, Massachusetts, to Richard and Mary Singleton Copley, both Anglo-Irish. He is famous for his portrait paintings of important figures in colonial New England, depicting in particular middle-class subjects. His portraits were innovative in their tendency to depict artifacts relating to these individuals’ lives.

After planning a trip to Europe for more than a decade, Copley finally left Boston in June 1774. After a brief stop in London he spent four months in Rome, studying the works of the old masters and composing a painting of his own. He took his inspiration from Raphael’s “Transfiguration of Christ” (Vatican Museums), which he deemed of “exalted Merrit.” He gave careful thought to his interpretation of the event—“I considered how the Apostles would be affected at that Instant”—and then began the present study, a sketch of the lower part of the picture. Copley concerned himself with the arrangement of areas of light and shadow, devised the action of each figure, and drew from a layman, or artist’s mannequin, that he draped with a wet tablecloth. The drawing occupied him for the better part of November 1774, and on December 4 of that year he reported to his wife that it “has the approbation of all who have seen it. I am encouraged to paint it.” His finished painting “The Ascension” is now in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

 

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Sixth Sunday of Easter (A)

John 14: 15-21


Jesus said to his disciples:

‘If you love me you will keep my commandments.

I shall ask the Father,

and he will give you another Advocate

to be with you for ever,

that Spirit of truth

whom the world can never receive

since it neither sees nor knows him;

but you know him,

because he is with you, he is in you.

I will not leave you orphans;

I will come back to you.

In a short time the world will no longer see me;

but you will see me,

because I live and you will live.

On that day

you will understand that I am in my Father

and you in me and I in you.

Anybody who receives my commandments and keeps them

will be one who loves me;

and anybody who loves me will be loved by my Father,

and I shall love him and show myself to him.’         

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Christ Jesus painted  by Ary Scheffer in 1851. Oil on fabric the painting in 108cm x 74cm and is located at the Walters Art Musuem, Baltimore, USA.

Before enrolling in the École des Beaux-Arts, Scheffer studied with the neoclassically trained artist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, whose mastery of the art of the past and high technical finish he emulated. He exhibited his first works at the age of 17 in the 1812 Salon in the so-called “juste-milieu” (in English, literally, middle path) tradition. Scheffer was attracted to romantic themes gleaned from contemporary authors such as Sir Walter Scott and Goethe. His meteoric rise in the art world drew instant critical acclaim and the acquaintance of such artists as Théodore Géricault, Eugène Delacroix, and Paul Delaroche. This work was not seen until after Scheffer’s death. He stopped exhibiting at the Salon altogether in 1846 and became increasingly preoccupied with religious imagery with a seriousness that reflects a pointed departure from his earlier, more anecdotal work. In this iconic image, he focuses on the solitary figure of Christ.

His other religious subjects: Christus Consolator (1836) was followed by Christus Remunerator, The shepherds led by the star (1837), The Magi laying down their crowns, Christ in the Garden of Olives, Christ bearing his Cross, Christ interred (1845), and St Augustine and Monica (1846).

One of the reduced versions of his Christus Consolator (the major work today to be found in the Van Gogh-museum, Amsterdam), lost for 70 years, was rediscovered in a janitor’s closet in Gethsemane Lutheran Church in Dassel, Minnesota in 2007. It has been restored and is on display at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

Scheffer was also an accomplished portrait painter, finishing 500 portraits in total. His subjects included composers Frédéric Chopin and Franz Liszt, the Marquis de la FayettePierre-Jean de BérangerAlphonse de LamartineCharles DickensDuchess de BroglieTalleyrand and Queen Marie Amélie.

After 1846, he ceased to exhibit. His strong ties with the royal family caused him to fall out of favour when, in 1848, the Second Republic came into being. Scheffer was made commander of the Legion of Honour in 1848, that is, after he had wholly withdrawn from the Salon. Shut up in his studio, he produced many paintings that were only exhibited after his death in 1858.

The works first exhibited posthumously include Sorrows of the earth, and the Angel announcing the Resurrection, which he had left unfinished. By the time of his death, his reputation was damaged: though his paintings were praised for their charm and facility, they were condemned for poor use of colour and vapid sentiment.

 

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Fifth Sunday of Easter (A)

John 14: 1-12

 

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘Do not let your hearts be troubled.

Trust in God still, and trust in me.

There are many rooms in my Father’s house;

if there were not, I should have told you.

I am going now to prepare a place for you,

and after I have gone and prepared you a place,

I shall return to take you with me;

so that where I am

you may be too.

You know the way to the place where I am going.’

Thomas said, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’ Jesus said:

‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.

No one can come to the Father except through me.

If you know me, you know my Father too.

From this moment you know him and have seen him.’

Philip said, ‘Lord, let us see the Father and then we shall be satisfied.’ ‘Have I been with you all this time, Philip,’ said Jesus to him ‘and you still do not know me?

To have seen me is to have seen the Father,

so how can you say, “Let us see the Father”?

Do you not believe

that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?

The words I say to you I do not speak as from myself:

it is the Father, living in me, who is doing this work.

You must believe me when I say

that I am in the Father and the Father is in me;

believe it on the evidence of this work, if for no other reason.

I tell you most solemnly,

whoever believes in me

will perform the same works as I do myself,

he will perform even greater works,

because I am going to the Father.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Philip painted by Peter Paul Rubens. Oil on canvas, painted 1611 and is located at the Prado Museum, Madrid.

Sir Peter Paul Rubens (28 June 1577 – 30 May 1640) was Flemish/Netherlandish draughtsman and painter. He is widely considered as the most notable artist of Flemish Baroque art school. A proponent of an extravagant Baroque style that emphasized movement, colour, and sensuality, Rubens is well known for his Counter-Reformation altarpieces, portraits, landscapes, and history paintings of mythological and allegorical subjects.

In addition to running a large studio in Antwerp that produced paintings popular with nobility and art collectors throughout Europe, Rubens was a classically educated humanist scholar and diplomat who was knighted by both Philip IV of Spain and Charles I of England. Rubens was a prolific artist. The catalogue of his works by Michael Jaffé lists 1,403 pieces, excluding numerous copies made in his workshop.[2]

His commissioned works were mostly “history paintings”, which included religious and mythological subjects, and hunt scenes. He painted portraits, especially of friends, and self-portraits, and in later life painted several landscapes. Rubens designed tapestries and prints, as well as his own house. He also oversaw the ephemeral decorations of the royal entry into Antwerp by the Cardinal-Infante Ferdinand in 1635.

His drawings are mostly extremely forceful but not overly detailed. He also made great use of oil sketches as preparatory studies. He was one of the last major artists to make consistent use of wooden panels as a support medium, even for very large works, but he used canvas as well, especially when the work needed to be sent a long distance. For altarpieces he sometimes painted on slate to reduce reflection problems.

He received special permission to base his studio in Antwerp instead of at their court in Brussels, and to also work for other clients. Rubens cemented his ties to the city when, on 3 October 1609, he married Isabella Brandt, the daughter of a leading Antwerp citizen and humanist, Jan Brandt.

In 1610 Rubens moved into a new house and studio that he designed. Now the Rubenshuis Museum, the Italian-influenced villa in the centre of Antwerp accommodated his workshop, where he and his apprentices made most of the paintings, and his personal art collection and library, both among the most extensive in Antwerp. During this time he built up a studio with numerous students and assistants. His most famous pupil was the young Anthony van Dyck, who soon became the leading Flemish portraitist and collaborated frequently with Rubens. He also often collaborated with the many specialists active in the city, including the animal painter Frans Snyders, who contributed the eagle to Prometheus Bound, and his good friend the flower-painter Jan Brueghel the Elder.

Another house was built by Rubens to the north of Antwerp in the polder village of Doel, “Hooghuis” (1613/1643), perhaps as an investment. The “High House” was built next to the village church.

Painted around the same time as the painting of the Apostle Philip, altarpieces such as The Raising of the Cross (1610) and The Descent from the Cross (1611–1614) for the Cathedral of Our Lady were particularly important in establishing Rubens as Flanders’ leading painter shortly after his return. The Raising of the Cross, for example, demonstrates the artist’s synthesis of Tintoretto’s Crucifixion for the Scuola Grande di San Rocco in Venice, Michelangelo’s dynamic figures, and Rubens’ own personal style. This painting has been held as a prime example of Baroque religious art.

 

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Fourth Sunday of Easter (A)

John 10: 1-10

 

Jesus said: ‘I tell you most solemnly, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold through the gate, but gets in some other way is a thief and a brigand. The one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the flock; the gatekeeper lets him in, the sheep hear his voice, one by one he calls his own sheep and leads them out. When he has brought out his flock, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow because they know his voice. They never follow a stranger but run away from him: they do not recognise the voice of strangers.’

Jesus told them this parable but they failed to understand what he meant by telling it to them.

So Jesus spoke to them again:

‘I tell you most solemnly,

I am the gate of the sheepfold.

All others who have come

are thieves and brigands;

but the sheep took no notice of them.

I am the gate.

Anyone who enters through me will be safe:

he will go freely in and out

and be sure of finding pasture.

The thief comes

only to steal and kill and destroy.

I have come

so that they may have life

and have it to the full.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Christ as Saviour painted by El Greco between 1610 & 1614. Oil on canvas, 99cm x 179cm, it is located in the Museo de El Greco, Toledo.

El Greco painted several series in which Christ and the Apostles appear as separate images (Apostolados). The artist accepted the assistance of collaborators in some of these he painted in the final years of his life, but it is no less certain that he preserved until the very end that absolute mastery over his art so conspicuous in the superb series in the Museo de El Greco in Toledo. Other (incomplete) series are in the Toledo Cathedral, in Oviedo and in the Prado.

The group of thirteen pictures in the Museo de El Greco was conceived as a whole, with Christ looking directly at the viewer, six of the Apostles turning to the right and six to the left. The expressive, fragmentary brushwork has led some to suppose that the series was left unfinished at El Greco’s death.

Literally, the apostles (from the Greek apostolos, envoy, messenger) are the twelve disciples of Christ whom he sent out to evangelise the nations. The name was also given at a later date to the small number of saints who continued the task of evangelisation begun by the first “apostles”, and who are also considered as emissaries of Christ. Following St Paul, the apostle of the Gentiles, come, among many others, St Martin, the apostle of the Gauls; St Boniface, apostle of Frisia and Germany; and SS. Cyril and Methodius, apostles of the Slavs. The original twelve formed a group which served to witness that the Jesus they knew was indeed the Messiah. In the lists given in the New Testament, the earliest disciples – Peter (Simon Peter), Andrew, James the Greater (or Great) and John – are always named first. A second group of four follows: Philip,  Bartholomew,  Matthew and Thomas. Finally appear James the Less, Jude (or Thaddaeus), Simon the Canaanite and Judas Iscariot. Peter always occupies the first place and Judas the last; the latter was replaced by Matthias after the betrayal. However, in all of El Greco’s Apostolados, Apostle Paul is chosen to replace Judas. Although not one of the original twelve whom Christ chose to be his closest followers, Paul became the ‘Apostle of the Gentiles’ following his dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus. Popular piety had all the apostles die for the true faith and their legends include a number of different methods of martyrdom. Like Christ, five were crucified: Peter and Philip upside down and Andrew on a cross saltire.

 

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Third Sunday of Easter (A)

Luke 24: 13-35

 

Two of the disciples of Jesus were on their way to a village called Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking together about all that had happened. Now as they talked this over, Jesus himself came up and walked by their side; but something prevented them from recognising him. He said to them, ‘What matters are you discussing as you walk along?’ They stopped short, their faces downcast.

Then one of them, called Cleopas, answered him, ‘You must be the only person staying in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have been happening there these last few days.’ ‘What things?’ he asked. ‘All about Jesus of Nazareth’ they answered ‘who proved he was a great prophet by the things he said and did in the sight of God and of the whole people; and how our chief priests and our leaders handed him over to be sentenced to death, and had him crucified. Our own hope had been that he would be the one to set Israel free. And this is not all: two whole days have gone by since it all happened; and some women from our group have astounded us: they went to the tomb in the early morning, and when they did not find the body, they came back to tell us they had seen a vision of angels who declared he was alive. Some of our friends went to the tomb and found everything exactly as the women had reported, but of him they saw nothing.’

Then he said to them, ‘You foolish men! So slow to believe the full message of the prophets! Was it not ordained that the Christ should suffer and so enter into his glory?’ Then, starting with Moses and going through all the prophets, he explained to them the passages throughout the scriptures that were about himself.

When they drew near to the village to which they were going, he made as if to go on; but they pressed him to stay with them. ‘It is nearly evening’ they said ‘and the day is almost over.’ So he went in to stay with them. Now while he was with them at table, he took the bread and said the blessing; then he broke it and handed it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognised him; but he had vanished from their sight. Then they said to each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us as he talked to us on the road and explained the scriptures to us?’

They set out that instant and returned to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven assembled together with their companions,  who said to them, ‘Yes, it is true. The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.’ Then they told their story of what had happened on the road and how they had recognised him at the breaking of bread.             

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Supper at Emmaus, painted in 1648 by Rembrandt. The dimensions are 68cm x 65cm and is located at Musuem Musee du Louvre, Paris.

Using the Emmaus story, both the encounter on the road and the ensuing supper have been depicted in art, but the supper has received more attention. Medieval art tends to show a moment before Jesus is recognized; Christ wears a large floppy hat to help explain the initial lack of recognition by the disciples. This is often a large pilgrim‘s hat with badges or, rarely, a Jewish hat. However, the depiction of the supper has been a more popular theme, at least since the Renaissance, showing Jesus eating with the disciples. Often the moment of recognition is shown.

Rembrandt‘s 1648 depiction of the Supper builds on the etching that he did six years earlier, in which the disciple on the left had risen, hands clasped in prayer. In both depictions, the disciples are startled and in awe but not in fear. The servant is oblivious to the theophanic moment taking place during the supper.

Caravaggio‘s painting in London and his painting in Milan were six years apart, and both imitate natural colour very well, but both were criticized for lack of decorum. Caravaggio depicted Jesus without a beard, and the London painting shows fruits on the table that are out of season. Moreover, the inn keeper is shown serving with a hat.

Some other artists who have portrayed the Supper are Jacopo BassanoPontormoVittore CarpaccioPhilippe de ChampaigneAlbrecht DürerBenedetto GennariJacob JordaensMarco MarzialePedro OrrenteTintorettoTitianVelázquez, and Paolo Veronese. The supper was also the subject of one of Han van Meegeren‘s most successful Vermeer forgeries.

In literary art, the Emmaus theme is treated as early as the 12th century by Durham poet Laurentius in a semidramatic Latin poem.

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn was a Dutch draughtsmanpainter, and printmaker. A prolific and versatile master across three media, he is generally considered one of the greatest visual artists in the history of art and the most important in Dutch art history. Unlike most Dutch Masters of the 17th century, Rembrandt’s works depict a wide range of style and subject matter, from portraits, self-portraits, to landscapes, genre scenes, allegorical and historical scenes, biblical and mythological themes as well as animal studies. His contributions to art came in a period of great wealth and cultural achievement that historians call the Dutch Golden Age when Dutch Golden Age painting, although in many ways antithetical to the Baroque style that dominated Europe, was extremely prolific and innovative, and gave rise to important new genres in painting.

Rembrandt’s portraits of his contemporaries, self-portraits and illustrations of scenes from the Bible are regarded as his greatest creative triumphs. His self-portraits form a unique and intimate biography, in which the artist surveyed himself without vanity and with the utmost sincerity. His reputation as the greatest etcher in the history of the medium was established in his lifetime, and never questioned since. Few of his paintings left the Dutch Republic whilst he lived, but his prints were circulated throughout Europe, and his wider reputation was initially based on them alone.

In his paintings and prints he exhibited knowledge of classical iconography, which he molded to fit the requirements of his own experience; thus, the depiction of a biblical scene was informed by Rembrandt’s knowledge of the specific text, his assimilation of classical composition, and his observations of Amsterdam‘s Jewish population. Because of his empathy for the human condition, he has been called “one of the great prophets of civilization.”

 

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Second Sunday of Easter (A)

John 20: 19-31

 

In the evening of that same day, the first day of the week, the doors were closed in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood among them. He said to them, ‘Peace be with you,’ and showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord, and he said to them again, ‘Peace be with you.

‘As the Father sent me, so am I sending you.’

After saying this he breathed on them and said:

‘Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained.’

Thomas, called the Twin, who was one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. When the disciples said, ‘We have seen the Lord’, he answered, ‘Unless I see the holes that the nails made in his hands and can put my finger into the holes they made, and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe.’ Eight days later the disciples were in the house again and Thomas was with them. The doors were closed, but Jesus came in and stood among them. ‘Peace be with you’ he said. Then he spoke to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; look, here are my hands. Give me your hand; put it into my side. Doubt no longer but believe.’ Thomas replied, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him:

‘You believe because you can see me. Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.’

There were many other signs that Jesus worked and the disciples saw, but they are not recorded in this book. These are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing this you may have life through his name.

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: The incredulity of St. Thomas by Hendrick ter Brugghen was painted in 1622. It’s dimensions are 109cm x 137cm and is located at Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

Hendrick Jansz ter Brugghen (1588 –1629) was a painter at the start of Dutch Golden Age painting and a leading member of the Dutch followers of Caravaggio–the so-called Utrecht Caravaggisti. Along with Gerrit van Hondhorst and Dirck van Baburen, Ter Brugghen was one of the most important Dutch painters to have been influenced by Caravaggio.

The earliest brief reference to the painter is in Het Gulden Cabinet (1661) of Cornelis de Bie, where he is mistakenly referred to as Verbrugghen. Another short account is found in the Teutsche Academie (1675) by Joachim von Sandrart, where he is referred to as Verbrug. Here we learn that he studied with Abraham Bloemaert, a Mannerist painter. Sandrart also refers to the painter’s “tiefsinnige, jedoch, schwermütige Gedanken in seinen Werken” [profound, but melancholic thoughts in his works].

From this unsure footing, the artist’s son Richard ter Brugghen sought to rehabilitate his father’s reputation as a painter in the early 18th century. He secured a letter, dated 15 April 1707, from Adriaen van der Werff in Rotterdam, attesting to his appreciation of Hendrick’s work. Later that year, on 5 August 1707, Richard presented the government council of Deventer with four paintings of the Evangelists, to be hung in the Town Hall as a permanent memorial to his father.

An engraving, in all likelihood commissioned by Richard ter Brugghen from Pieter Bodart, and based on an earlier drawing by Gerard Hoet, was put about in 1708. It shows an idealised portrait of Hendrick, the family coat-of-arms, and a printed caption translated from the Dutch as:

Born in Overijsel in 1588, travelled from Utrecht to Rome, and ten years later returned to Utrecht, married there, lived there interruptedly, and died at the age of 42 on 1st Nov. 1629; he was a great and famous history painter from life, painting life-size figures in the Italian manner, so very superior to all others that the famous P. P. Rubens on travelling through the Netherlands declared on coming to Utrecht that he had found only one painter, namely Henricus ter Brugghen. G. Hoet del. P. Bodart, fec.

Cornelis de Bie, in his Spiegel vande Verdrayde Werelt (1708), and Arnold Houbraken, in his De Groote Schouburgh (1718-1721),[6]produced biographies where they repeated Richard’s claims that the painter met Rubens in Rome and also worked in Naples.[7] There was a cadet of the same name serving in the army of Ernst Casimir of Nassau-Dietz in the spring of 1607, and for this reason, Ter Brugghen is thought to have been in Italy, but only in that year, rather than as previously believed in 1604 (inferred as it was from the inscription on the Bodart print). This would certainly mean that he never met Caravaggio in Rome; that artist had fled Rome on a murder charge in 1606. However, it is certain that he was the only Dutch painter in Rome during Caravaggio’s lifetime.

By 1614, Ter Brugghen was in Milan, on his way home. On 1 April 1615, Thyman van Galen and Ter Brugghen are witnesses before the court in Utrecht. He is already listed as a member of the Utrecht painter’s guild in 1616, and on 15 October of that year he married Jacomijna Verbeeck, his elder brother Jan’s stepdaughter.

Ter Brugghen died in Utrecht on 1 November 1629, possibly a victim of the plague. The family had been living in the Snippenvlucht. Ter Brugghen’s last child of eight, Hennickgen, was born four months later on 14 March 1630.

He certainly studied Caravaggio’s work, as well as that of his followers–the Italian Caravaggisti–such as Orazio Gentileschi. Caravaggio’s work had caused quite a sensation in Italy. His paintings were characteristic for their bold tenebroso technique–the contrast produced by clear, bright surfaces alongside sombre, dark sections–but also for the social realism of the subjects, sometimes charming, sometimes shocking or downright vulgar. Other Italian painters who had an influence on Ter Brugghen during his stay in Italy were Annibale CarracciDomenichino and Guido Reni.

Upon returning to Utrecht, he worked with Gerard van Honthorst, another of the Dutch Caravaggisti. Ter Brugghen’s favourite subjects were half-length figures of drinkers or musicians, but he also produced larger-scale religious images and group portraits. He carried with him Caravaggio’s influence, and his paintings have a strong dramatic use of light and shadow, as well as emotionally charged subjects. Even though he died young, his work was well received and had great influence on others. His treatment of religious subjects can be seen reflected in the work of Rembrandt, and elements of his style can also be found in the paintings of Frans Hals and Johannes VermeerPeter Paul Rubens described ter Brugghen’s work as “…above that of all the other Utrecht artists”.

 

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Sunday of the Resurrection (A)

John 20: 1-9

 

It was very early on the first day of the week and still dark, when Mary of Magdala came to the tomb. She saw that the stone had been moved away from the tomb and came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved. ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb’ she said ‘and we don’t know where they have put him.’

So Peter set out with the other disciple to go to the tomb. They ran together, but the other disciple, running faster than Peter, reached the tomb first; he bent down and saw the linen cloths lying on the ground, but did not go in. Simon Peter who was following now came up, went right into the tomb, saw the linen cloths on the ground, and also the cloth that had been over his head; this was not with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in; he saw and he believed. Till this moment they had failed to understand the teaching of scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: ‘The Resurrection’ is an oil on canvas painting by Luca Giordano. It is 114 x 116cm and resides at the  Alte ResidenzSalzburgAustria.

Luca Giordano (1634 – 1705) was an Italian late Baroque painter and printmaker in etching. Fluent and decorative, he worked successfully in Naples and Rome, Florence and Venice, before spending a decade in Spain.

Born in Naples, Giordano was the son of the painter Antonio Giordano. In around 1650 he was apprenticed to Ribera on the recommendation of the viceroy of Naples and his early work was heavily influenced by his teacher. Like Ribera, he painted many half-length figures of philosophers, either imaginary portraits of specific figures, or generic types.

He acquired the nickname Luca fa presto, which translates into “Luca paints quickly.” His speed, in design as well as handiwork, and his versatility, which enabled him to imitate other painters deceptively, earned for him two other epithets, “The Thunderbolt” (Fulmine) and “The Proteus” of painting.

Following a period studying in Rome, Parma and Venice, Giordano developed an elaborate Baroque style fusing Venetian and Roman Influences. His mature work combines the ornamental pomp of Paul Veronese with the lively complex schemes, the “grand manner”, of Pietro da Cortona. He is also noted for his lively and showy use of colour.

In 1682–1683 Giordano painted various fresco series in Florence, including one in the dome of Corsini Chapel of the Chiesa del Carmine. In the large block occupied by the former Medici palace, he painted the ceiling of the Biblioteca Riccardiana (Allegory of Divine Wisdom) and the long gallery of the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi. The vast frescoes of the latter are contained in the 1670s gallery addition, overlooking the gardens. The planning was overseen by Alessandro Segni and commissioned by Francesco Riccardi. They include the prototypic hagiographic celebration of the Medici family in the centre, surrounded by a series of interlocking narratives: allegorical figures (the Cardinal Virtues, the Elements of Nature) and mythological episodes (Neptune and Amphitrita, The Rape of Proserpine, The Triumphal procession of Bacchus, The Death of Adonis, Ceres and Triptolemus).

In 1692 Giordano went to Spain at the invitation of Charles II. He stayed there for ten years, returning to Naples in 1702, following Charles’ death. While in Spain, he painted major decorative schemes at the Buen Retiro PalaceEl Escorial, the sacristry of Toledo Cathedral, and other sites. He also painted many pictures for the court, private patrons and churches. His pupils, Aniello Rossi and Matteo Pacelli, assisted him in Spain. Giordano was popular at the Spanish court, and the king granted him the title of a “caballero”.

After his return to Naples early in 1702, Giordano continued to paint prolifically. Executed in a lighter, less rhetorical style, these late works, prefiguring Rococo, proved influential throughout the eighteenth century, and were admired by Fragonard.

He spent large sums in acts of munificence, and was particularly liberal to poorer artists. One of his maxims was that the good painter is the one whom the public like, and that the public are attracted more by colour than by design.

Giordano had an astonishing facility, which often lead to an impression of superficiality of his works. He left many works in Rome, and far more in Naples. Of the latter, his Christ expelling the Traders from the Temple in the church of the Padri Girolamini, a colossal work, full of expressive “lazzaroni” or beggars from Naples; also the frescoes of the Triumph of Judith at San Martino, and those in the Tesoro della Certosa, including the subject of Moses and the Brazen Serpent; and the cupola paintings in the Church of Santa Brigida. This church contains the artist’s own tomb. Other notable examples are the Judgment of Paris in the Berlin Museum, and Christ with the Doctors in the Temple, in the Corsini Gallery of Rome. In later years, he painted influential frescoes for the Cappella Corsini, the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi and other works.

 

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Sixth Sunday of Lent (A) – Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord

Matt 26: 14 -27:66

 

One of the Twelve, the man called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, ‘What are you prepared to give me if I hand him over to you?’  They paid him thirty silver pieces, and from that moment he looked for an opportunity to betray him.

Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus to say, ‘Where do you want us to make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?’  He replied ‘Go to so-and-so in the city and say to him. “The Master says: My time is near.  It is at your house that I am keeping Passover with my disciples.”‘  The disciples did what Jesus told them and prepared the Passover.

When evening came he was at table with the twelve disciples.  And while they were eating he said, ‘I tell you solemnly, one of you is about to betray me.’  They were greatly distressed and started asking him in turn, ‘Not I, Lord, surely?’  He answered, ‘Someone who has dipped his hand into the dish with me will betray me.  The Son of Man is going to his fate, as the scriptures say he will, but alas for that man if he had never been born!’  Judas, who was to betray him, asked in his turn, ‘Not I, Rabbi, surely?’  Jesus answered, ‘They are your own words.’

Now as they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and when he had said the blessing he broke it and gave it to the disciples and said, ‘Take it and eat; this is my body.’  Then he took a cup, and when he had returned thanks he gave it to them saying, ‘Drink all of you from this, for this is my blood, the blood of the covenant, which is to be poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.  From now on, I tell you,  I shall not drink wine until the day I drink the new wine with you in the kingdom of my Father.’

After psalms had been sung they left for the Mount of Olives.  Then Jesus said to them, ‘You will all lose faith in me this night, for the scripture says: I shall strike the shepherd and the flock will be scattered.  But after my resurrection I shall go before you to Galilee.’  At this, Peter said, ‘Though all shall lose faith in you, I will never lose faith.’  Jesus answered him, ‘I tell you solemnly, this very night, before the cock crows, you will have disowned me three times.’  Peter said to him, ‘Even if I have to die with you, I shall never disown you.’  And all the disciples said the same.

Then Jesus came with them to a small estate called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, ‘Stay here while I go over there to pray.’  He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee with him.  And the sadness came over him, and great distress.  Then he said to them, ‘My soul is sorrowful to the point of death.  Wait here and keep awake with me.’  And going on a little further he fell on his face and prayed.  ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass me by, Nevertheless, let it be as you, not I, would have it.’  He came back to the disciples and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, ‘So you had not the strength to keep awake with me one hour?  You should be awake, and praying not to be put to the test.  The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.’  Again, a second time, he went away and prayed: ‘My Father, if this cup cannot pass by without my drinking it, your will be done!’  And he came back again and found them sleeping, their eyes were so heavy.  Leaving them there, he went away again and prayed for the third time, repeating the same words.  Then he came back to the disciples and said to them, ‘You can sleep on now and take your rest.  Now the hour has come when the Son of Man is to be betrayed into the hands of sinners.  Get up!  Let us go!  My betrayer is already close at hand.’

He was still speaking when Judas, one of the Twelve, appeared, and with him a large number of men armed with swords and clubs, sent by the chief priests and elders of the people.  Now the traitor had arranged a sign with them.  He had said, ‘The one I kiss, he is the man.  Take him in charge.’  So he went straight up to Jesus and said, ‘Greetings, rabbi,’ and kissed him.  Jesus said to him, ‘My friend, do what you are here for.’  Then they came forward, seized Jesus and took him in charge.  At that, one of the followers of Jesus grasped his sword and drew it; he struck out at the high priest’s servant, and cut off his ear.  Jesus then said, ‘Put your sword back, for all who draw the sword die by the sword.  Or do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father who would promptly send more than twelve legions of angels to my defence?  But then, how would the scriptures be fulfilled that say this is the way it must be?’  It was at this time that Jesus said to the crowds, ‘Am I a brigand, that you had to set out to capture me with swords and clubs?  I sat teaching in the Temple day after day and you never laid hands on me.’  Now all this happened to fulfil the prophecies in scripture.  Then all the disciples deserted him and ran away.

The men who had arrested Jesus led him off to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and elders were assembled.  Peter followed him at a distance, and when he reached the high priest’s palace, he went in and sat down with the attendants to see what the end would be.

The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus, however false, on which they might pass the death-sentence.  But they could not find any, though several lying witnesses came forward.  Eventually two stepped forward and made a statement, ‘This man said, “I have power to destroy the Temple of God and in three days build it up.”‘  The high priest then stood up and said to him, ‘Have you no answer to that?  What is the evidence these men are bringing against you?’  But Jesus was silent.  And the high priest said to him, ‘I put you on oath by the living God to tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.’  Jesus answered, ‘The words are your own.  Moreover, I tell you that from this time onwards you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.’  At this, the high priest tore his clothes and said, ‘There! You have just heard the blasphemy.  What is your opinion?’  They answered, ‘He deserves to die.’

Then they spat in his face and hit him with their fists; others said as they struck him, ‘Play the prophet, Christ!  Who hit you then?’

Meanwhile Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard, and a servant-girl came up to him and said, ‘You too were with Jesus the Galilean.’  But he denied it in front of them all, saying ‘I do not know what you are talking about.’  When he went out to the gateway another servant-girl saw him and said to the people there, ‘This man was with Jesus the Nazarene.’  And again, with an oath, he denied it, ‘I do not know the man.’  A little later the bystanders came up to and said to Peter, ‘You are one of them for sure!  Why, your accent gives you away.’  Then he started calling down curses on himself and swearing, ‘I do not know the man.’  At that moment the cock crew, and Peter remembered what Jesus had said, ‘Before the cock crows you will have disowned me three times.’  And he went outside and wept bitterly.

When morning came, all the chief  priests and the elders of the people met in council to bring about the death of Jesus.  They had him bound, and led away to hand him over to Pilate, the governor.

When he found that Jesus had been condemned, Judas his betrayer was filled with remorse and took the thirty pieces back to the chief priests and elders, saying, ‘I have sinned.  I have betrayed innocent blood.’  They replied, ‘What is that to us?  That is your concern.’  And flinging down the silver pieces in the sanctuary he made off, and went and hanged himself.  The chief priests picked up the silver pieces and said, ‘It is against the Law to put this into the treasury; it is blood money.’  So they discussed the matter and bought the potter’s field with it as a graveyard for foreigners, and this is why the field is called the Field of Blood today.  The words of the prophet Jeremiah were then fulfilled: And they took the thirty silver pieces, the sum at which the precious One was priced by children of Israel, and they gave them for the potter’s field, just as the Lord directed me.

Jesus, then, was brought before the governor, and the governor put to him this question, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’  Jesus replied, ‘It is you who say it.’  But when he was accused  by the chief priests and the elders he refused to answer at all.  Pilate then said to him, ‘Do you not hear how many charges they have brought against you?’  But to the governor’s complete amazement, he offered no reply to any of the charges.

At festival time it was the governor’s practice to release a prisoner for the people, anyone they chose.  Now there was at this time a notorious prisoner whose name was Barabbas.  So when the crowd gathered Pilate said to them, ‘Which do you want me to release for you: Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Christ?’  For Pilate knew it was out of jealousy that they had handed him over.

Now as he was seated in the chair of judgement, his wife sent him a message,  ‘Have nothing to do with that man; I have been upset all day by a dream I had about him.’

The chief priests and the elders, however, had persuaded the crowd to demand the release of Barabbas and the execution of Jesus.  So when the governor spoke and asked them, ‘Which of the two do you want me to release for you?’ they said ‘Barabbas.’  Pilate said to them, ‘What am I to do with Jesus who is called Christ.’  They all said, ‘Let him be crucified!’  Pilate asked: ‘Why? What harm has he done?’  But they shouted all the louder, ‘Let him be crucified!’  Then Pilate saw that he was making no impression, that in fact a riot was imminent.  So he took some water, washed his hands in front of the crowd and said, ‘I am innocent of this man’s blood.  It is your concern.’  And the people, to a man, shouted back, ‘His blood be on us and on our children!’  Then he released Barabbas for them.  He ordered Jesus to be first scourged and then handed over to be crucified.

The governor’s soldiers took Jesus with them into the Praetorium and collected the whole cohort around him.  Then they stripped him and made him wear a scarlet cloak, and having twisted some thorns into a crown out they this on his head and placed a reed in his right hand saying, ‘Hail, king of the Jews!’  And they spat on him and took the reed and struck him on the head with it.  And when they had finished making fun of him, they dressed him in his own clothes and led him away to crucify him.

On their way out, they came across a man from Cyrene, Simon by name, and enlisted him to carry his cross.  When they reached a place called Golgotha, that is, the place of the skull, they gave him wine to drink mixed with gall, which he tasted but refused to drink.  When they had finished crucifying him they shared out his clothes by casting lots, and then sat down and stayed there keeping guard over him.

Above his head was placed the charge against him: it read: ‘This is Jesus, the king of the Jews.’  At the same time two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left.

The passers-by jeered at him; they shook their heads and said, ‘So you would destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days!  Then save yourself!  If you are God’s son, come down from the cross!’  The chief priests with the scribes and elders mocked him in the same way, saying, ‘He saved others; he cannot save himself.  He is the king of Israel; let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him.  He outs his trust in God; now let God rescue him if he wants him.  For hew did say, “I am the son of God”.’  Even the robbers who were crucified with him taunted him in the same way.

From the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour.  And about the ninth hour, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you deserted me?’  When some of those who stood there heard this, they said, ‘The man is calling Elijah,’ and one of them quickly ran to get a sponge which he dipped in vinegar and, putting it on a reed, gave it him to drink.  The rest of them said, ‘Wait!  See if Elijah will come to save him.’  But Jesus, again crying out in a loud voice yielded up his spirit.

At that, the veil of the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom; the earth quaked; the rocks were split; the tombs opened and the bodies of many holy men rose from he dead, and these, after his resurrection , came out of the tombs, entered the Holy City and appeared to a number of people.  Meanwhile the centurion , together with the others guarding Jesus, had seen the earthquake and all that was taking place, and they were terrified and said, ‘In truth this was a son of God.’

And many women were there, watching from a distance, the same women who had followed Jesus from Galilee and looked after him.  Among them were Mary of Magdala, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.

When it was evening, there came a rich man of Arimethea, called Joseph, who had become a disciple of Jesus.  This man went to Pilate and asked him for the body of Jesus.  Pilate thereupon ordered it to be handed over.  So Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean shroud and put it in his own new tomb which he had hewn out of rock. He then rolled a large stone across the entrance of the tomb and went away. Now Mary of Magdala and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the sepulchre.

Next day, that is, when Preparation Day was over, the chief priests and the Pharisees went in a body to Pilate and said to him, ‘Your excellency, we recall that this impostor said, while he was still alive, “After three days I shall rise again.” Therefore give the order to have the sepulchre kept secure until the third day, for fear his disciple come and steal him away and tell the people, “He has risen from the dead.” This last piece of fraud would be worse than what went before.’ Pilate said to them, ‘You may have your guards. Go and make all as secure as you know.’ So they went and made the sepulchre secure, putting seals on the stone and mounting a guard.

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Entry of Christ into Jerusalem, painted in 1320 by Lorenzetti, located in the lower basilica, San Francesco, Assisi.

Pietro Lorenzetti (1280 – 1348) was an Italian painter, active between c.1306 and 1345. Together with his younger brother Ambrogio, he introduced naturalism into Sienese art. In their artistry and experiments with three-dimensional and spatial arrangements, the brothers foreshadowed the art of the Renaissance.

Pietro worked in AssisiFlorencePistoiaCortona, and Siena, although the precise chronology is unknown. His work suggests the influence of Duccio (in whose studio he may have worked, possibly alongside Simone Martini), Giotto, and Giovanni Pisano.

It was Pietro’s frescoes that adorned the facade of Siena’s Ospedale della Scala that first bought him to the attention of his contemporaries. Unfortunately, the frescoes – now believed to be the work of both Lorenzetti brothers – were destroyed in 1720 and subsequently whitewashed over.

Many of his religious works may still be seen in churches and museums in the Tuscan towns of ArezzoAssisi, and Siena.

Although Lorenzetti’s integration of frame and painted architecture in the Nativity of the Virgin is usually thought to be unique, it is evident in the frescoes of Assisi some decades earlier.One probable conclusion can be made that he did not read Latin as there was documentation of a translator being paid in association with his work on The Birth of the Virgin.

His masterwork is a fresco decoration of the lower church of Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi, where he painted a series of large scenes depicting the Crucifixion, Deposition from the Cross, and Entombment. The massed figures in these pieces display emotional interactions, unlike many prior depictions which appear to be iconic agglomerations, as if independent figures had been glued onto a surface, with no compelling relationship to one another. The narrative influence of Giotto’s frescoes in the Bardi and Peruzzi Chapels in Santa Croce (Florence) and the Arena Chapel (Padua) can be seen in these and other works of the lower church. The Lorenzetti brothers and their contemporary competitor from Florence, Giotto, but also his followers Bernardo Daddi and Maso di Banco, seeded the Italian pictorial revolution that extracted figures from the gilded ether of Byzantine iconography into pictorial worlds of towns, land, and air. Sienese iconography, generally more mystical and fantastic than that of the more naturalistic Florentines, sometimes resembles a modern surrealist landscape.

These Passion fresco is Lorenzetti’s most ambitious work, the seventeen well-preserved frescoes – the highpoint of his early career. The conditions for the execution of the frescoes would have been difficult as very little natural light would be available and the lower church would be near darkness. The exact time line of the frescoes is in question; some scholars believed the cycle was painted in sections over several years as the style had some similaritiesto Lorenzetti’s Carmelite Altarpiece. The reasons are varied, from painting only in the dry season to the bloody skirmishes in the area at the time.

Believed to be one of his earliest works (begun as early as 1310) is the Madonna and Child with Saint Francis and John the Baptist, in the chapel of Saint John the Baptist. According to Maginnis the “finest and most complete realization of the ambition to conjoin real and painted space was left to Pietro Lorenzetti, working in the left transept. There, his well-known fictive altar-piece is, in reality, much more.”

In front of the Crucifixion is the Stigmata of Saint Francis. The portrayal of the life of Saint Francis appears in the nave of the church, suggesting a parallel between the life of Christ and that of Saint Francis. Lorenzetti carries the idea further by placing Saint Francis next to the Capture of Christ replacing Agony of Garden from the original Passion story with Saint Francis.

The upper scenes on the same wall and the final two stories of the Passion cycle, the Descent of Christ to Limbo and the Resurrection are horn shaped in a small difficult space. The two scenes represent examples of similar styles to the first six scenes, especially the face of Christ.

 

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Fifth Sunday of Lent (A)

John 11: 1 – 45

 

There was a man named Lazarus who lived in the village of Bethany with the two sisters, Mary and Martha, and he was ill. It was the same Mary, the sister of the sick man Lazarus, who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair. The sisters sent this message to Jesus, ‘Lord, the man you love is ill.’ On receiving the message Jesus said, ‘This sickness will end not in death but in God’s glory, and through it the Son of God will be glorified.’

Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, yet when he heard that Lazarus was ill he stayed where he was for two more days before saying to the disciples, ‘Let us go to Judaea.’ The disciples said, ‘Rabbi, it is not long since the Jews wanted to stone you; are you going back again?’ Jesus replied:

‘Are there not twelve hours in the day?

A man can walk in the daytime without stumbling

because he has the light of this world to see by;

but if he walks at night he stumbles,

because there is no light to guide him.’

He said that and then added, ‘Our friend Lazarus is resting, I am going to wake him.’ The disciples said to him, ‘Lord, if he is able to rest he is sure to get better.’ The phrase Jesus used referred to the death of Lazarus, but they thought that by ‘rest’ he meant ‘sleep’, so Jesus put it plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead; and for your sake I am glad I was not there because now you will believe. But let us go to him.’ Then Thomas – known as the Twin – said to the other disciples, ‘Let us go too, and die with him.’

On arriving, Jesus found that Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days already. Bethany is only about two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to sympathise with them over their brother.

When Martha heard that Jesus had come she went to meet him. Mary remained sitting in the house. Martha said to Jesus, ‘If you had been here, my brother would not have died, but I know that, even now, whatever you ask of God, he will grant you.’ ‘Your brother’ said Jesus to her ‘will rise again.’ Martha said, ‘I know he will rise again at the resurrection on the last day.’  Jesus said:

‘I am the resurrection and the life.

If anyone believes in me, even though he dies he will live,

and whoever lives and believes in me

will never die.

Do you believe this?’

‘Yes, Lord,’ she said ‘I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who was to come into this world.’

When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in a low voice, ‘The Master is here and wants to see you.’ Hearing this, Mary got up quickly and went to him. Jesus had not yet come into the village; he was still at the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who were in the house sympathising with Mary saw her get up so quickly and go out, they followed her, thinking that she was going to the tomb to weep there.

Mary went to Jesus, and as soon as she saw him she threw herself at his feet, saying, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ At the sight of her tears, and those of the Jews who followed her, Jesus said in great distress, with a sigh that came straight from the heart, ‘Where have you put him?’ They said, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus wept; and the Jews said, ‘See how much he loved him!’ But there were some who remarked, ‘He opened the eyes of the blind man, could he not have prevented this man’s death?’ Still sighing, Jesus reached the tomb: it was a cave with a stone to close the opening. Jesus said, ‘Take the stone away.’ Martha said to him, ‘Lord, by now he will smell; this is the fourth day.’ Jesus replied, ‘Have I not told you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?’ So they took away the stone. Then Jesus lifted up his eyes and said:

‘Father, I thank you for hearing my prayer.

I knew indeed that you always hear me,

but I speak

for the sake of all these who stand round me,

so that they may believe it was you who sent me.’

When he had said this, he cried in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, here! Come out!’ The dead man came out, his feet and hands bound with bands of stuff and a cloth round his face. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, let him go free.’

Many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary and had seen what he did believed in him.

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Raising of Lazarus by Jesus by Carl Bloch, painted 1875, oil on copper plate, is located at the Hope Gallery, Salt Lake City, USA.

Carl Heinrich Bloch (May 23, 1834 – February 22, 1890) was a Danish painter. He was born in Copenhagen, Denmark and studied with Wilhelm Marstrand at the Royal Danish Academy of Art there. Bloch’s parents wanted their son to enter a respectable profession – an officer in the Navy. This, however, was not what Carl wanted. His only interest was drawing and painting, and he was consumed by the idea of becoming an artist. He went to Italy to study art, passing through the Netherlands, where he became acquainted with the work of Rembrandt, which became a major influence on him. Carl Bloch met his wife, Alma Trepka, in Rome, where he married her on May 31, 1868. They were happily married until her early death in 1886.

His early work featured rural scenes from everyday life. From 1859 to 1866, Bloch lived in Italy, and this period was important for the development of his historical style.

His first great success was the exhibition of his “Prometheus Unbound” in Copenhagen in 1865. After the death of Marstrand, he finished the decoration of the ceremonial hall at the University of Copenhagen. The sorrow over losing his wife weighed heavily on Bloch, and being left alone with their eight children after her death was very difficult for him.

In a New Year’s letter from 1866 to Bloch, H. C. Andersen wrote the following: “What God has arched on solid rock will not be swept away!” Another letter from Andersen declared “Through your art you add a new step to your Jacob-ladder into immortality.”

In a final ode, from a famous author to a famous artist, H.C. Andersen said “Write on the canvas; write your seal on immortality. Then you will become noble here on earth.”

He was then commissioned to produce 23 paintings for the Chapel at Frederiksborg Palace. These were all scenes from the life of Christ which have become very popular as illustrations. The originals, painted between 1865 and 1879, are still at Frederiksborg Palace. The altarpieces can be found at Holbaek, Odense, Ugerloese and Copenhagen in Denmark, as well as Loederup, Hoerup, and Landskrona in Sweden.

Through the assistance of Danish-born artist Soren Edsberg, the acquisition of Christ healing at the pool of Bethesda, [formerly owned by Indre Mission, Copenhagen, Denmark], was made possible for The Museum of ArtBrigham Young University (BYU), Provo, Utah, United States. A second work by Bloch, an 1880 grisaille version of The Mocking of Christ, was purchased by BYU in June 2015.

Carl Bloch died of cancer on February 22, 1890. His death came as “an abrupt blow for Nordic art” according to an article by Sophus Michaelis. Michaelis stated that “Denmark has lost the artist that indisputably was the greatest among the living.” Kyhn stated in his eulogy at Carl Bloch’s funeral that “Bloch stays and lives.”

A prominent Danish art critic, Karl Madsen, stated that Carl Bloch reached higher toward the great heaven of art than all other Danish art up to that date. Madsen also said “If there is an Elysium, where the giant, rich, warm and noble artist souls meet, there Carl Bloch will sit among the noblest of them all!”

For over 40 years The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has made heavy use of Carl Bloch’s paintings, mostly from the Frederiksborg Palace collection, in its church buildings and printed media. The LDS church has produced films depicting scriptural accounts of Christ’s mortal ministry, using Bloch’s paintings as models for the colour, light and overall set design as well as the movement of the actors in many of the films’ scenes. The most notable example of this is the movie The Testaments of One Fold and One Shepherd.

 

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Fourth Sunday of Lent (A)

John 9: 1 – 41

 

As Jesus went along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, for him to have been born blind?’ ‘Neither he nor his parents sinned,’ Jesus answered, ‘he was born blind so that the works of God might be displayed in him.

‘As long as the day lasts

I must carry out the work of the one who sent me;

the night will soon be here when no one can work.

As long as I am in the world

I am the light of the world.’

Having said this, he spat on the ground, made a paste with the spittle, put this over the eyes of the blind man and said to him, ‘Go and wash in the Pool of Siloam’ (a name that means ‘sent’). So the blind man went off and washed himself, and came away with his sight restored.

His neighbours and people who earlier had seen him begging said, ‘Isn’t this the man who used to sit and beg?’ Some said, ‘Yes, it is the same one.’ Others said, ‘No, he only looks like him.’ The man himself said, ‘I am the man.’ So they said to him, ‘Then how do your eyes come to be open?’ ‘The man called Jesus’ he answered ‘made a paste, daubed my eyes with it and said to me, “Go and wash at Siloam”; so I went, and when I washed I could see.’ They asked, ‘Where is he?’ ‘I don’t know’ he answered.

They brought the man who had been blind to the Pharisees. It had been a Sabbath day when Jesus made the paste and opened the man’s eyes, so when the Pharisees asked him how he had come to see, he said, ‘He put a paste on my eyes, and I washed, and I can see.’ Then some of the Pharisees said, ‘This man cannot be from God: he does not keep the Sabbath.’ Others said, ‘How could a sinner produce signs like this?’ And there was disagreement among them. So they spoke to the blind man again, ‘What have you to say about him yourself, now that he has opened your eyes?’ ‘He is a prophet’ replied the man.

However, the Jews would not believe that the man had been blind and had gained his sight, without first sending for his parents and asking them, ‘Is this man really your son who you say was born blind? If so, how is it that he is now able to see?’ His parents answered, ‘We know he is our son and we know he was born blind, but we don’t know how it is that he can see now, or who opened his eyes. He is old enough: let him speak for himself.’ His parents spoke like this out of fear of the Jews, who had already agreed to expel from the synagogue anyone who should acknowledge Jesus as the Christ. This was why his parents said, ‘He is old enough; ask him.’

So the Jews again sent for the man and said to him, ‘Give glory to God! For our part, we know that this man is a sinner.’ The man answered, ‘I don’t know if he is a sinner; I only know that I was blind and now I can see.’ They said to him, ‘What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?’ He replied, ‘I have told you once and you wouldn’t listen. Why do you want to hear it all again? Do you want to become his disciples too?’ At this they hurled abuse at him: ‘You can be his disciple,’ they said ‘we are disciples of Moses: we know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this man, we don’t know where he comes from.’ The man replied, ‘Now here is an astonishing thing! He has opened my eyes, and you don’t know where he comes from! We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners, but God does listen to men who are devout and do his will. Ever since the world began it is unheard of for anyone to open the eyes of a man who was born blind; if this man were not from God, he couldn’t do a thing.’ ‘Are you trying to teach us,’ they replied ‘and you a sinner through and through, since you were born!’ And they drove him away.

Jesus heard they had driven him away, and when he found him he said to him, ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’ ‘Sir,’ the man replied ‘tell me who he is so that I may believe in him.’ Jesus said, ‘You are looking at him; he is speaking to you.’ The man said, ‘Lord, I believe’, and worshipped him.

Jesus said:

‘It is for judgement

that I have come into this world,

so that those without sight may see

and those with sight turn blind.’

Hearing this, some Pharisees who were present said to him, ‘We are not blind, surely?’ Jesus replied:

‘Blind? If you were,

you would not be guilty,

but since you say, “We see”,

your guilt remains.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

 

Picture: Christ Healing the Blind man, painted by Nicolas Colombel, 1682. Oil on canvas, the size is 120 x 89cm and is located at the Saint Louis Art Museum, USA.

 Nicolas Colombel (c.1644–1717) was a French painter, much influenced by Poussin.

 Colombel was born at Sotteville, near Rouen, in about 1644. He went to Rome when quite young, and remained there until 1692, forming his style by a study of the works of Raphael and Nicolas Poussin. His pictures met with considerable success, but most later critics dismissed him as a mere imitator of Poussin.

 He was admitted into the Academy of St Luke at Rome in 1686, and in 1694 into that of Paris. The Louvre possesses the Mars and Rhea Sylvia, which he painted for his reception to the Academy, and a work representing the Saint Hyacinth Saving the Statue of the Virgin from the Enemies of the Name of Christ. He was employed by Louis XIV at both Versailles and Meudon. Many of his works were engraved by Dufloc, and by Michel Dossier. He died in Paris in 1717.

Sir Edmund Head, writing in 1848, described Colombel as “in some sense a master who stood alone among his contemporaries in dignity of feeling, and in the solid character of his art.” More recently, Didier Rykner has described his work as “generally easy to recognise”, adding “[Colombel] does indeed have his own style, consisting in a gentle Classicism, at times a bit affected, a fondness for subtle and porcelain-like colors, deep blues (close to Sassoferrato).” A considerable number of paintings have been attributed to Colombel in recent years, including an altarpiece, Saint Dominic Presenting the Dominican Order to Christ, in the collection of the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Grenoble, identified in 2000. An exhibition of Colombel’s work was held between November 2012 and February 2013 at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Rouen.

 

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Third Sunday of Lent (A)

John 4: 5 – 42

 

Jesus came to the Samaritan town called Sychar, near the land that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well is there and Jesus, tired by the journey, sat straight down by the well.  It was about the sixth hour. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink.’ His disciples had gone into the town to buy food. The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘What? You are a Jew and you ask me, a Samaritan, for a drink?’ – Jews, in fact, do not associate with Samaritans. Jesus replied:

‘If you only knew what God is offering and who it is that is saying to you: Give me a drink, you would have been the one to ask, and he would have given you living water.’

‘You have no bucket, sir,’ she answered ‘and the well is deep: how could you get this living water? Are you a greater man than our father Jacob who gave us this well and drank from it himself with his sons and his cattle?’ Jesus replied:

‘Whoever drinks this water will get thirsty again: but anyone who drinks the water that I shall give will never be thirsty again: the water that I shall give will turn into a spring inside him, welling up to eternal life.’

‘Sir,’ said the woman, ‘give me some of that water, so that I may never get thirsty and never have to come here again to draw water.’ ‘Go and call your husband’ said Jesus to her ‘and come back here.’ The woman answered, ‘I have no husband.’ He said to her, ‘You are right to say, “I have no husband”; for although you have had five, the one you have now is not your husband. You spoke the truth there.’ > ‘I see you are a prophet, sir’ said the woman. ‘Our fathers worshipped on this mountain, while you say that Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.’ Jesus said:

‘Believe me, woman, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know; for salvation comes from the Jews. But the hour will come – in fact it is here already – when true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth:  that is the kind of worshipper the Father wants. God is spirit, and those who worship must worship in spirit and truth.’

The woman said to him, ‘I know that Messiah – that is, Christ – is coming; and when he comes he will tell us everything.’ ‘I who am speaking to you,’ said Jesus ‘I am he.’

At this point his disciples returned, and were surprised to find him speaking to a woman, though none of them asked, ‘What do you want from her?’ or, ‘Why are you talking to her?’ The woman put down her water jar and hurried back to the town to tell the people, ‘Come and see a man who has told me everything I ever did; I wonder if he is the Christ?’ This brought people out of the town and they started walking towards him.

Meanwhile, the disciples were urging him, ‘Rabbi, do have something to eat’; but he said, ‘I have food to eat that you do not know about.’ So the disciples asked one another, ‘Has someone been bringing him food?’ But Jesus said:

‘My food is to do the will of the one who sent me, and to complete his work. Have you not got a saying: Four months and then the harvest? Well, I tell you: Look around you, look at the fields; already they are white, ready for harvest!  Already the reaper is being paid his wages, already he is bringing in the grain for eternal life, and thus sower and reaper rejoice together. For here the proverb holds good: one sows, another reaps; I sent you to reap a harvest you had not worked for. Others worked for it; and you have come into the rewards of their trouble.’

Many Samaritans of that town had believed in him on the strength of the woman’s testimony when she said, ‘He told me all I have ever done’, so, when the Samaritans came up to him, they begged him to stay with them. He stayed for two days, and when he spoke to them many more came to believe; and they said to the woman, ‘Now we no longer believe because of what you told us; we have heard him ourselves and we know that he really is the saviour of the world.’   

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Christ and the Samaritan woman at the well, oil on canvas, painted 1796 by Angelika Kauffman. 124 x 159cm, it is located at Neue Pinakothek, Munich, Germany. 

Maria Anna Angelika Kauffmann (30 October 1741 – 5 November 1807), was a Swiss Neoclassical painter who had a successful career in London and Rome. Remembered primarily as an history painter, Kauffmann was a skilled portraitist, landscape and decoration painter. She was one of the two female founding members of the Royal Academy in London in 1768.

Kauffman was born at Chur in Graubünden, Switzerland, where her father was working for the local bishop but grew up in Austria where her family originated. Her father, Joseph Johann Kauffmann, was a relatively poor man but a skilled painter, who was often traveling for his work. It was he who taught his precocious daughter. Angelica, a child prodigy, rapidly acquired several languages from her mother, Cleophea Lutz, read incessantly and showed talent as a musician, but her greatest progress was in painting, and by her twelfth year she had become known as a painter, with bishops and nobles being her sitters.

In 1754 her father took her to Milan. Later visits to Italy of long duration followed. She became a member of the Accademia di Belle Arti di Firenze in 1762. In 1763 she visited Rome, returning again in 1764. From Rome she passed to Bologna and Venice, everywhere feted for her talents and charm.

While Kauffman produced many types of art, she identified herself primarily as a history painter, an unusual designation for a woman artist in the 18th century. History painting was considered the most elite and lucrative category in academic painting during this time period and, under the direction of Sir Joshua Reynolds, the Royal Academy made a strong effort to promote it to a native audience more interested in commissioning and buying portraits and landscapes. Despite the popularity that Kauffman enjoyed in British society, and her success there as an artist, she was disappointed by the relative apathy of the British towards history painting. Ultimately she left Britain for the continent, where history painting was better established, held in higher esteem and patronized.

History painting, as defined in academic art theory, was classified as the most elevated category. Its subject matter was the representation of human actions based on themes from history, mythology, literature, and scripture. This required extensive learning in biblical and Classical literature, knowledge of art theory and a practical training that included the study of anatomy from the male nude. Most women were denied access to such training, especially the opportunity to draw from nude models; yet Kauffman managed to cross the gender boundary to acquire the necessary skill to build a reputation as a successful history painter who was admired by colleagues and eagerly sought by patrons.

Harmonious and powerful colours and the soft-brushed, multi-layered style of English portraitists, Sir Joshua Reynolds and Thomas Gainsborough, are typical for Kauffmann’s paintings.

In 1781, after her first husband’s death (she had been long separated from him), she married Antonio Zucchi (1728–1795), a Venetian artist then resident in Britain. Shortly thereafter she retired to Rome, where she befriended, among others, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who said she worked harder and accomplished more than any artist he knew; yet, always restive, she wanted to do more and lived for 25 years with much of her old prestige.

In 1782, Kauffman’s father died, as did her husband in 1795. She continued at intervals to contribute to the Royal Academy in London, her last exhibit being in 1797. After this she produced little, and in 1807 she died in Rome, being honoured by a splendid funeral under the direction of Canova. The entire Academy of St Luke, with numerous ecclesiastics and virtuosi, followed her to her tomb in Sant’Andrea delle Fratte, and, as at the burial of Raphael, two of her best pictures were carried in procession.

 

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Second Sunday of Lent (A)

Matt 17: 1 – 9

 

Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain where they could be alone. There in their presence he was transfigured: his face shone like the sun and his clothes became as white as the light. Suddenly Moses and Elijah appeared to them; they were talking with him. Then Peter spoke to Jesus. ‘Lord,’ he said ‘it is wonderful for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ He was still speaking when suddenly a bright cloud covered them with shadow, and from the cloud there came a voice which said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; he enjoys my favour. Listen to him.’ When they heard this, the disciples fell on their faces, overcome with fear. But Jesus came up and touched them. ‘Stand up,’ he said ‘do not be afraid.’ And when they raised their eyes they saw no one but only Jesus.

As they came down from the mountain Jesus gave them this order, ‘Tell no one about the vision until the Son of Man has risen from the dead.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: The Transfiguration of Christ, Fresco, 226 x 229cm, located at Collegio del Cambio, Perugia.

Pietro Perugino (1446 – 1523), born Pietro Vannucci, was an Italian Renaissance painter of the Umbrian school, who developed some of the qualities that found classic expression in the High RenaissanceRaphael was his most famous pupil.

He was born Pietro Vannucci in Città della PieveUmbria, the son of Cristoforo Marie Vannucci; his nickname characterises him as from Perugia, the chief city of Umbria. He most likely began to study painting in Perugia, in local workshops such as those of Bartolomeo Caporali or Fiorenzo di Lorenzo. Perugino was one of the earliest Italian practitioners of oil painting. Some of his early works were extensive frescoes for the convent of the Ingessati fathers, destroyed during the siege of Florence; he produced for them also many cartoons, which they executed with brilliant effect in stained glass. A good specimen of his early style in tempera is the tondo (circular picture) in the Musée du Louvre of the Virgin and Child Enthroned between Saints.

Perugino returned from Florence to Perugia, where his Florentine training showed in the Adoration of the Magi for the church of Santa Maria dei Servi of Perugia (c. 1476). In about 1480, he was called to Rome by Sixtus IV to paint fresco panels for the Sistine Chapel walls. The frescoes he executed there included Moses and Zipporah (often attributed to Luca Signorelli), the Baptism of Christ, and Delivery of the KeysPinturicchio accompanied Perugino to Rome, and was made his partner, receiving a third of the profits. He may have done some of the Zipporah subject. The Sistine frescoes were the major high Renaissance commission in Rome. The altar wall was also painted with the Assumption, the Nativity, and Moses in the Bulrushes. These works were later destroyed to make a space for Michelangelo‘s Last Judgement,

Between 1486 and 1499 Perugino worked mostly in Florence, making one journey to Rome and several to Perugia, where he may have maintained a second studio. He had an established studio in Florence, and received a great number of commissions. His Pietà (1483–1493) in the Uffizi is an uncharacteristically stark work that avoids Perugino’s sometimes too easy sentimental piety.

In 1499 the guild of the cambio (money-changers or bankers) of Perugia asked him to decorate their audience-hall, the Sala delle Udienze del Collegio del Cambio. The humanist Francesco Maturanzio acted as his consultant. This extensive scheme, which may have been finished by 1500, comprised the painting of the vault, showing the seven planets and the signs of the zodiac (Perugino being responsible for the designs and his pupils most probably for the execution), and the representation on the walls of two sacred subjects: the Nativity and Transfiguration; in addition, the Eternal Father, the cardinal virtues of Justice, Prudence, Temperance and Fortitude, Cato as the emblem of wisdom, and numerous life-sized figures of classic worthies, prophets and sibyls figured in the program. On the mid-pilaster of the hall Perugino placed his own portrait in bust-form. It is probable that Raphael, who in boyhood, towards 1496, had been placed by his uncles under the tuition of Perugino, bore a hand in the work of the vaulting.

Perugino’s last frescoes were painted for the church of the Madonna delle Lacrime in Trevi (1521, signed and dated), the monastery of Sant’Agnese in Perugia, and in 1522 for the church of Castello di Fortignano. Both series have disappeared from their places, the second being now in the Victoria and Albert Museum. He was still at Fontignano in 1523 when he died of the plague. Like other plague victims, he was hastily buried in an unconsecrated field, the precise spot now unknown..

Among his pupils were Raphael, upon whose early work Perugino’s influence is most noticeable, Eusebio da San GiorgioMariano di Eusterio ,and Giovanni di Pietro (lo Spagna).

 

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First Sunday of Lent (A)

Matt 4: 1 – 11

 

Jesus was led by the Spirit out into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights, after which he was very hungry, and the tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to turn into loaves.’ But he replied, ‘Scripture says:

Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’

The devil then took him to the holy city and made him stand on the parapet of the Temple. ‘If you are the Son of God,’ he said, ‘throw yourself down; for scripture says:

He will put you in his angels’ charge, and they will support you on their hands in case you hurt your foot against a stone.’

Jesus said to him, ‘Scripture also says: You must not put the Lord your God to the test.’

Next, taking him to a very high mountain, the devil showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour. ‘I will give you all these’, he said, ‘if you fall at my feet and worship me.’ Then Jesus replied, ‘Be off, Satan! For scripture says:

You must worship the Lord your God, and serve him alone.’

Then the devil left him, and angels appeared and looked after him.

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Fresco of the Temptation of Christ, Sistine Chapel, painted 1481 by Sandro Botticelli (1445 – 1510).

Botticelli is credited for three frescos in the Sistine Chapel, along with seven papal portraits (paintings of previous popes). The images in the Sistine Chapel were of the Old and New Testament. The New Testament paintings were on the North side of the building and the Old Testament paintings were on the South side. The images always followed the same pattern. The main part of the biblical story or theme was portrayed in the front or foreground of the picture and in the middle and background parts of the picture there were additional scenes that related to the subject. The background was especially evident on the sides of the frescos so the next picture in the sequence could appear as a continuation of the landscape line.

Botticelli’s painting Adoration, his reputation, and his ability to work with frescos is what caught the attention of Pope Sixtus IV. Botticelli was then asked to paint a trial fresco on the North wall; his Temptation of Christ painting. The four trial paintings done by Botticelli, Perugino, Ghirlandaio and Rosselli were used to determine their pay. Painting began in October 1481 and was completed by March 1482. This short time indicated that the original 16 commissioned frescos were finished very quickly. The efficiency was due to the help of other painters working under the masters as the projects moved to completion.

Botticelli painted three major frescos in the Sistine Chapel: The Temptation of Moses and The Punishment of Korah were on the South wall and the Temptation of Christ on the North wall. He also painted at least seven of the papal portraits that were in the window zone of the chapel. As far as the content of the pictures, Botticelli was not one of the decision makers. He was told what subjects to portray and then to portray their stories. Just being able to be part of the project in the Sistine Chapel was a great honour for any artist during that time period.

The Temptation of Christ was Botticelli’s trial fresco for the Sistine Chapel. It was according to this work that his pay scale was set up. The landscape of The Temptation of Christ was one used by most artists of the Sistine Chapel. There is a rocky landscape that frames the picture, yet allows for the artist of the picture placed right next to it to continue the same kind of landscape to create a unified look.

There are three temptations shown in this picture. The one on the far left is when the devil, dressed as a monk, tried to convince Christ to turn the rocks into bread proving that he was the true Son of God. The middle one is on the top if the building where the devil, again disguised as a monk, tempts Christ to cast himself down. The last temptation, on the far right, was when the devil offers Christ all the kingdoms of the world but instead, Christ cast him down into the depths. Christ, the one true God, resists all temptations and evil loses every time.

In the foreground or front of the picture stands Nehemiah. Nehemiah stood for leadership and was known for continuing the traditional religious rites. He was also an architectural developer. Nehemiah represents Pope Sixtus, who was also a builder. The building in the middle ground of the picture resembles a church renovation project that Pope Sixtus worked on.

There are two oak trees in the background. One is flourishing the other is not. The oak trees are symbolic of Giuliano della Rovere, who was eventually elected pope, and alo are symbolic of Sixtus IV. The less developed oak tree symbolizes Giuliano who had large potential for growth and the more developed tree symbolized the older, more experienced Pope Sixtus IV.

Botticelli had many requirements in his Sistine Chapel paintings, but his style remained. He incorporated the facial detail that he used so many times in his portraits on the left side of the image. On the right side he used actual people as subjects and used a realistic style to their faces. The two female subjects in this image are painted in the same way as Botticelli’s painted female subjects in some of his other works.

 

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Eighth Sunday of the Year (A)

Matt 7: 21 – 27

 

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘It is not those who say to me, “Lord, Lord”, who will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the person who does the will of my Father in heaven. When the day comes many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, cast out demons in your name, work many miracles in your name?” Then I shall tell them to their faces: I have never known you; away from me, you evil men!

‘Therefore, everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a sensible man who built his house on rock. Rain came down, floods rose, gales blew and hurled themselves against that house, and it did not fall: it was founded on rock. But everyone who listens to these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a stupid man who built his house on sand. Rain came down, floods rose, gales blew and struck that house, and it fell; and what a fall it had!’

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Jesus with the Apostles, painted approx. 1311, by Duccio di Buoninsegna, tempera on wood. Height: 36.5 cm x Width: 47.5 cm. Duccio (1260 -1319) was an Italian painter, active in the city of Siena in Tuscany, where he was born. He is considered to be the father of Sienese painting and along with a few others the founder of Western art. He was hired throughout his life to complete many important works in government and religious buildings around Italy. Duccio is credited with creating the painting style of Trecento and the Sienese school, and contributed significantly to the Sienese Gothic style.

Only two of Duccio’s surviving works can be securely dated. Both were major public commissions: the “Rucellai Madonna” (Galleria degli Uffizi), commissioned in April 1285 by the Compagnia del Laudesi di Maria Vergine for a chapel in the church of Santa Maria Novella in Florence, and the Maestà commissioned for the high altar of Siena Cathedral in 1308 and completed by June 1311.

Duccio known works are on wood panel, painted in egg tempera and embellished with gold leaf. Different from his contemporaries and artists before him, Duccio was a master of tempera and managed to conquer the medium with delicacy and precision. Duccio’s style was similar to Byzantine art in some ways, with its gold backgrounds and familiar religious scenes but also different and more experimental. Duccio’s paintings are warm with colour, and inviting. His pieces held a high level of beauty with delicate details, sometimes inlaid with jewels and almost ornamental fabrics. Duccio was also noted for his complex organisation of space. Characters were organized specifically and purposefully. Duccio began to break down the sharp lines of Byzantine art, and soften the figures. He used modelling (playing with light and dark colours) to reveal the figures underneath the heavy drapery; hands, faces, and feet became more rounded and three-dimensional.

Duccio was also one of the first painters to put figures in architectural settings. He began to explore and investigate depth and space. He also had a refined attention to emotion, not seen in other painters at this time. The characters interact tenderly, and softly with each other, it is no longer Christ and the Virgin, it is mother and child. With this he flirts with naturalism but his paintings are still awe inspiring. Duccio’s figures seem to be out of this world and heavenly; existing elsewhere with beautiful colours, soft hair, gracefulness and draped in textures not available to mere humans. His influence can be seen in the work of many other painters, including Simone Martini and the brothers Ambrogio and Pietro Lorenzetti.

 

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Seventh Sunday of the Year (A)

Matt 5: 38 – 48

 

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘You have learnt how it was said: Eye for eye and tooth for tooth. But I say this to you: offer the wicked man no resistance. On the contrary, if anyone hits you on the right cheek, offer him the other as well; if a man takes you to law and would have your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone orders you to go one mile, go two miles with him. Give to anyone who asks, and if anyone wants to borrow, do not turn away.

‘You have learnt how it was said: You must love your neighbour and hate your enemy. But I say this to you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you; in this way you will be sons of your Father in heaven, for he causes his sun to rise on bad men as well as good, and his rain to fall on honest and dishonest men alike. For if you love those who love you, what right have you to claim any credit? Even the tax collectors do as much, do they not? And if you save your greetings for your brothers, are you doing anything exceptional? Even the pagans do as much, do they not? You must therefore be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Christ the Saviour (Pantokrator), a 6th-century encaustic icon from Saint Catherine’s Monastery, Mount Sinai.

Saint Catherine’s Monastery, officially “Sacred Monastery of the God-Trodden Mount Sinai” lies on the Sinai Peninsula, at the mouth of a gorge at the foot of Mount Sinai, in the city of Saint Catherine, Egypt in the South Sinai Governorate. The monastery is controlled by the autocephalous Church of Sinai, part of the wider Eastern Orthodox Church, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Built between 548 and 565, the monastery is one of the oldest working Christian monasteries in the world. The site contains the world’s oldest continually operating library, possessing many unique books including the Syriac Sinaiticus and, until 1859, the Codex Sinaiticus. A small town with hotels and swimming pools, called Saint Katherine City, has grown around the monastery.

According to tradition, Catherine of Alexandria was a Christian martyr sentenced to death on the wheel. When this failed to kill her, she was beheaded. According to tradition, angels took her remains to Mount Sinai. Around the year 800, monks from the Sinai Monastery found her remains.

Although it is commonly known as Saint Catherine’s, the monastery’s full official name is the Sacred Monastery of the God-Trodden Mount Sinai. The patronal feast of the monastery is the Transfiguration. The monastery has become a favourite site of pilgrimage.

The oldest record of monastic life at Sinai comes from the travel journal written in Latin by a woman named Egeria about 381-384. She visited many places around the Holy Land and Mount Sinai, where, according to the Hebrew Bible, Moses received the Ten Commandments from God.

The monastery was built by order of Emperor Justinian I (reigned 527-565), enclosing the Chapel of the Burning Bush (also known as “Saint Helen’s Chapel”) ordered to be built by Empress Consort Helena, mother of Constantine the Great, at the site where Moses is supposed to have seen the burning bush. The living bush on the grounds is purportedly the one seen by Moses. Structurally the monastery’s king post truss is the oldest known surviving roof truss in the world. The site is sacred to Christianity, Islam and Judaism.

In May 1844 and February 1859, Constantin von Tischendorf visited the monastery for research and discovered the Codex Sinaiticus, dating from the 4th Century, at the time the oldest almost completely preserved manuscript of the Bible. The finding from 1859 left the monastery in the 19th century for Russia, in circumstances that had been long disputed. But in 2003 Russian scholars discovered the donation act for the manuscript signed by the Council of Cairo Metochion and Archbishop Callistratus on 13 November 1869. The monastery received 9000 rubles as a gift from Tsar Alexander II of Russia. The Codex was sold by Stalin in 1933 to the British Museum and is now in the British Library, London, where it is on public display. Prior to September 1, 2009, a previously unseen fragment of Codex Sinaiticus was discovered in the monastery’s library.

In February 1892, Agnes Smith Lewis identified a palimpsest in St Catherine’s library that became known as the Syriac Sinaiticus and is still in the Monastery’s possession. Agnes and her sister Margaret Dunlop Gibson returned with a team of scholars that included J. Rendel Harris, to photograph and transcribe the work in its entirety. As the manuscript predates the Codex Sinaiticus, it became crucial in understanding the history of the New Testament.

The Monastery also has a copy of the Ashtiname of Muhammad, in which the Islamic prophet Muhammad is claimed to have bestowed his protection upon the monastery.

The most important manuscripts have since been filmed or digitised, and so are accessible to scholars. A team of imaging scientists and scholars from the USA and Europe is using spectral imaging techniques developed for imaging the Archimedes Palimpsest to study more than one hundred palimpsests in the monastery library. The library will be extensively renovated for some time.

The complex houses irreplaceable works of art: mosaics, the best collection of early icons in the world, many in encaustic, as well as liturgical objects, chalices and reliquaries, and church buildings. The large icon collection begins with a few dating to the 5th (possibly) and 6th centuries, which are unique survivals, the monastery having been untouched by Byzantine iconoclasm, and never sacked. The oldest icon on an Old Testament theme is also preserved there. A project to catalogue the collections has been ongoing since the 1960s. The monastery was an important centre for the development of the hybrid style of Crusader art, and still retains over 120 icons created in the style, by far the largest collection in existence. Many were evidently created by Latins, probably monks, based in or around the monastery in the 13th century.

 

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Sixth Sunday of the Year (A)

Matt 5: 17 – 37

 

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘ Do not imagine that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish them but to complete them. I tell you solemnly, till heaven and earth disappear, not one dot, one little stroke, shall disappear from the Law until its purpose is achieved. Therefore, the man who infringes even one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be considered the least in the kingdom of heaven; but the man who keeps them and teaches them will be considered great in the kingdom of heaven.

‘For I tell you, if your virtue goes no deeper than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.

‘You have learnt how it was said to our ancestors: You must not kill; and if anyone does kill he must answer for it before the court. But I say this to you: anyone who is angry with his brother will answer for it before the court; if a man calls his brother “Fool” he will answer for it before the Sanhedrin; and if a man calls him “Renegade” he will answer for it in hell fire. So then, if you are bringing your offering to the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, go and be reconciled with your brother first, and then come back and present your offering. Come to terms with your opponent in good time while you are still on the way to the court with him, or he may hand you over to the judge and the judge to the officer, and you will be thrown into prison. I tell you solemnly, you will not get out till you have paid the last penny.

‘You have learnt how it was said: You must not commit adultery. But I say this to you: if a man looks at a woman lustfully, he has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye should cause you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; for it will do you less harm to lose one part of you than to have your whole body thrown into hell. And if your right hand should cause you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; for it will do you less harm to lose one part of you than to have your whole body go to hell.

‘It has also been said: Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a writ of dismissal. But I say this to you: everyone who divorces his wife, except for the case of fornication, makes her an adulteress; and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

‘Again, you have learnt how it was said to our ancestors: You must not break your oath, but must fulfil your oaths to the Lord. But I say this to you: do not swear at all, either by heaven, since that is God’s throne; or by the earth, since that is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, since that is the city of the great king. Do not swear by your own head either, since you cannot turn a single hair white or black. All you need say is “Yes” if you mean yes, “No” if you mean no; anything more than this comes from the evil one.’            

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Christ as the Redeemer is a painting by Andrea Mantegna, painted in 1495. It is tempera on wood, is 78cm x 48cm in dimension and is currently located at the Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen, Denmark.

Andrea Mantegna, 1431 – 1506, was an Italian painter, a student of Romanarcheology, and son-in-law of Jacopo Bellini. Like other artists of the time, Mantegna experimented with perspective, e.g., by lowering the horizon in order to create a sense of greater monumentality. His flinty, metallic landscapes and somewhat stony figures give evidence of a fundamentally sculptural approach to painting. He also led a workshop that was the leading producer of prints in Venice before 1500.

Mantegna was born in Isola di Carturo, Republic of Venice close to Padua (now Italy), second son of a carpenter, Biagio. At the age of eleven he became the apprentice of Francesco SquarcionePaduan painter. As many as 137 painters and pictorial students passed through Squarcione’s school, which had been established towards 1440 and which became famous all over Italy. Padua was attractive for artists coming not only from Veneto but also from Tuscany, such as Paolo UccelloFilippo Lippi and Donatello. Mantegna’s early career was shaped indeed by impressions of Florentine works. Mantegna never changed the manner which he had adopted in Padua, though his colouring—at first neutral and undecided—strengthened and matured. Throughout his works there is more balancing of colour than fineness of tone. One of his great aims was optical illusion, carried out by a mastery of perspective which, though not always mathematically correct, attained an astonishing effect in those times.

In 1488 Mantegna was called by Pope Innocent VIII to paint frescos in a chapel Belvedere in the Vatican. This series of frescos, including a noted Baptism of Christ, was destroyed by Pius VI in 1780. The pope treated Mantegna with less liberality than he had been used to at the Mantuan court; but all things considered their connection, which ceased in 1500, was not unsatisfactory to either party. Mantegna also met the famous Turkish hostage Jem and studied with attention the ancient monuments, but his impression of the city was a disappointing one as a whole. Returned to Mantua in 1490, he embraced again his more literary and bitter vision of antiquity, and entered in strong connection with the new marquise, the cultured and intelligent Isabella d’Este.

In what was now his city he went on with the nine tempera pictures of the Triumphs of Caesar, which he had probably begun before his leaving for Rome, and which he finished around 1492. These superbly invented and designed compositions are gorgeous with the splendour of their subject-matter, and with the classical learning and enthusiasm of one of the master-spirits of the age.

In spite of declining health, Mantegna continued to be active. Other works of this period include the Madonna of the Caves, the St. Sebastian and the famous Lamentation over the Dead Christ, probably painted for his personal funerary chapel. Another work of Mantegna’s later years was the so-called Madonna della Vittoria, now in the Louvre. It was painted in tempera about 1495, in commemoration of the Battle of Fornovo, whose disputable outcome Francesco Gonzaga was eager to show as an Italian League victory; the church which originally housed the picture was built from Mantegna’s own design. The Madonna is depicted with various saints, the archangel Michael and St. Maurice holding her mantle, which is extended over the kneeling Francesco Gonzaga, amid a profusion of rich festooning and other accessory. Though not in all respects of his highest order of execution, this counts among the most obviously beautiful and attractive of Mantegna’s works from which the qualities of beauty and attraction are often excluded, in the stringent pursuit of those other excellences more germane to his severe genius, tense energy passing into haggard passion.

 

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Fifth Sunday of the Year (A)

Matt 5: 13 – 16

 

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘You are the salt of the earth. But if salt becomes tasteless, what can make it salty again? It is good for nothing, and can only be thrown out to be trampled underfoot by men.

‘You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill-top cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp to put it under a tub; they put it on the lamp-stand where it shines for everyone in the house. In the same way your light must shine in the sight of men, so that, seeing your good works, they may give the praise to your Father in heaven.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: The Light of the World is an allegorical painting by the English Pre-Raphaelite artist William Holman Hunt (1827–1910) representing the figure of Jesus. It was painted between 1851 and 1853, painted oil on canvas and is 50cm x 27cm. The original is variously said to have been painted at night in a makeshift hut at Worcester Park Farm in Surrey and in the garden of the Oxford University Press while it is suggested that Hunt found the dawn light he needed outside Bethlehem on one of his visits to the Holy Land. The painting was begun around 1849/50, completed in 1853, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1854 and is now in a side room off the large chapel at Keble College, Oxford. The painting was donated to the college by the widow of Thomas Combe, Printer to the University of Oxford, Tractarian and a patron of the Pre-Raphaelites, in the year following his death in 1872 on the understanding that it would hang in the chapel (constructed 1873–6) but the building’s architect William Butterfield was opposed to this and made no provision in his design. When the college’s library opened in 1878 it was placed there, and was moved to its present position only after the construction in 1892–5 by another architect, J. T. Micklethwaite, of the side chapel to accommodate it.

That the college at that time charged to view it persuaded Hunt toward the end of his life to paint a larger, life-size, version, begun about 1900 and completed in 1904, which was purchased by shipowner and social reformer Charles Booth and hung in St Paul’s CathedralLondon, where it was dedicated in 1908 after a 1905–7 world tour where the picture drew large crowds. It was claimed that four-fifths of Australia’s population viewed it. Due to Hunt’s increasing infirmity and glaucoma, he was assisted in the completion of this version by English painter Edward Robert Hughes (who also assisted with Hunt’s version of The Lady of Shalott). Hunt was buried in St Paul’s.

A third smaller version of the painting, painted by Hunt in oils between 1851 and 1856, is on display at Manchester City Art Gallery, England, which purchased it in 1912.

This painting inspired much popular devotion in the late Victorian period and inspired several musical works, including Arthur Sullivan‘s 1873 oratorio The Light of the World. Engraved reproductions were widely hung in nurseries, infant schools and church buildings.

 

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Fourth Sunday of the Year (A)

Matt 5: 1 – 12

 

Seeing the crowds, Jesus went up the hill. There he sat down and was joined by his disciples. Then he began to speak. This is what he taught them:

‘How happy are the poor in spirit:

theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Happy the gentle:

they shall have the earth for their heritage.

Happy those who mourn:

they shall be comforted.

Happy those who hunger and thirst for what is right:

they shall be satisfied.

Happy the merciful:

they shall have mercy shown them.

Happy the pure in heart:

they shall see God.

Happy the peacemakers:

they shall be called sons of God.

Happy those who are persecuted in the cause of right:

theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

‘Happy are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.’                

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: The Sermon on the Mount was painted by Carl Bloch in 1877. It is 104cm x 92cm and is located at the Museum of National History at Frederiksborg Castle, Denmark.

Bloch was born in Copenhagen, Denmark and studied with Wilhelm Marstrand at the Royal Danish Academy of Art (Det Kongelige Danske Kunstakademi) there. Bloch’s parents wanted their son to enter a respectable profession – an officer in the Navy. This, however, was not what Carl wanted. His only interest was drawing and painting, and he was consumed by the idea of becoming an artist. He went to Italy to study art, passing through the Netherlands, where he became acquainted with the work of Rembrandt, which became a major influence on him. Carl Bloch met his wife, Alma Trepka, in Rome, where he married her on May 31, 1868. They were happily married until her early death in 1886.

His early work featured rural scenes from everyday life. From 1859 to 1866, Bloch lived in Italy, and this period was important for the development of his historical style.

His first great success was the exhibition of his “Prometheus Unbound” in Copenhagen in 1865. After the death of Marstrand, he finished the decoration of the ceremonial hall at the University of Copenhagen. The sorrow over losing his wife weighed heavily on Bloch, and being left alone with their eight children after her death was very difficult for him.

In a New Year’s letter from 1866 to Bloch, H. C. Andersen wrote the following: “What God has arched on solid rock will not be swept away!” Another letter from Andersen declared “Through your art you add a new step to your Jacob-ladder into immortality.”

In a final ode, from a famous author to a famous artist, H.C. Andersen said “Write on the canvas; write your seal on immortality. Then you will become noble here on earth.”

He was then commissioned to produce 23 paintings for the Chapel at Frederiksborg Palace. These were all scenes from the life of Christ which have become very popular as illustrations. The originals, painted between 1865 and 1879, are still at Frederiksborg Palace. The altarpieces can be found at Holbaek, Odense, Ugerloese and Copenhagen in Denmark, as well as Loederup, Hoerup, and Landskrona in Sweden.

Through the assistance of Danish-born artist Soren Edsberg, the acquisition of Christ healing at the pool of Bethesda, [formerly owned by Indre Mission, Copenhagen, Denmark], was made possible for The Museum of ArtBrigham Young University (BYU), Provo, Utah, United States. A second work by Bloch, an 1880 grisaille version of The Mocking of Christ, was purchased by BYU in June 2015.

Carl Bloch died on February 22, 1890. His death came as “an abrupt blow for Nordic art” according to an article by Sophus Michaelis. Michaelis stated that “Denmark has lost the artist that indisputably was the greatest among the living.” Kyhn stated in his eulogy at Carl Bloch’s funeral that “Bloch stays and lives.”

 

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Third Sunday of the Year (A)

Matt 4: 12-23

 

Hearing that John had been arrested Jesus went back to Galilee, and leaving Nazareth he went and settled in Capernaum, a lakeside town on the borders of Zebulun and Naphtali. In this way the prophecy of Isaiah was to be fulfilled:

Land of Zebulun! Land of Naphtali! Way of the sea on the far side of Jordan, Galilee of the nations!

The people that lived in darkness has seen a great light; on those who dwell in the land and shadow of death a light has dawned.

From that moment Jesus began his preaching with the message, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand.’ As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee he saw two brothers, Simon, who was called Peter, and his brother Andrew; they were making a cast in the lake with their net, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.’ And they left their nets at once and followed him.

Going on from there he saw another pair of brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John; they were in their boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. At once, leaving the boat and their father, they followed him.

He went round the whole of Galilee teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom and curing all kinds of diseases and sickness among the people

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: ‘The first disciples’ was painted by Adam Brenner, 1839. It is an oil painting on canvas and is 63cm x 79cm. It is located at the New Walk Museum, Leicester.

Adam Brenner was born in Vienna in 1800 and died 22 April 1891 in Austria. Adam Brenner studied under Kupelwieser and Waldmüller at the Vienna academy of fine art. He travelled in France, Switzerland and Germany.

The Academy of Fine Arts Vienna was founded in 1692 as a private academy modelled on the Accademia di San Luca and the Parisien Académie de peinture et de sculpture by the court-painter Peter Strudel, who became the Praefectus Academiae Nostrae. In 1701 he was ennobled by Emperor Joseph I as Freiherr (Baron) of the Empire. With his death in 1714, the academy temporarily closed.

On 20 January 1725, Emperor Charles VI appointed the Frenchman Jacob van Schuppen as Prefect and Director of the Academy, which was refounded as the k.k. Hofakademie der Maler, Bildhauer und Baukunst (Imperial and Royal Court Academy of painters, sculptors and architecture). Upon Charles’ death in 1740, the academy at first declined, however during the rule of his daughter Empress Maria Theresa, a new statute reformed the academy in 1751. The prestige of the academy grew during the deanships of Michelangelo Unterberger and Paul Troger, and in 1767 the archduchesses Maria Anna and Maria Carolina were made the first Honorary Members. In 1772, there were further reforms to the organisational structure. Chancellor Wenzel Anton Kaunitz integrated all existing art schools into the k.k. vereinigten Akademie der bildenden Künste (Imperial and Royal Unified Academy of Fine Arts). The word “vereinigten” (unified) was later dropped. In 1822 the art cabinet grew significantly with the bequest of honorary member Anton Franz de Paula Graf Lamberg-Sprinzenstein. His collection still forms the backbone of the art on display.

In 1872 Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria approved a statute making the academy the supreme government authority for the arts. A new building was constructed according to plans designed by the faculty Theophil Hansen in the course of the layout of the Ringstraße boulevard. On 3 April 1877, the present-day building on Schillerplatz in the Innere Stadt district was inaugurated, the interior works, including ceiling frescos by Anselm Feuerbach, continued until 1892. In 1907 and 1908, young Adolf Hitler, who had come from Linz, was twice denied admission to the drawing class. He stayed in Vienna, subsisting on his orphan allowance, and tried unsuccessfully to continue his profession as an artist. Soon he had withdrawn into poverty and started selling amateur paintings, mostly watercolours, for meagre sustenance until he left Vienna for Munich in May 1913.

During the Austrian Anschluss to Germany from 1938–1945, the academy was forced to heavily reduce its number of Jewish staff. After World War II, the academy was reconstituted in 1955 and its autonomy reconfirmed. It has had university status since 1998, but retained its original name. It is currently the only Austrian university that doesn’t have the word “university” in its name.

 

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Second Sunday of the Year (A)

John 1: 29-34

 

Seeing Jesus coming towards him, John said, ‘Look, there is the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. This is the one I spoke of when I said: A man is coming after me who ranks before me because he existed before me. I did not know him myself, and yet it was to reveal him to Israel that I came baptising with water.’ John also declared, ‘I saw the Spirit coming down on him from heaven like a dove and resting on him. I did not know him myself, but he who sent me to baptise with water had said to me, “The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and rest is the one who is going to baptise with the Holy Spirit.” Yes, I have seen and I am the witness that he is the Chosen One of God.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Baptism of Christ is painted by Cima da Conegliano in 1493. It is oil on panel and ins 350cm x 210cm. It is currently located in Church of San Giovanni in Bragora Venice.

The painting portrays Christ at the center of the scene, standing with joined hands. His attitude is that of humble submission to baptism, which is being given him by St. John the Baptist, who appears on the right.

At the left are three angels with Christ’s garments, in red and blue colours, which he will use after the baptism. The scene is completed by an angelic choir in the sky, and a generic oriental city on a spur in the left, behind the angels, while another one is visible in the far background.

Giovanni Battista Cima, also called Cima da Conegliano (c. 1459 – c. 1517), was an Italian Renaissance painter, who mostly worked in Venice. He can be considered part of the Venetian school, though he was also influenced by Antonello da Messina, in the emphasis he gives to landscape backgrounds and the tranquil atmosphere of his works. Once formed his style did not change greatly. He mostly painted religious subjects, often on a small scale for homes rather than churches, but also a few, mostly small, mythological ones.

He often repeated popular subjects in different versions with slight variations, including his Madonnas and Saint Jerome in a Landscape. His paintings of the Madonna and Child include several variations of a composition that have a standing infant Jesus, which in turn are repeated several times.

Giovanni Battista Cima was born at Conegliano, now part of the province of Treviso, in 1459 or 1460. His father, who died in 1484, was a cloth-shearer (cimator), hence the family surname.

In 1488 the young painter was at work at Vicenza; in 1492 he established himself at Venice, but by the summer of 1516 he had returned to his native place. Cima married twice, his first wife, Corona, bore him two sons, the older of whom took Holy orders at Padua. By Joanna, his second wife, he had six children, three being daughters.

His oldest painting inscribed with a date is the Madonna of the Arbour (1489; now in Museum of Vicenza). This picture is done in distemper and savours so much of the style of Bartolomeo Montagna, who lived at Vicenza from 1480, as to make it highly probable that Cima was his pupil. Even in this early production Cima gave evidence of the serious calm, and almost passionless spirit that so eminently characterized him. Later he fell under the influence of Giovanni Bellini and became one of his ablest successors, forming a happy, if not indispensable link between this master and Titian.

According to the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia: at first his figures were somewhat crude, but they gradually lost their harshness and gained in grace while still preserving the dignity. In the background of his facile, harmonious compositions the mountains of his country are invested with new importance. Cima was one of the first Italians to assign a place for landscape depiction, and to formulate the laws of atmosphere and of the distribution of light and shade. His Baptism of Christ in the church of San Giovanni in Bragora, in Venice (1492), gives striking evidence of this. The colouring is rich and right with a certain silvery tone peculiar to Cima, but which in his later works merges into a delicate gold. His conceptions are usually calm and undramatic, and he has painted scarcely any scenes (having depicted religious ones almost exclusively) that are not suggestive of “sante conversazioni”. His Incredulity of St. Thomas (National GalleryLondon) and his beautiful Nativity (Venice, Santa Maria dei Carmini, 1509) are hardly aught else. But most of his paintings represent Madonnas enthroned among the elect, and in these subjects he observes a gently animated symmetry. The groupings of these sainted figures, even though they may not have a definitely pious character, and the impression of unspeakable peace.

Among his pupils were his son, Carlo da Conegliano, and Vittore Belliniano. It is unclear if Francesco Beccaruzzi, who was born in Conegliano in 1492, received direct training from Cima.

 

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Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord – Year A

Matt 2:1-12

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After Jesus had been born at Bethlehem in Judaea during the reign of King Herod, some wise men came to Jerusalem from the east. ‘Where is the infant king of the Jews?’ they asked. ‘We saw his star as it rose and have come to do him homage.’ When King Herod heard this he was perturbed, and so was the whole of Jerusalem. He called together all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, and enquired of them where the Christ was to be born. ‘At Bethlehem in Judaea,’ they told him, ‘for this is what the prophet wrote:

And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, you are by no means least among the leaders of Judah, for out of you will come a leader who will shepherd my people Israel.’

Then Herod summoned the wise men to see him privately. He asked them the exact date on which the star had appeared, and sent them on to Bethlehem. ‘Go and find out all about the child,’ he said ‘and when you have found him, let me know, so that I too may go and do him homage.’ Having listened to what the king had to say, they set out. And there in front of them was the star they had seen rising; it went forward and halted over the place where the child was. The sight of the star filled them with delight, and going into the house they saw the child with his mother Mary, and falling to their knees they did him homage. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh. But they were warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, and returned to their own country by a different way.

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Adoración de los Reyes Magos was painted by El Greco, in 1568. It is currently located in Museo SoumayaMexico City. It is 43cm x 51cm and is oil on panel.

The Museo Soumaya, designed by the Mexican architect Fernando Romero, is a private museum in Mexico City. It is a non-profit cultural institution with two museum buildings in Mexico City – Plaza Carso and Plaza Loreto. It has over 66,000 works from 30 centuries of art including sculptures from Pre-Hispanic Mesoamerica, 19th- and 20th-century Mexican art and an extensive repertoire of works by European old masters and masters of modern western art such as Auguste RodinSalvador DalíBartolomé Esteban Murillo and Tintoretto. It is considered one of the most complete collections of its kind. The museum is named after Soumaya Domit, who died in 1999, and was the wife of the founder of the museum Carlos Slim. The museum received an attendance of 1,095,000 in 2013, making it the most visited art museum in Mexico and the 56th in the world that year. In October 2015, the museum welcomed its five millionth visitor.

Doménikos Theotokópoulos 1541 – 1614, most widely known as El Greco, was a painter, sculptor and architect of the Spanish Renaissance. “El Greco” (“The Greek”) was a nickname a reference to his Greek origin. El Greco was born in Crete, which was at that time part of the Republic of Venice, and the center of Post-Byzantine art. He trained and became a master within that tradition before traveling at age 26 to Venice, as other Greek artists had done. In 1570 he moved to Rome, where he opened a workshop and executed a series of works. During his stay in Italy, El Greco enriched his style with elements of Mannerism and of the Venetian Renaissance. In 1577, he moved to Toledo, Spain, where he lived and worked until his death. In Toledo, El Greco received several major commissions and produced his best-known paintings.

El Greco’s dramatic and expressionistic style was met with puzzlement by his contemporaries but found appreciation in the 20th century. El Greco is regarded as a precursor of both Expressionism and Cubism, while his personality and works were a source of inspiration for poets and writers such as Rainer Maria Rilke and Nikos Kazantzakis. El Greco has been characterized by modern scholars as an artist so individual that he belongs to no conventional school. He is best known for tortuously elongated figures and often fantastic or phantasmagorical pigmentation, marrying Byzantine traditions with those of Western painting.

  

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Solemnity of Mary, The Holy Mother (Christmas week two) – Year A

Luke 2: 16-21

year-a-christmas-week-2-shepherds-el-greco

 

The shepherds hurried away to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. When they saw the child they repeated what they had been told about him, and everyone who heard it was astonished at what the shepherds had to say. As for Mary, she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds went back glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen; it was exactly as they had been told.

When the eighth day came and the child was to be circumcised, they gave him the name Jesus, the name the angel had given him before his conception.

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: The Adoration of the Shepherds is a painting by El Greco, 1612. The original artwork was 319cm x 180cm and is oil on canvas.  It is currently located in the Prado Museum, Madrid.

This night scene is set in a narrow, irregular space -a sort of grotto with a gabled opening in the back, consisting of two semi-circular arches. Mary holds her newborn Son, naked on her lap, while Saint Joseph and three shepherds surround them, expressing their fervent devotion to the child. A kneeling ox also contemplates the baby. The compositional ellipse is closed at the top by a group of angels very close to the holy family. They express Heaven’s pleasure at the birth of the Redeemer, bearing a banner that reads GLORIA IN EXCEL[SIS DEO E]T IN TERRA PAX [HOMINIBUS]. This Nativity scene can be considered El Greco’s last work before his death on April 7, 1614. It was intended to adorn the burial place of the Theotocopuli family at the convent of Santo Domingo del Antiguo (Toledo), where El Greco had received his first commission in Spain, in 1557. In August 1612, that religious community reached an agreement with El Greco’s son, Jorge Manuel, in which the convent ceded a slab in the church of that monastery, which is the one bordering the main door of said church. That space was to serve as the burial area for the Theotocopuli, who promised to pay for the conditioning and decoration of the family tomb. In fact, besides El Greco, his son’s wife, Alfonsa de Morales, was also buried there. However, a disagreement between the two parties led to the cancelation of their agreement in 1618, just four years after El Greco’s death. The Cistercian nuns demanded that Jorge Manuel exhume the remains, but the large canvas conceived and painted by El Greco remained in the church until its sale to the Spanish State in 1954. This canvas marks the culmination of the formal refinement of the composition with which the painter had depicted this subject in his last versions, from between 1597 and 1605, for the altarpieces of Doña María de Aragón (now at the Muzeul National de artà, Bucharest), the Colegio del Patriarca in Valencia, and the Hospital de la Caridad in Illescas (Toledo). The Christ Child emits an intense light that bathes the small group contemplating him: the Virgin, Saint Joseph, three shepherds and a group of angels that form a sort of celestial vault. These figures constitute an excellent selection of this artist’s highly characteristic creations. The Metropolitan Museum of New York has a workshop version with slight variations, which was apparently made around the same time as the original canvas.

 

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Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord (Christmas week one) – Year A

John 1: 1-18

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In the beginning was the Word:
the Word was with God
and the Word was God.
He was with God in the beginning.
Through him all things came to be,
not one thing had its being but through him.
All that came to be had life in him
and that life was the light of men,
a light that shines in the dark,
a light that darkness could not overpower.
A man came, sent by God.
His name was John.
He came as a witness,
as a witness to speak for the light,
so that everyone might believe through him.
He was not the light,
only a witness to speak for the light.
The Word was the true light
that enlightens all men;
and he was coming into the world.
He was in the world
that had its being through him,
and the world did not know him.
He came to his own domain
and his own people did not accept him.
But to all who did accept him
he gave power to become children of God,
to all who believe in the name of him
who was born not out of human stock
or urge of the flesh
or will of man
but of God himself.
The Word was made flesh,
he lived among us,
and we saw his glory,
the glory that is his as the only Son of the Father,
full of grace and truth.
John appears as his witness. He proclaims:
‘This is the one of whom I said:
He who comes after me
ranks before me
because he existed before me.’
Indeed, from his fullness we have, all of us, received –
yes, grace in return for grace,
since, though the Law was given through Moses,
grace and truth have come through Jesus Christ.
No one has ever seen God;
it is the only Son, who is nearest to the Father’s heart,
who has made him known.

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Saint John painted by Diego Velázquez, 1619. Oil on canvas, 136cm x 103cm, this painting is located in Room 30 at the National Gallery, London.

Saint John the Evangelist is shown writing the Book of Revelation, the final book of the New Testament, with his symbol, an eagle, at his side.

Saint John looks up at his vision of the woman of the Apocalypse (Revelation 12), which was the source for much of the imagery associated with the Immaculate Conception. This provides the thematic link between this work and its companion piece, ‘The Immaculate Conception’.

As in all Velázquez’s early work, the central figures in both works are painted from models. The Saint John here is less idealised than the Virgin depicted in ‘The Immaculate Conception’.

Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez was baptised on June 6, 1599, and died August 6, 1660.  Velázquez was a Spanish painter, the leading artist in the court of King Philip IV, and one of the most important painters of the Spanish Golden Age. He was an individualistic artist of the contemporary Baroque period, important as a portrait artist. In addition to numerous renditions of scenes of historical and cultural significance, he painted scores of portraits of the Spanish royal family, other notable European figures, and commoners, culminating in the production of his masterpiece Las Meninas (1656).

From the first quarter of the nineteenth century, Velázquez’s artwork was a model for the realist and impressionist painters, in particular Édouard Manet. Since that time, famous modern artists, including Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí and Francis Bacon, have paid tribute to Velázquez by recreating several of his most famous works.

 

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Fourth Sunday of Advent – Year A

Matthew 1: 18- 25

year-a-advent-week-4-nativity-van-hontorst

 

This is how Jesus Christ came to be born. His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph; but before they came to live together she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a man of honour and wanting to spare her publicity, decided to divorce her informally. He had made up his mind to do this when the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because she has conceived what is in her by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son and you must name him Jesus, because he is the one who is to save his people from their sins.’ Now all this took place to fulfil the words spoken by the Lord through the prophet:

The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son and they will call him Emmanuel, a name which means ‘God-is-with-us’. When Joseph woke up he did what the angel of the Lord had told him to do: he took his wife to his home.

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Adoration of the Child painted by Gerard van Honthorst, dated 1620. Oil on canvas, 96cm x 131cm, it is located in the Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy.

Anyone familiar with the work of Caravaggio immediately recognizes his influence on the work of Van Honthorst. The artist plays with light. Irrelevant parts of the canvas are left in the dark.

The source of the light on the child is not shown, which suggests some mystic origin. The light is reflected on the faces of the other figures.

Gerard van Honthorst (Gerrit van Honthorst) (4 November 1592 – 27 April 1656) was a Dutch Golden Age painter who became especially noted for his depiction of artificially lit scenes, eventually receiving the nickname Gherardo delle Notti (“Gerard of the nights”). Early in his career he visited Rome, where he had great success painting in a style influenced by Caravaggio. Following his return to the Netherlands he became a leading portrait painter.

Honthorst was born in Utrecht, the son of a decorative painter, and trained under his father, and then under Abraham Bloemaert.

Having completed his education, Honthorst went to Italy, where he is first recorded in 1616. He was one the artists from Utrecht who went to Rome at around this time, all of whom were to be deeply influenced by the recent art they encountered there. They were named the Utrecht caravaggisti. Honthorst returned to Utrecht in 1620, and went on to build a considerable reputation both in the Dutch Republic and abroad. In 1623, the year of his marriage, he was president of the Guild of St. Luke in Utrecht. He soon became so fashionable that Sir Dudley Carleton, then English envoy at The Hague, recommended his works to the Earl of Arundel and Lord Dorchester. In 1626 Honthorst hosted a dinner for Rubens, and painted him as the honest man sought for and found by Diogenes.

His popularity in the Netherlands was such that he opened a second studio in the Hague, where he painted portraits of members of the court, and taught drawing. These large studios, where the work included making replicas of Honthorst’s royal portraits, employed a large number of pupils and assistants; according to one pupil, Joachim von Sandrart, describing his experiences in the mid-1620s, Honthorst would have about 24 students at any one time, each paying 100 guilders a year for their education.

Honthorst is often referred to as “Gherardo delle notti” (“Gerrit of the Nights”) by modern Italians. Honthorst was a prolific artist. His most attractive pieces are those in which he cultivates the style of Caravaggio, often tavern scenes with musicians, gamblers and people eating. He had great skill at chiaroscuro, often painting scenes illuminated by a single candle.

Some of his most notable pieces were portraits of the Duke of Buckingham and his family (Hampton Court), the King and Queen of Bohemia (Hanover and Combe Abbey), Marie de Medici (Amsterdam Stadthuis), 1628, the Stadtholders and their Wives (Amsterdam and The Hague), Charles Louis and Rupert, Charles I’s nephews (Musée du Louvre, St Petersburg, Combe Abbey and Willin), and Baron Craven (National Portrait Gallery, London). His early style can be seen in the Lute-player (1614) in the Louvre, the Martyrdom of St John in Santa Maria della Scala at Rome, or the Liberation of Peter in the Berlin Museum.

 

 

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Third Sunday of Advent – Year A

Matthew 11: 2- 11

year-a-advent-week-3-st-john-the-baptist-mengs

 

John in his prison had heard what Christ was doing and he sent his disciples to ask him, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or have we got to wait for someone else?’ Jesus answered, ‘Go back and tell John what you hear and see; the blind see again, and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised to life and the Good News is proclaimed to the poor; and happy is the man who does not lose faith in me.’

As the messengers were leaving, Jesus began to talk to the people about John: ‘What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swaying in the breeze? No? Then what did you go out to see? A man wearing fine clothes? Oh no, those who wear fine clothes are to be found in palaces. Then what did you go out for? To see a prophet? Yes, I tell you, and much more than a prophet: he is the one of whom scripture says: Look, I am going to send my messenger before you; he will prepare your way before you. I tell you solemnly, of all the children born of women, a greater than John the Baptist has never been seen; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he is.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: St John in the Wilderness painted by Anton Raphael Mengs, 1760. Oil on canvas, 215cm x 148cm, it is located at the Museum of Fine Art, Houston, USA.

Anton Raphael Mengs (March 22, 1728 – June 29, 1779) was a German Bohemian painter, active in Rome, Madrid and Saxony, who became one of the precursors to Neoclassical painting.

Mengs was born in 1728 at Aussig in Bohemia, the son of Ismael Mengs, a Danish painter who eventually established himself at Dresden. In 1741 Mengs’s father took him from Dresden to Rome.

In 1749 he was appointed first painter to Frederick Augustus, elector of Saxony, but this did not prevent him from continuing to spend much of his time in Rome. There he married Margarita Guazzi, who had sat for him as a model in 1748. He converted to Catholicism, and in 1754 he became director of the Vatican school of painting. His fresco painting of Parnassus at Villa Albani gained him a reputation as a master painter.

In 1749 Mengs accepted a commission from the Duke of Northumberland to make a copy, in oil on canvas, of Raphael’s fresco The School of Athens for his London home. Executed in 1752–5, Mengs’ painting is full-sized, but adapts the composition to a rectangular format, with some additional figures. It is now in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum. Mengs died in Rome in June 1779 and was buried in the Roman Church of Santi Michele e Magno.

On two occasions he accepted invitations from Charles III of Spain to go to Madrid. There he produced some of his best work, most notably the ceiling of the banqueting hall of the Royal Palace of Madrid, the subject of which was the Triumph of Trajan and the Temple of Glory. After the completion of this work in 1777, Mengs returned to Rome, where he died two years later, in poor circumstances, leaving twenty children, seven of whom were pensioned by the king of Spain. His portraits and self-portraits recall an attention to detail and insight often lost in his grander paintings.

Mengs had a well-known rivalry with the contemporary Italian painter Pompeo Batoni. He was also a friend of Giacomo Casanova. Casanova provides accounts of his personality and contemporary reputation through anecdotes in his Histoire de Ma Vie.

Besides numerous paintings in Madrid, the Ascension and St Joseph at Dresden, Perseus and Andromeda at Saint Petersburg, and the ceiling of the Villa Albani are among his chief works. In 1911, Henry George Percy, 7th Duke of Northumberland, possessed Mengs’s work entitled Holy Family, and the colleges of All Souls and Magdalen, at Oxford, possessed altar-pieces by Mengs.

In his writings, in Spanish, Italian, and German, Mengs expressed an eclectic theory of art, seeing perfection as attainable by a well-schemed combination of diverse excellences: Greek design, with the expression of Raphael, the chiaroscuro of Correggio, and the colour of Titian.

 

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Second Sunday of Advent – Year A

Matthew 3: 1- 12

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In due course John the Baptist appeared; he preached in the wilderness of Judaea and this was his message: ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand’. This was the man the prophet Isaiah spoke of when he said:

A voice cries in the wilderness: Prepare a way for the Lord, make his paths straight.

This man John wore a garment made of camel-hair with a leather belt round his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then Jerusalem and all Judaea and the whole Jordan district made their way to him, and as they were baptised by him in the river Jordan they confessed their sins. But when he saw a number of Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism he said to them, ‘Brood of vipers, who warned you to fly from the retribution that is coming? But if you are repentant, produce the appropriate fruit, and do not presume to tell yourselves, “We have Abraham for our father,” because, I tell you, God can raise children for Abraham from these stones. Even now the axe is laid to the roots of the trees, so that any tree which fails to produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown on the fire. I baptise you in water for repentance, but the one who follows me is more powerful than I am, and I am not fit to carry his sandals; he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing-fan is in his hand; he will clear his threshing-floor and gather his wheat into the barn; but the chaff he will burn in a fire that will never go out.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: St John the Baptist, painted by Paolo Veronese in 1562. Oil on canvas, it is 205cm x 169cm, and is located in the Galleria Borghese, Rome. The extraordinary beauty of the Venetian fabrics already to be found in the work of Palma il Vecchio is brought to unrivaled perfection by Paolo Veronese. In this painting which heralds the coming of Christ, the figures are wrapped in magnificent oriental silk robes and three are wearing turbans. Their differing reactions to the sermon are reflected in their facial expressions. The skillful composition of the painting creates a balance between the weight of the group of figures on the right and the perspective on the left.

Veronese was an Italian Renaissance painter based in Venice, most famous for large history paintings of religious subjects. With Titian, who was at least a generation older, and Tintoretto, ten years older, he was one of the “great trio that dominated Venetian painting of the cinquecento” or 16th-century late Renaissance. Veronese is known as a supreme colourist, and after an early period with Mannerist influence turned to a more naturalist style influenced by Titian. His most famous works are elaborate narrative cycles, executed in a dramatic and colourful style, full of majestic architectural settings and glittering pageantry. His large paintings of biblical feasts, crowded with figures, painted for the refectories of monasteries in Venice and Verona are especially famous, and he was also the leading Venetian painter of ceilings.

Veronese moved to Venice in 1553 after obtaining his first state commission, ceilings in fresco decorating the Sala dei Cosiglio dei Dieci (the Hall of the Council of Ten) and the adjoining Sala dei Tre Capi del Consiglio in the Doge’s Palace, in the new rooms replacing those lost in the fire of 1547. His panel of Jupiter Expelling the Vices for the former is now in the Louvre. He then painted a History of Esther in the ceiling for the church of San Sebastiano. It was these ceiling paintings and those of 1557 in the Marciana Library (for which he was awarded a prize judged by Titian and Sansovino) that established him as a master among his Venetian contemporaries. Already these works indicate Veronese’s mastery in reflecting both the subtle foreshortening of the figures of Correggio and the heroism of those by Michelangelo. He produced great works of naturalist paintings until his death in 1588.

 

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First Sunday of Advent – Year A

Matthew 24: 37 – 44

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Jesus said to his disciples: ‘As it was in Noah’s day, so will it be when the Son of Man comes. For in those days before the Flood people were eating, drinking, taking wives, taking husbands, right up to the day Noah went into the ark, and they suspected nothing till the Flood came and swept all away. It will be like this when the Son of Man comes. Then of two men in the fields one is taken, one left; of two women at the millstone grinding, one is taken, one left.

‘So stay awake, because you do not know the day when your master is coming. You may be quite sure of this that if the householder had known at what time of the night the burglar would come, he would have stayed awake and would not have allowed anyone to break through the wall of his house. Therefore, you too must stand ready because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: The flood with Noah’s Ark, painted by Jan Brueghel the Elder in 1601. The painting is 28cm x 36cm, is oil on copper and was bought in London, Sotheby’s, December 6, 2007 for £78,500.

Jan Brueghel the Elder (1568 –1625) was a Flemish painter, son of Pieter Bruegel the Elder and father of Jan Brueghel the Younger. Nicknamed “Velvet” Brueghel, “Flower” Brueghel, and “Paradise” Brueghel, of which the latter two were derived from his floral still life and paradise landscapes, while the former may refer to the velveteen sheen of his colours.

Jan was born in Brussels. His father died in 1569, and then, following the death of his mother in 1578, Jan, along with his brother Pieter Brueghel the Younger and sister Marie, probably went to live with their grandmother Mayken Verhulst (widow of Pieter Coecke van Aelst). She was an artist in her own right, according to Carel van Mander and Guicciardini, and possibly served as the first teacher of the two boys although her sons (their uncles) were also painters. Jan Brueghel moved to Antwerp around 1583.

In about 1589 Jan traveled to Italy, probably via Cologne. There he resided first in Naples, where his patron was Francesco Carracciolo. Next he moved to Rome, working for several discerning cardinals including, most famously, Federico Borromeo. It was in the company of Borromeo that Brueghel left Rome and took up residence in Milan, where he was part of the Cardinal’s household. In the summer of 1596 he returned to Antwerp, where he remained for the rest of his life apart from short journeys to Prague and to the Dutch Republic.

While in Italy he applied himself principally to landscapes and history paintings, including Biblical narratives and scenes from mythology and ancient history. Back in Antwerp he continued these types of subject matter but also acquired considerable reputation by his flower paintings and allegories. He formed a style more independent of his father’s than did his brother Pieter the Younger.

Many of his paintings are collaborations in which figures by other painters were placed in landscapes painted by Jan Brueghel; in other cases, Brueghel painted the figures into another artist’s landscape or architectural interior. The most famous of his collaborators was Peter Paul Rubens: the two collaborated on about 25 paintings including a Battle of the Amazons (Potsdam), Mars Disarmed by Venus (Getty Museum), The Fall of Man (Mauritshuis), The Five Senses (Prado), and several images of the Madonna and Child within a Flower Garland (Munich, Paris, Madrid). Hendrick van Balen and Joos de Momper were also regular collaborators with Brueghel.

He had a studio in Antwerp, where he died from cholera on 13 January 1625.