Sunday Gospels (Year C)

 

Each week, the Gospel for that 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 the Year (C) – Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

Luke 23: 35-43

A 139

 

The people stayed there before the cross watching Jesus. As for the leaders, they jeered at him. ‘He saved others,’ they said, ‘let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.’ The soldiers mocked him too, and when they approached to offer him vinegar they said, ‘If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.’ Above him there was an inscription: ‘This is the King of the Jews.’

One of the criminals hanging there abused him. ‘Are you not the Christ?’ he said. ‘Save yourself and us as well.’ But the other spoke up and rebuked him. ‘Have you no fear of God at all?’ he said. ‘You got the same sentence as he did, but in our case we deserved it: we are paying for what we did. But this man has done nothing wrong. Jesus,’ he said, ‘remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ ‘Indeed, I promise you,’ he replied, ‘today you will be with me in paradise.’          

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: The Crucifixion, painted by Simon Vouet, is an imposing work of 216cm × 146 cm, located in the Museum of Fine Arts in Lyon. It was designed between 1636 and 1637. It is an oil on canvas depicting the passion of Christ, who is dying. The drape of women is as impressive as that of Mary. This table is part of a set of three works: he was accompanied by paintings of the Last Supper and the incredulity of St. Thomas.

This work was commissioned to Simon Vouet by Cardinal Pierre Séguier. He wanted to put in his mansion chapel. This work was accompanied by two other tables: the Last Supper and the disbelief of Thomas. These works represent three particular scenes from the life of Jesus from the scene of the Last Supper and his death on the cross. The Crucifixion was conducted between 1636 and 1637, the work was preserved in the chapel of Cardinal. Being disposed above the altar, these works were primarily religious. She was later offered in 1816 at the Museum of Fine Arts Lyon by Cardinal Joseph Fesch. The table is always surrounded the two tables mentioned.

This painting is a representation of the death of Jesus Christ on the cross. The characters present with him seem to be struck by the scene, their eyes converge on the face of Christ . The painter chooses represented the moment of the end of the agony of Christ, the tilted head seems to indicate his death. Mary painted on the lower right is presented in agony, as if she shared the pain of the death of his son. The virgin is supported by the apostle John , looking at Jesus on the cross. On the left of the table stands Mary Magdalene , back, startled by the scene in a decline of gesture and arms outstretched.

Jesus Christ is highlighted by the white light projected on him, which made him the central character of the work. Moreover, we can distinguish, by their amplitudes and the sense of movement, a drape. The work is particularly impressive share the drape of the virgin in the foreground as if to show the character of magnificence. Simon Vouet has also made prints of it draped, it shows all the work created by the artist for this precise detail.

The faces and the light, reminiscent of the Italian painter training, strengthen all the theatricality and the solemnity of the scene.

During the making of the film, Simon Vouet, was the painter of King Louis XIII and the one who was the most famous of his time. Table is made following an order of Cardinal Pierre Séguier to his mansion and more precisely to its chapel. Simon Vouet achieves this work during the classical age and found in his painting the marks of this artistic movement.

This work is classical in the paint strokes, by lines of rectilinear forces and in the chosen theme. It is the representation of a biblical scene that clearly marks the period of the against-reform. We can also notice many details and a straight line that emerges from the table. But we can also point out that the work approaches the baroque art through movement given by the drapery of the Virgin. An artist of the same century, Philippe de Champaigne , gives a representation of Christ on the cross less theatrically only in painting the figure of Christ. Yet both artists remain faithful to the details of the biblical text in representing the city and Mount Golgotha.

The artist chose this work because it is a command that was asked of him by the Seguier Chancellor. Moreover, the theme was directly related to the historical context of the time and the person who asked for it was both a statesman and church. Classicism then permeates the painter, and it can only make a classic table as it is for a statesman, then the command must necessarily meet the artistic demands of the time.

The artist has made many sketches of his work, particularly in the figure of the Virgin and its drape, to give a realistic effect and movement. he worked the body of Christ to highlight many details. Its anatomy is particularly detailed, which makes it even more character and seeing it the center of the table.

The cross to mark the array power lines, and the prospect instead christ in the work center. The light that pervades Caravaggio painting recalls the training has followed the painter. drape, but also the colours of a pastel tone highlight women, especially Mary, foreground right.

The eyes of Mary Magdalene and St. John converge on Christ; the trio then recalls the Trinity. This representation complies with the Scriptures by these characters. The parallel is striking with the crucifixion of Philippe de Champaigne , which is exposed to Grenoble . That of the latter is devoid of characters, and represents Christ only. the work of Simon Vouet seems more comprehensive in terms of characters and historical accuracy.

 

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Thirty Third Sunday of the Year (C)

Luke 21: 5-19

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When some were talking about the Temple, remarking how it was adorned with fine stonework and votive offerings, Jesus said, ‘All these things you are staring at now – the time will come when not a single stone will be left on another: everything will be destroyed.’ And they put to him this question: ‘Master,’ they said, ‘when will this happen, then, and what sign will there be that this is about to take place?’

‘Take care not to be deceived,’ he said, ‘because many will come using my name and saying, “I am he” and, “The time is near at hand.” Refuse to join them. And when you hear of wars and revolutions, do not be frightened, for this is something that must happen but the end is not soon.’ Then he said to them, ‘Nation will fight against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes and plagues and famines here and there; there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven.

‘But before all this happens, men will seize you and persecute you; they will hand you over to the synagogues and to imprisonment, and bring you before kings and governors because of my name – and that will be your opportunity to bear witness. Keep this carefully in mind: you are not to prepare your defence, because I myself shall give you an eloquence and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to resist or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relations and friends; and some of you will be put to death. You will be hated by all men on account of my name, but not a hair of your head will be lost. Your endurance will win you your lives.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: The destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem is a oil on canvas painting by Francesco Hayez, painted 1867. The dimensions are 183cm x 252cm and is located in the Accademia of Venice, Italy.

Francesco Hayez (10 February 1791 – 21 December 1882) was an Italian painter, the leading artist of Romanticism in mid-19th-century Milan, renowned for his grand historical paintings, political allegories and exceptionally fine portraits.

Hayez came from a relatively poor family from Venice. His father, Giovanni, was of French origin while his mother, Chiara Torcella, was from Murano. The child Francesco, youngest of five sons, was brought up by his mother’s sister, who had married Giovanni Binasco, a well-off shipowner and collector of art. From childhood he showed a predisposition for drawing, so his uncle apprenticed him to an art restorer. Later he became a student of the painter Francesco Maggiotto with whom he continued his studies for three years. He was admitted to the painting course of the New Academy of Fine Arts in 1806, where he studied under Teodoro Matteini. In 1809 he won a competition from the Academy of Venice for one year of study at the Accademia di San Luca in Rome. He remained in Rome until 1814, then moved to Naples where he was commissioned by Joachim Murat to paint a major work depicting Ulysses at the court of Alcinous. In the mid-1830s he attended the “Salotto Maffei” salon in Milan, hosted by Clara Maffei (whose portrait Hayez painted for her husband), and he was still in Milan in 1850 when he was appointed director of the Academy of Brera there.

Francesco Hayez lived long and was prolific. His output spanned both historic paintings, including those that would have appealed to the patriotic sensibility of his patrons. Others reflect the desire to accompany a Neoclassic style to grand themes, either from biblical or classical literature. He also painted scenes from theatrical presentations of his day. Conspicuously lacking from his output, however, are altarpieces intended for devotional display. However, after the Napoleonic invasions deconsecrated many churches and convents in Northern Italy, the region was not lacking for religious artworks that were removed either to museums or concentrated in the remaining active religious institutions. Corrado Ricci describes him as starting as a classicist but then evolving to a style of emotional tumult.

His portraits have the intensity seen with Ingres and the Nazarene movement. Often sitting, the subjects dress in austere, often black and white clothing, with little to no accoutrements. While he did complete portraits for the nobility, other subjects are artists and musicians. Late in his career, he is known to have worked using photographs.

Among his works, his painting The Kiss was considered among his best work by contemporaries, and has only gained in esteem since then. The anonymous, unaffected gesture of the couple does not require knowledge of myth or literature to interpret, and appeals to a modern gaze.

Assessment of the career of Hayez is complicated by the fact that he often did not sign or date his works. Often the date indicated from the evidence is that at which the work was acquired or sold, not of its creation. Moreover, he often painted the same compositions several times with minimal variations, or even with no variation.

 

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Thirty Second Sunday of the Year (C)

Luke 20: 27-38

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Some Sadducees – those who say that there is no resurrection – approached Jesus and they put this question to him, ‘Master, we have it from Moses in writing, that if a man’s married brother dies childless, the man must marry the widow to raise up children for his brother. Well, then, there were seven brothers. The first, having married a wife, died childless. The second and then the third married the widow. And the same with all seven, they died leaving no children. Finally the woman herself died. Now, at the resurrection, to which of them will she be wife since she had been married to all seven?’ Jesus replied, ‘The children of this world take wives and husbands, but those who are judged worthy of a place in the other world and in the resurrection from the dead do not marry because they can no longer die, for they are the same as the angels, and being children of the resurrection they are sons of God. And Moses himself implies that the dead rise again, in the passage about the bush where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. Now he is God, not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all men are in fact alive.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: The Holy Thorn Reliquary is a late 14th century reliquary created in Paris for John, Duke of Berry to house a relic of the Crown of Thorns. The Holy Thorn Reliquary has a detail of the Last Trumpet sounded around the bottom edge, depicting the Resurrection of the Dead. Since 1898, it has been in the British Museum’s collection, having been bequeathed by Ferdinand de Rothschild.

The Holy Thorn Reliquary was created in approx 1390 in Paris for John, Duke of Berry, to house a relic of the Crown of Thorns. The reliquary was bequeathed to the British Museum in 1898 by Ferdinand de Rothschild as part of the Waddesdon Bequest. It is one of a small number of major goldsmiths’ works or joyaux that survive from the extravagant world of the courts of the Valois royal family around 1400. It is made of gold, lavishly decorated with jewels and pearls, and uses the technique of enamelling en ronde bosse, or “in the round”, which had been recently developed when the reliquary was made, to create a total of 28 three-dimensional figures, mostly in white enamel.

Except at its base the reliquary is slim, with two faces; the front view shows the end of the world and the Last Judgement, with the Trinity and saints above and the resurrection of the dead below, and the relic of a single long thorn believed to come from the crown of thorns worn by Jesus when he was crucified. The rear view has less extravagant decoration, mostly in plain gold in low relief, and has doors that opened to display a flat object, now missing, which was presumably another relic.

The reliquary was in the Habsburg collections from at least the 16th century until the 1860s, when it was replaced by a forgery during a restoration by an art dealer, Salomon Weininger. The fraud remained undetected until well after the original reliquary came to the British Museum. The reliquary was featured in the BBC’s A History of the World in 100 Objects, in which Neil MacGregor described it as “without question one of the supreme achievements of medieval European metalwork”, and was a highlight of the exhibition Treasures of Heaven: Saints, Relics, and Devotion in Medieval Europe at the British Museum from June 23 to October 2011.

Reliquary of gold, richly enamelled and set with rubies, pearls and sapphires. Architectural base in form of castellated fortress with a half-length angel sounding a trumpet occupying each turret, base also with arms of Jean, duc de Berry in rectangular panels of blue and red translucent enamel. The front is a depiction of the Resurrection of the Dead, a green-enamelled mound rising from the base from which coffins protrude, the dead rising from within. Above is a rock-crystal window, the Thorn placed vertically in the centre, mounted on a cabochon sapphire, above an inscribed scroll. Figures of the Virgin and St. John kneel beside the Thorn, Christ with his five wounds is seated behind it, his feet resting on a white-enamelled globe. Two angels hold a crown of thorns above his head, the instruments of the Passion in their other hands. An arch is formed around the whole by the twelve Apostles within a mass of leaves and branches, God the Father at the top. On the reverse are two hinged doors decorated in relief and pontillé with the figures of St. Michael and the Devil and St. Christopher carrying the Christ Child, inside these is an empty cavity covered in modern glass, probably a space for another relic. Above this is a roundel with the face of Christ in relief amidst sunrays. 

  

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Thirty First Sunday of the Year (C)

Luke 19: 1-10

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Jesus entered Jericho and was going through the town when a man whose name was Zacchaeus made his appearance; he was one of the senior tax collectors and a wealthy man. He was anxious to see what kind of man Jesus was, but he was too short and could not see him for the crowd; so he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to catch a glimpse of Jesus who was to pass that way. When Jesus reached the spot he looked up and spoke to him: ‘Zacchaeus, come down. Hurry, because I must stay at your house today.’ And he hurried down and welcomed him joyfully. They all complained when they saw what was happening. ‘He has gone to stay at a sinner’s house,’ they said. But Zacchaeus stood his ground and said to the Lord, ‘Look, sir, I am going to give half my property to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody I will pay him back four times the amount.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because this man too is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek out and save what was lost.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Christ and Zacchaeus, painted by Niels Larsen Stevns in 1913. The painting is located in the Randers Museum of Art, Randers, Denmark.

Niels Larsen Stevns (9 July 1864 – 27 September 1941) was a Danish painter and sculptor. He was originally educated as a journeyman painter but attended Kunstakademiet in the years 1886–1887 and 1892–1894. He assisted Joakim Skovgaard decorating the cathedral in Viborg in a simplified style, based on early Christian and Byzantine art.

Stevns was born in the village of Gevnø, ZealandDenmark, where his father was a clog maker and thatcher. It was a very humble and frugal family. Stevns developed at a young age, and maintained throughout his life, a fervent belief in God. Even as a boy, Stevns showed a talent for wood carving. He had the opportunity to develop this during a long illness at the age of twelve. This started his ideas to become an artist, gradually taking shape in the boy’s head. At the age of eighteen he took a handicraft course and won a prize in a local competition.

An adherent of N. F. S. Grundtvig, he painted religiously inspired paintings in a modernist style with a universally human message, e.g. Kristus og Zakæus (1913, Randers Museum of Art) above and the altarpiece Kristus og Nikodemus (1918) in Vrensted Church south-west of Hjørring.

Stevns belonged to the Fynbo School of artists. This generation gained their mainly picturesque ideas in the Zahrtmann school. Then through his longstanding cooperation with Joakim Skovgaard he supported what is known as the “Skovgaard tradition”, receiving a thorough training in monumental painting. He is represented at Skovgaard Museum, the National Gallery of DenmarkRanders Art MuseumSorø Art MuseumFuglsang Art MuseumMuseum Jorn, and Østsjællands Museum among others.

Stevns first left Denmark, briefly, for Sweden in 1895. Then he visited Italy and Germany in 1896; Italy again in 1900 and in 1904. In September 1922, Stevns married and the couple travelled to the South of France, where Stevns painted landscapes in Cagnes-sur-mer. He worked alongside Axel SaltoKarl LarsenSvend Johansen and Vilhelm Lundstrom. Stevns was fascinated by the strong southern light, which he perceived as God’s very presence in the world. He and his wife then travelled to Florence, staying in the “Villa Linda.” During the time he also travelled to Austria and Germany. These journeys lasted for eleven months, heralding a new phase of his career. A bolder colour vision and a free monumentality marked this period.

In 1928, through an expatriate Dane, Stevns received an order for an altarpiece in a parish in Cascallares,  Argentina. Although he did not himself travel there, he finally realised the dream of his youth, in painting such historical pictures. This commission was for a Danish youth school and the subject was Absalon, based on an earlier work in the Cistercian Sorø Abbey, in central Zealand. Stevns’ last recorded journey was to Sweden again, in 1934. 

Stevns was awarded the Thorvaldsen Medal in 1933.

 

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Thirtieth Sunday of the Year (C)

Luke 18: 9-14

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Jesus spoke the following parable to some people who prided themselves on being virtuous and despised everyone else. ‘Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood there and said this prayer to himself, “I thank you, God, that I am not grasping, unjust, adulterous like the rest of mankind, and particularly that I am not like this tax collector here. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes on all I get.” The tax collector stood some distance away, not daring even to raise his eyes to heaven; but he beat his breast and said, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” This man, I tell you, went home again at rights with God; the other did not. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the man who humbles himself will be exalted.’            

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: The Pharisee and the Publican, baroque fresco in Ottobeuren Basilica by Austrian painter Johann Jakob Zeiller (8 July 1708 – 8 July 1783).

There are no doubts the Ottobeuren Abbey and, especially, Ottobeuren Basilica have some of the best Baroque and Rococo style interiors worldwide. A Benedictine abbey was founded here in 764 AD. The Abbey was founded by Blessed Toto and dedicated to two saints: Alexander of Rome (died as a martyr sometimes around 130 AD) and Theodor of Sion (first bishop of Valais, died around 400 AD). Ottobeuren Basilica is one of the highest achievements in Bavarian Baroque architecture – among a huge wealth of other beautiful buildings.

The first architect was Simpert Kramer. He planned to base the design of the new basilica on another great building – the Weingarten Basilica, built in Baroque style in 1724. Works proceeded slowly – in Kramer’s time was built the 12 metre deep fundament of the new church around the old church.

11 years later, in 1748 works were continued by Johann Michael Fischer (1692 – 1766), one of the best German Baroque architects. The structure was declared as basilica minor in 1926 by pope Pius XI.

Extensive repairs of the church were done in 1960 – 1964, further works were done in 2004 – 2010. While the building was designed in late Baroque style, interior was designed in the similar Rococo style and is one of best known examples of this style worldwide.

Interior has light colours, it is lavishly adorned with frescoes and other embellishments. The beautiful frescoes were painted by Austrian painters Johann Jakob Zeiller and Franz Anton Zeiller, with sculptures created by Johann Joseph Christian.

 

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Twenty Ninth Sunday of the Year (C)

Luke 18: 1-8

The Unjust Judge and the Importunate Widow published 1864 Sir John Everett Millais, Bt 1829-1896 Presented by Gilbert Dalziel 1924 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/A00795

 

Jesus told his disciples a parable about the need to pray continually and never lose heart. ‘There was a judge in a certain town’ he said ‘who had neither fear of God nor respect for man. In the same town there was a widow who kept on coming to him and saying, “I want justice from you against my enemy!” For a long time he refused, but at last he said to himself, “Maybe I have neither fear of God nor respect for man, but since she keeps pestering me I must give this widow her just rights, or she will persist in coming and worry me to death.” ‘

And the Lord said, ‘You notice what the unjust judge has to say? Now will not God see justice done to his chosen who cry to him day and night even when he delays to help them? I promise you, he will see justice done to them, and done speedily. But when the Son of Man comes, will he find any faith on earth?’

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Illustration of the Parable of the Unjust Judge from the New Testament Gospel of Luke by John Everett Millais for The Parables of Our Lord (1863). It is a wood engraving on paper, 14cm x 11cm and can be found in a collection at the Prints and Drawings Rooms, Tate Gallery, London.

Sir John Everett Millais, 1st Baronet, 8 June 1829 – 13 August 1896, was an English painter and illustrator who was one of the founders of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.

A child prodigy, at the age of eleven Millais became the youngest student to enter the Royal Academy Schools. The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was founded at his family home in London, at 83 Gower Street (now number 7). Millais became the most famous exponent of the style, his painting Christ in the House of His Parents (1850) generating considerable controversy. By the mid-1850s Millais was moving away from the Pre-Raphaelite style and developing a new and powerful form of realism in his art. His later works were enormously successful, making Millais one of the wealthiest artists of his day. While early 20th-century critics, reading art through the lens of Modernism, viewed much of his later production as wanting, this perspective has changed in recent decades, as his later works have come to be seen in the context of wider changes and advanced tendencies in the broader late-nineteenth-century art world.

Millais’s personal life has also played a significant role in his reputation. His wife Effie was formerly married to the critic John Ruskin, who had supported Millais’s early work. The annulment of the marriage and her wedding to Millais have sometimes been linked to his change of style, but she became a powerful promoter of his work and they worked in concert to secure commissions and expand their social and intellectual circles.

 

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Twenty Eighth Sunday of the Year (C)

Luke 17: 11-19

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On the way to Jerusalem Jesus travelled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered one of the villages, ten lepers came to meet him. They stood some way off and called to him, ‘Jesus! Master! Take pity on us.’ When he saw them he said, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ Now as they were going away they were cleansed. Finding himself cured, one of them turned back praising God at the top of his voice and threw himself at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. The man was a Samaritan. This made Jesus say, ‘Were not all ten made clean? The other nine, where are they? It seems that no one has come back to give praise to God, except this foreigner.’ And he said to the man, ‘Stand up and go on your way. Your faith has saved you.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Healing of the ten lepers by Jacques Tissot, painted between 1886 and 1894. Opaque watercolour over graphite on gray wove paper, 16cm x 25cm. It is currently located in the Brooklyn Museum, North America.

Jacques Joseph Tissot (15 October 1836 – 8 August 1902), was a French painter and illustrator. He left Paris for London in 1871. He was a successful painter of Paris society before moving to London in 1871.

Paintings by Tissot appealed greatly to wealthy British industrialists during the second half of the 19th-century. During 1872 he earned 94,515 francs, an income normally only enjoyed by those in the echeleons of the upper classes.

In 1885, Tissot had a revival of his Catholic faith, which led him to spend the rest of his life making paintings about Biblical events. Many of his artist friends were skeptical about his conversion, as it conveniently coincided with the French Catholic revival, a reaction against the secular attitude of the French Third Republic. At a time when French artists were working in impressionismpointilism, and heavy oil washes, Tissot was moving toward realism in his watercolours. To assist in his completion of biblical illustrations, Tissot travelled to the Middle East in 1886, 1889, and 1896 to make studies of the landscape and people. His series of 365 gouache (opaque watercolour) illustrations showing the life of Christ were shown to critical acclaim and enthusiastic audiences in Paris (1894–5), London (1896) and New York (1898–9), before being bought by the Brooklyn Museum in 1900. During July 1894, Tissot was awarded the Légion d’honneur, France’s most prestigious medal. Tissot spent the last years of his life working on paintings of subjects from the Old Testament. Although he never completed the series, he exhibited 80 of these paintings in Paris in 1901 and engravings after them were published in 1904.

  

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Twenty Seventh Sunday of the Year (C)

Luke 17: 5-10

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The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith.’ The Lord replied, ‘Were your faith the size of a mustard seed you could say to this mulberry tree, “Be uprooted and planted in the sea”, and it would obey you.

‘Which of you, with a servant ploughing or minding sheep, would say to him when he returned from the fields, “Come and have your meal immediately”? Would he not be more likely to say, “Get my supper laid; make yourself tidy and wait on me while I eat and drink. You can eat and drink yourself afterwards”? Must he be grateful to the servant for doing what he was told? So with you: when you have done all you have been told to do, say, “We are merely servants: we have done no more than our duty.”‘

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Painting of Saint Thomas Aquinas, OP, an altarpiece in Ascoli Piceno, Italy, by Carlo Crivelli. Painted in 1476, it is 61cm x 40cm and resides at the National Gallery, London.

The prayer of thanksgiving after Communion by Thomas Aquinas includes a phrase similar to the last verse of this parable: “I thank You, O holy Lord, almighty Father, eternal God, who have deigned, not through any merits of mine, but out of the condenscension of Your goodness, to satisfy me a sinner, Your unworthy servant.”

Thomas Aquinas, O.P. (1225 – 1274), was an Italian Dominican friar, Catholic priest, and Doctor of the Church. He was an immensely influential philosopher, theologian, and jurist in the tradition of scholasticism, within which he is also known as the Doctor Angelicus and the Doctor Communis. The name Aquinas identifies his ancestral origins in the county of Aquino in present-day Lazio, where his family held land until 1137. He was the foremost classical proponent of natural theology and the father of Thomism. His influence on Western thought is considerable, and much of modern philosophy developed or opposed his ideas, particularly in the areas of ethics, natural law, metaphysics, and political theory. Unlike many currents in the Church of the time, Thomas embraced several ideas put forward by Aristotle—whom he called “the Philosopher”—and attempted to synthesize Aristotelian philosophy with the principles of Christianity.The works for which he is best known are the Summa Theologiae and the Summa contra Gentiles. His commentaries on Scriptureand on Aristotle form an important part of his body of work. Furthermore, Thomas is distinguished for his eucharistic hymns, which form a part of the Church’s liturgy.

The Catholic Church honours Thomas Aquinas as a saint and regards him as the model teacher for those studying for the priesthood, and indeed the highest expression of both natural reason and speculative theology. In modern times, under papal directives, the study of his works was long used as a core of the required program of study for those seeking ordination as priests or deacons, as well as for those in religious formation and for other students of the sacred disciplines (philosophy, Catholic theology, church history, liturgy, and canon law).

Thomas Aquinas is considered one of the Catholic Church’s greatest theologians and philosophers. Pope Benedict XV declared: “This (Dominican) Order … acquired new luster when the Church declared the teaching of Thomas to be her own and that Doctor, honoured with the special praises of the Pontiffs, the master and patron of Catholic schools.”

 

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Twenty Sixth Sunday of the Year (C)

Luke 16: 19-31

year-c-26th-sunday-lazarus-bronnikov

 

Jesus said to the Pharisees: ‘There was a rich man who used to dress in purple and fine linen and feast magnificently every day. And at his gate there lay a poor man called Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to fill himself with the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Dogs even came and licked his sores. Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried.

‘In his torment in Hades he looked up and saw Abraham a long way off with Lazarus in his bosom. So he cried out, “Father Abraham, pity me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in agony in these flames.” “My son,” Abraham replied, “remember that during your life good things came your way, just as bad things came the way of Lazarus. Now he is being comforted here while you are in agony. But that is not all: between us and you a great gulf has been fixed, to stop anyone, if he wanted to, crossing from our side to yours, and to stop any crossing from your side to ours.”

‘The rich man replied, “Father, I beg you then to send Lazarus to my father’s house, since I have five brothers, to give them warning so that they do not come to this place of torment too.” “They have Moses and the prophets,” said Abraham, “let them listen to them.” “Ah no, father Abraham,” said the rich man, “but if someone comes to them from the dead, they will repent.” Then Abraham said to him, “If they will not listen either to Moses or to the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone should rise from the dead.” ‘

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Illustration of Lazarus at the rich man’s gate by Fyodor Bronnikov, 1886. Fyodor Andreyevich Bronnikov (1827-1902) was a Russian-born history and genre painter who spent most of his life in Italy.

He displayed an early affinity for drawing and received his first art lessons from his father, who was a decorative painter. At the age of sixteen, when his father died, he packed his bags and went to Saint Petersburg, hoping to enter the Imperial Academy of Arts. After failing to gain admission, he became an apprentice in the workshop of Evstafy Bernardsky, a well known woodcutter. His talent drew the attention of the sculptor Pyotr Clodt, who arranged for him to audit classes at the Academy. In 1850, he was able to become a regular student, and worked with Alexey Markov. He graduated in 1853 and was awarded a stipend to study in Italy for his graduation painting, “The Mother of God”.

The following year, he settled in Rome and established his own studio on Via Vittoria, near the Villa Borghese. He painted a wide variety of canvases, including landscapes, village scenes, genre scenes, historical works and, of course, portraits of the city’s notable citizens. His health was poor, so he remained there after his stipend expired, to take advantage of the warm climate.

He paid a long visit home from 1863 to 1865. While there, the Academy awarded him a professorship in history painting for his depiction of Horace reading his satires to Gaius Maecenas. He also came into contact with a group of dissident artists who would later be known as the Peredvizhniki; which inspired him to paint a series of genre works on peasant life. Later, he became a member of the group and regularly sent paintings from Italy to show in their exhibitions. He was awarded the Order of St. Anna as well as being named an Academician and an honorary member of the Academy. During this period he created one of his best known works: “The Cursed Field” (1878), an indictment of slavery.

He died near Rome and was buried at the “Protestant Cemetery”. Despite having lived in Italy for most of his life, he left over 300 paintings and drawings and the equivalent of 400 Rubles to establish an art school in Shadrinsk. The school was not established until the Soviet period and the works were used as the basis for a museum.

 

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Twenty Fifth Sunday of the Year (C)

Luke 16: 1-13

year-c-25th-sunday-unjust-steward-luyken

 

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘There was a rich man and he had a steward who was denounced to him for being wasteful with his property. He called for the man and said, “What is this I hear about you? Draw me up an account of your stewardship because you are not to be my steward any longer.” Then the steward said to himself, “Now that my master is taking the stewardship from me, what am I to do? Dig? I am not strong enough. Go begging? I should be too ashamed. Ah, I know what I will do to make sure that when I am dismissed from office there will be some to welcome me into their homes.”

‘Then he called his master’s debtors one by one. To the first he said, “How much do you owe my master?” “One hundred measures of oil,” was the reply. The steward said, “Here, take your bond; sit down straight away and write fifty.” To another he said, “And you, sir, how much do you owe?” “One hundred measures of wheat,” was the reply. The steward said, “Here, take your bond and write eighty.”

‘The master praised the dishonest steward for his astuteness. For the children of this world are more astute in dealing with their own kind than are the children of light.

‘And so I tell you this: use money, tainted as it is, to win you friends, and thus make sure that when it fails you, they will welcome you into the tents of eternity. The man who can be trusted in little things can be trusted in great; the man who is dishonest in little things will be dishonest in great. If then you cannot be trusted with money, that tainted thing, who will trust you with genuine riches? And if you cannot be trusted with what is not yours, who will give you what is your very own?

‘No servant can be the slave of two masters: he will either hate the first and love the second, or treat the first with respect and the second with scorn. You cannot be the slave both of God and of money.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: The Parable of the Unjust Steward is an etching by Jan Luyken. 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 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”.

He married at 19 and had several children, of who Kasparus Luiken also became a renowned engraver. In his twenty-sixth year, he had a religious experience that inspired him to write moralistic poetry. He illustrated the 1685 edition of the Martyrs Mirror with 104 copper etchings. Thirty of these plates survive and are part of The Mirror of the Martyrs exhibit. He also published Het Menselyk Bedryf (“The Book of Trades”) in 1694, which contains numerous engravings, by Luiken and his son Caspar (Caspaares), of 17th century trades.

Huysmans’ anti-hero Des Esseintes was an admirer of Luyken’s engravings and had prints from his Religious Persecutions hung in his drawing room. He described them as ‘appalling engravings containing all the tortures that the madness of religion could devise.’ Des Esseintes was enthralled not just by Luyken’s graphic depictions but his ability to reconstruct times and places in his works.

 

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Twenty Fourth Sunday of the Year (C)

Luke 15: 1-32

Year C - 24th Sunday - shepherd - Champaigne

 

The tax collectors and the sinners were all seeking the company of Jesus to hear what he had to say, and the Pharisees and the scribes complained. ‘This man’ they said ‘welcomes sinners and eats with them.’ So he spoke this parable to them:

‘What man among you with a hundred sheep, losing one, would not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the missing one till he found it? And when he found it, would he not joyfully take it on his shoulders and then, when he got home, call together his friends and neighbours? “Rejoice with me,” he would say “I have found my sheep that was lost.” In the same way, I tell you, there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one repentant sinner than over ninety-nine virtuous men who have no need of repentance.

‘Or again, what woman with ten drachmas would not, if she lost one, light a lamp and sweep out the house and search thoroughly till she found it? And then, when she had found it, call together her friends and neighbours? “Rejoice with me,” she would say “I have found the drachma I lost.” In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing among the angels of God over one repentant sinner.’

He also said, ‘A man had two sons. The younger said to his father, “Father, let me have the share of the estate that would come to me.” So the father divided the property between them. A few days later, the younger son got together everything he had and left for a distant country where he squandered his money on a life of debauchery.

‘When he had spent it all, that country experienced a severe famine, and now he began to feel the pinch, so he hired himself out to one of the local inhabitants who put him on his farm to feed the pigs. And he would willingly have filled his belly with the husks the pigs were eating but no one offered him anything. Then he came to his senses and said, “How many of my father’s paid servants have more food than they want, and here am I dying of hunger! I will leave this place and go to my father and say: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as one of your paid servants.” So he left the place and went back to his father.

‘While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with pity. He ran to the boy, clasped him in his arms and kissed him tenderly. Then his son said, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son.” But the father said to his servants, “Quick! Bring out the best robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the calf we have been fattening, and kill it; we are going to have a feast, a celebration, because this son of mine was dead and has come back to life; he was lost and is found.” And they began to celebrate.

‘Now the elder son was out in the fields, and on his way back, as he drew near the house, he could hear music and dancing. Calling one of the servants he asked what it was all about. “Your brother has come” replied the servant, “and your father has killed the calf we had fattened because he has got him back safe and sound.” He was angry then and refused to go in, and his father came out to plead with him; but he answered his father, “Look, all these years I have slaved for you and never once disobeyed your orders, yet you never offered me so much as a kid for me to celebrate with my friends. But, for this son of yours, when he comes back after swallowing up your property – he and his women – you kill the calf we had been fattening.”

‘The father said, “My son, you are with me always and all I have is yours. But it was only right we should celebrate and rejoice, because your brother here was dead and has come to life; he was lost and is found.” ‘

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Good Shepherd, is a painting by Jean Baptiste de Champaigne, painted approx. 1670 and is currently located at the Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille, France.

Jean Baptiste de Champaigne (10 December 1631 – 27 October 1681), was a Flemish Baroque painter and teacher.

According to the Netherlands Institute for Art History (RKD), he was the nephew of Philippe de Champaigne who moved to Paris to become his pupil in 1643. In 1658 he undertook a trip to Italy to copy the works of Raphael and Titian. When he returned he became a member of the Brussels Guild of Saint Luke, and in 1671 he accepted a post as teacher in the prestigious Académie de peinture et de sculpture in Paris.

Born in Brussels in 1631, Jean-Baptiste de Champaigne was the nephew of Philippe de Champaigne (1606-1674), and in 1642 went to Paris to be his uncle’s pupil and assistant. For about eighteen months in 1658-1659, he travelled in Italy, where he was especially attracted to the classicizing style of Raphael (1483-1520) and other painters in the classical tradition. In this spirit, he made a copy of Domenichino’s (1581-1641) Martyrdom of Saint Andrew for the Jansenist monastery of Port-Royal (now in Lyon Cathedral). On his return to Paris Jean-Baptiste assisted his uncle in major cycles of decoration, such as in the nuns’ refectory of the Val-de-Grâce, which included the Supper at Emmaus (Lyon Cathedral) and Israelites Gathering Manna (Paris, Saint Etienne du Mont), and at the château of Vincennes. But most of his decorative cycles have been destroyed or dispersed, so it is difficult to form a just picture of his career. While Jean-Baptiste’s art is deeply indebted to that of Philippe, he was also influenced by the more academic style of Charles Le Brun and other artists who worked for the Crown at Versailles. He was received into the Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture in 1663, on the presentation of Minerva Crowning Hercules. In 1666 he was put in charge of decorating the apartment of Louis de Bourbon, the grand dauphin, at the palace of the Tuileries; four panels devoted to The Education of Achilles survive (Paris, Musée du Louvre and Château of Maisons-Lafitte). The dramatic Stoning of Saint Paul at Lystra of 1667 (Marseille, Musée des Beaux-Arts) shows Jean-Baptiste’s monumental mature style, weightier and less naturalistic than his uncle’s. He was commissioned for numerous other royal and ecclesiastical schemes of decoration, including Louis XIV’s apartments at the Tuileries in 1671, the extant ceiling in the Salon de Mercure at Versailles in 1671, Queen Maria Theresa’s oratory at Versailles in 1680, and altarpieces for Parisian churches such as a Supper at Emmaus (c. 1662) and a Last Supper (both Nantes, Musée des Beaux-Arts) and a Presentation of the Virgin (Paris, Notre-Dame de la Bonne Nouvelle). Like his uncle, whose studio he continued after the elder artist’s death in 1674, he worked extensively for the Jansenist monastery of Port-Royal. The later works are austere and seem to look back to the mature work of Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665) in their classicism, as in The Last Supper of 1678 (Detroit Institute of Arts) and The Sermon on the Mount (c. 1667-1668, Dijon, Musée Magnin). Jean-Baptiste’s reputation has been overshadowed by that of his more celebrated uncle, but recent scholarship has begun a reassessment of the work of this artist, who was highly regarded in his own day.

 

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Twenty Third Sunday of the Year (C)

Luke 14: 25-33

Year C - 23th Sunday - crowd - Masaccio

 

Great crowds accompanied Jesus on his way and he turned and spoke to them. ‘If any man comes to me without hating his father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters, yes and his own life too, he cannot be my disciple. Anyone who does not carry his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.

‘And indeed, which of you here, intending to build a tower, would not first sit down and work out the cost to see if he had enough to complete it? Otherwise, if he laid the foundation and then found himself unable to finish the work, the onlookers would all start making fun of him and saying, “Here is a man who started to build and was unable to finish.” Or again, what king marching to war against another king would not first sit down and consider whether with ten thousand men he could stand up to the other who advanced against him with twenty thousand? If not, then while the other king was still a long way off, he would send envoys to sue for peace. So in the same way, none of you can be my disciple unless he gives up all his possessions.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Jesus teaching his disciples is a fresco by the Italian renaissance painter Masaccio, located in the Brancacci Chapel of the basilica of Santa Maria del Carmine, Florence, and completed by his senior collaborator, Masolino. Painted in the 1420s, it is widely considered among Masaccio’s best work, and a vital part of the development of renaissance art.

The Brancacci Chapel, in the basilica of Santa Maria del Carmine, was founded around 1366/7 by Piero di Piuvichese Brancacci. The chapel passed to Piero’s nephew, Felice Brancacci, who some time between 1423 and 1425 commissioned the painter Masolino to decorate the walls with a series of frescoes from the life of Saint Peter. Peter was the name-saint of the founder, and the patron saint of the Brancacci family, but the choice also reflected support for the Roman papacy during the Great Schism.

At some point Masolino was joined by another artist, the eighteen years younger Masaccio. Masolino eventually left, either for Hungary in 1425 or for Rome in 1427, leaving the completion of the chapel to Masaccio. In 1427 or 28, before the chapel was completed, Masaccio joined Masolino in Rome. Only in the 1480s was the work finished, by Filippino Lippi. This painting though, is considered Masaccio’s work entirely.

Over the centuries the frescoes were greatly altered and damaged. In 1746 the upper levels were painted over by the artist Vincenzo Meucci, covering up most of Masolino’s work. Then, in 1771, the church was ruined by fire. The Brancacci Chapel, though structurally undamaged by the fire, suffered great damages to its frescoes. It was not until the years 1981-1990 that a full-scale restoration of the chapel was undertaken, restoring the frescoes to approximately their original state. The paintings had suffered some irreparable damage though, particularly the parts that were painted a secco: in this painting, the leaves on the trees were gone, while Christ’s robe had lost much of its original azure brilliance.

Masaccio is often compared to contemporaries like Donatello and Brunelleschi as a pioneer of the renaissance, particularly for his use of single-point perspective. One technique that was unique to Masaccio, however, was the use of atmospheric, or aerial perspective. Both the mountains in the background, and the figure of Peter on the left are dimmer and paler than the objects in the foreground, creating an illusion of depth. This technique was known in ancient Rome, but was considered lost until reinvented by Masaccio.

Masaccio’s use of light was also revolutionary. While earlier artists like Giotto had applied a flat, neutral light from an unidentifiable source, Masaccio’s light emanated from a specific location outside the picture, casting the figures in light and shadow. This created achiaroscuro effect, sculpting the bodies into three-dimensional shapes.

 

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Twenty Second Sunday of the Year (C)

Luke 14: 1.7-14

Year C - 22nd Sunday - Marriage - Tintoretto

 

On a Sabbath day Jesus had gone for a meal to the house of one of the leading Pharisees; and they watched him closely. He then told the guests a parable, because he had noticed how they picked the places of honour. He said this, ‘When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take your seat in the place of honour. A more distinguished person than you may have been invited, and the person who invited you both may come and say, “Give up your place to this man.” And then, to your embarrassment, you would have to go and take the lowest place. No; when you are a guest, make your way to the lowest place and sit there, so that, when your host comes, he may say, “My friend, move up higher.” In that way, everyone with you at the table will see you honoured. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the man who humbles himself will be exalted.’

Then he said to his host, ‘When you give a lunch or a dinner, do not ask your friends, brothers, relations or rich neighbours, for fear they repay your courtesy by inviting you in return. No; when you have a party, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; that they cannot pay you back means that you are fortunate, because repayment will be made to you when the virtuous rise again.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: The Wedding Feast painted by Tintoretto in 1561. Oil on canvas it is located at the Santa Maria della Salute, Venice.

Tintoretto (born Jacopo Comin, late September 1518 – May 31, 1594) was an Italian painter and a notable exponent of the Renaissance school. For his phenomenal energy in painting he was termed Il Furioso. His work is characterised by its muscular figures, dramatic gestures, and bold use of perspective in the Mannerist style, while maintaining color and light typical of the Venetian School.

In his youth, Tintoretto was also known as Jacopo Robusti as his father had defended the gates of Padua in a way that others called robust, against the imperial troops during the War of the League of Cambrai (1509–1516). 

Tintoretto’s art is characterised by daring inventiveness in both handling and composition. Most of his paintings are large-scale narratives on canvas, animated by dramatic lighting and gestures.

Tintoretto was deeply influenced by Titian; he wanted to combine Titian’s use of colour with the energised forms of Michelangelo. Tintoretto is usually described as a Mannerist, although his striving for effect is less in the cause of stylishness and more for the sake of narrative drama. He appears to have lived and worked for most of his life in Venice, only once being recorded on a visit outside of the city, to Mantua in 1580.

After Titian’s death Tintoretto, with Veronese, became one of the leading painters in the city, controlling a large workshop. He designed and worked on a number of commissions for the Doge’s Palace, and on an outstanding cycle of paintings for the Scuola di San Rocco, which are still in their original location.

Tintoretto painted this huge canvas for the refectory of the monastery of the Crociferi. The author may have portrayed his painter friends as the guests and their models as the women. His self-portrait appears in the first guest on the left, and at the hem of the robe he placed his signature and the date: 1561 – Jacomo Tentor. Note the play of perspective in the painting, which moves according to the angle from which it is viewed. The typical aspects of the master’s style are apparent: the light sources from within, the movement of the characters, the geometrical construction of the interior and the nobility of the scene as a whole.

 

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Twenty First Sunday of the Year (C)

Luke 13: 22-30

Year C - 21st Sunday - Luke - Raphael

 

Through towns and villages Jesus went teaching, making his way to Jerusalem. Someone said to him, ‘Sir, will there be only a few saved?’ He said to them, ‘Try your best to enter by the narrow door, because, I tell you, many will try to enter and will not succeed.

‘Once the master of the house has got up and locked the door, you may find yourself knocking on the door, saying, “Lord, open to us” but he will answer, “I do not know where you come from.” Then you will find yourself saying, “We once ate and drank in your company; you taught in our streets” but he will reply, “I do not know where you come from. Away from me, all you wicked men!”

‘Then there will be weeping and grinding of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves turned outside. And men from east and west, from north and south, will come to take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.

‘Yes, there are those now last who will be first, and those now first who will be last.’

The Gospel of the Lord.
Picture: St Luke painted by Raphael, oil on panel, was painted around 1510 and is located at Accademia di San Luca in Rome.

A Brief History of the Accademia di San Luca: during the 16th and 17th centuries countless artists were drawn to Rome from every part of the Italian peninsula and beyond the Alps to participate in the vast—and lucrative—papal and private building and decorative programs that were transforming the city. Others came to study and draw after antiquities and the works of modern masters. Once there, however, the artists found a city at once rich in artistic and professional opportunity and inhospitable to its most recent arrivals. With a fragmented workforce and scarce housing, it was difficult for younger practitioners to find teachers, lodging, or work. For mature artists who arrived in the Eternal City without secure patronage, it took considerable energy and determination to establish viable studios or workshops.

First mentioned in a brief from Pope Gregory XIII of 1577, a little over a decade after the conclusion of the last session of the Council of Trent, the Accademia di San Luca was intended to serve the educational, social, professional, and confraternal needs of the painters, sculptors, and architects of Rome. In reality, it took nearly two decades—as well as a move to a new church and a subsequent bull (1588) from Pope Sixtus V—for the Università dei Pittori (painters’ guild) to be dissolved and the Accademia to be established, calling its first meetings in 1593. Over the course of the next 40 years, the fledgling institution struggled to write and promulgate its statutes; to create and maintain an educational program; to find the means to support the rebuilding of the church of San Luca in the Imperial Forums; to refine the structure of its governance; and to provide the rights and services that its members required. The story of these events and transformations is not to be found in a single written source; rather, it has to be reconstructed from the fragmented documentation that has been recovered and rediscovered in the collections of the Accademia as well as in those of the Archivio di Stato di Roma, the Archivio Capitolino, and the Archivio Segreto of the Vatican, among other repositories. This task is undertaken in a related volume of essays by an international group of art historians, historians, and archivists, published by the National Gallery of Art: The Accademia Seminars: The Accademia di San Luca in Rome, c. 1590–1635.

Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino (April 6, 1483 – April 6, 1520), known as Raphael, Italian painter and architect of the High Renaissance. His work is admired for its clarity of form, ease of composition, and visual achievement of the Neoplatonic ideal of human grandeur. Together with Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, he forms the traditional trinity of great masters of that period.

Raphael was enormously productive, running an unusually large workshop and, despite his death at 37, leaving a large body of work. Many of his works are found in the Vatican Palace, where the frescoed Raphael Rooms were the central, and the largest, work of his career. The best known work is The School of Athens in the Vatican Stanza della Segnatura. After his early years in Rome much of his work was executed by his workshop from his drawings, with considerable loss of quality. He was extremely influential in his lifetime, though outside Rome his work was mostly known from his collaborative printmaking.

After his death, the influence of his great rival Michelangelo was more widespread until the 18th and 19th centuries, when Raphael’s more serene and harmonious qualities were again regarded as the highest models.

 

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Twentieth Sunday of the Year (C) – Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Luke 1: 39-56

Year C - 20th Sunday - Mary - Murillo

 

Mary set out and went as quickly as she could to a town in the hill country of Judah. She went into Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. Now as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. She gave a loud cry and said, ‘Of all women you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord? For the moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy. Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.’

And Mary said:

‘My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my spirit exults in God my saviour; because he has looked upon his lowly handmaid. Yes, from this day forward all generations will call me blessed, for the Almighty has done great things for me. Holy is his name, and his mercy reaches from age to age for those who fear him. He has shown the power of his arm, he has routed the proud of heart. He has pulled down princes from their thrones and exalted the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things, the rich sent empty away. He has come to the help of Israel his servant, mindful of his mercy – according to the promise he made to our ancestors – of his mercy to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’

Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then went back home.

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: The Blessed Virgin Mary painted by Murillo between 1655-1660. Oil on canvas, 56cm x 43cm, it is located at the Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg, Russia.

Today, Bartolomé Esteban Murillo is best known as the painter of sweetness and light, unlike his far darker, more serious contemporaries, Ribera, Zurbarán and Velázquez. Due to a less than flattering interpretation of his paintings, until recently Murillo had virtually disappeared from the art history books.

This disappearing act is all the more incredible given that in the 17th and 18th centuries, Murillo was one of the most famous artists in all of Europe, far more famous even than Velázquez. Murillo’s paintings were considered the triumph of the Spanish Baroque.

Although today Velázquez is cherished as the genius of the 17th century, in his own time Murillo’s paintings were far more widely known outside of Spain, and were considered so valuable that at one point the king actually forbade their export. The sweetness and easy accessibility of Murillo’s style was a welcome relief from the darkness and grave sobriety of artists like Zurbarán, and the inoffensive piety of Murillo’s paintings made them perfectly suited for Counter-Reformation tastes. The artist was a pious, deeply religious man, and almost the totality of Murillo’s oeuvre is religious in nature.

Murillo’s mature style evidences a syrupy sweetness most akin to the early pioneer of the Italian Baroque, Federico Barocci. By the 1650s, he had abandoned his early Caravaggesque chiaroscuro and the severity of Zurbarán in favor of unadulterated sentimentality.

It was Murillo’s trip to Madrid in 1658, however, that proved key in the evolution of the artist’s style: while at court, he had the chance to see paintings by Rubens and Italian Renaissance artists, which taught him to use warmer tones, richer colors, thicker brushstrokes and brilliant highlights.

Murillo’s style continued to evolve to the very end. In his last decade of life, Murillo took Rubens’s lesson even closer to heart: during this period, his brushwork became looser and more visible than ever before, sometimes even to the point that the canvases appear unfinished. Murillo also reduced his palette to the more sober hues of mauve, grey, brown, and carmine, making his late style more refined than in any previous period.

Murillo’s techniques were just as distinct from his Spanish contemporaries as his style. Murillo was unusual for a Spanish artist not only for his immediate and widespread fame, but for his prolific drawings. Although drawings abound for most of the top artists of the Baroque (with the notable exception of Caravaggio), very few drawings are known by the painters of the Spanish Baroque.

Murillo, on the other hand, drew prodigiously in preparation for his paintings, using his drawings to work out problems of composition, light and shade.

 

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Nineteenth Sunday of the Year (C)

Luke 12: 32-48

Year C - 19th Sunday - Luke - Guercino

 

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘There is no need to be afraid, little flock, for it has pleased your Father to give you the kingdom.

‘Sell your possessions and give alms. Get yourselves purses that do not wear out, treasure that will not fail you, in heaven where no thief can reach it and no moth destroy it. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

‘See that you are dressed for action and have your lamps lit. Be like men waiting for their master to return from the wedding feast, ready to open the door as soon as he comes and knocks. Happy those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. I tell you solemnly, he will put on an apron, sit them down at table and wait on them. It may be in the second watch he comes, or in the third, but happy those servants if he finds them ready. You may be quite sure of this, that if the householder had known at what hour the burglar would come, he would not have let anyone break through the wall of his house. You too must stand ready, because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.’

Peter said, ‘Lord, do you mean this parable for us, or for everyone?’ The Lord replied, ‘What sort of steward, then, is faithful and wise enough for the master to place him over his household to give them their allowance of food at the proper time? Happy that servant if his master’s arrival finds him at this employment. I tell you truly, he will place him over everything he owns. But as for the servant who says to himself, “My master is taking his time coming”, and sets about beating the menservants and the maids, and eating and drinking and getting drunk, his master will come on a day he does not expect and at an hour he does not know. The master will cut him off and send him to the same fate as the unfaithful.

‘The servant who knows what his master wants, but has not even started to carry out those wishes, will receive very many strokes of the lash. The one who did not know, but deserves to be beaten for what he has done, will receive fewer strokes. When a man has had a great deal given him, a great deal will be demanded of him; when a man has had a great deal given him on trust, even more will be expected of him.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Painting: St. Luke, oil on canvas, was painted 1652-53 by Guercino, and is now located at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City. 

Giovanni Francesco Barbieri (February 8, 1591 – December 22, 1666), best known as Guercino, was an Italian Baroque painter and draftsman from the region of Emilia, and active in Rome and Bologna. The vigorous naturalism of his early manner is in contrast to the classical equilibrium of his later works. His many drawings are noted for their luminosity and lively style.

He was born in Cento, a village between Bologna and Ferrara. At an early age he acquired the nickname Guercino (Italian for ‘squinter’) because he was cross-eyed. Mainly self-taught, at the age of 16, he worked as apprentice in the shop of Benedetto Gennari, a painter of the Bolognese School. By 1615, he moved to Bologna, where his work was praised by Ludovico Carracci. Guercino painted two large canvases, Elijah Fed by Ravens and Samson Seized by Philistines, for Cardinal Serra, a Papal Legate to Ferrara. These paintings have a stark naturalist Caravaggesque style, although it is unlikely that Guercino saw any of the Caravaggios first-hand.

The Arcadian Shepherds (Et in Arcadia ego) was painted in 1618 at the same time of The Flaying of Marsyas by Apollo in Palazzo Pitti. Its dramatic composition is typical of Guercino’s early works, which are often tumultuous. He often claimed that his early style was influenced by a canvas of Ludovico Carracci that he saw in the Capuchin church in Cento. Some of his later works are closer to the style of his contemporary Guido Reni, and are painted with more lightness and clearness.

He was recommended by Marchese Enzo Bentivoglio to the Bolognese Ludovisi Pope, Pope Gregory XV. The years he spent in Rome, 1621–23, were very productive. From this period are his frescoes Aurora at the casino of the Villa Ludovisi, the ceiling in San Crisogono (1622) of San Chrysogonus in Glory, the portrait of Pope Gregory XV (now in the Getty Museum, and The Burial of Saint Petronilla or St. Petronilla Altarpiece for the Vatican (now in the Museo Capitolini), which is considered his masterpiece.

After the death of Gregory XV, Guercino returned to his hometown. In 1626, he began his frescoes in the Duomo of Piacenza. The details of his career after 1629 are well documented in the account book, the Libro dei Conti di Casa Barbieri, that Guercino and his brother Paolo Antonio Barbieri kept updated, and which has been preserved. Between 1618 and 1631, Giovanni Battista Pasqualini produced 67 engravings that document the early production of Guercino, which is not included in the Libro dei Conti. In 1642, following the death of Guido Reni, Guercino moved his busy workshop to Bologna and become the city’s principal painter. In 1655, the Franciscan Order of Reggio paid him 300 ducats for the altarpiece of Saint Luke Displaying a Painting of the Madonna and Child (now in Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City). The Corsini also paid him 300 ducats for the Flagellation of Christ painted in 1657.

Guercino was remarkable for the extreme rapidity of his executions: he completed no fewer than 106 large altarpieces for churches, and his other paintings amount to about 144. He was also a prolific draftsman. His production includes many drawings, usually in ink, washed ink, or red chalk. Most of them were made as preparatory studies for his paintings, but he also drew landscapes, genre subjects, and caricatures for his own enjoyment. Guercino’s drawings are known for their fluent style in which “rapid, calligraphic pen strokes combined with dots, dashes, and parallel hatching lines describe the forms”.

  

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Eighteenth Sunday of the Year (C)

Luke 12: 13-21

Year C - 18th Sunday - Rich fool - Rembrandt

 

A man in the crowd said to Jesus, ‘Master, tell my brother to give me a share of our inheritance.’ ‘My friend,’ he replied, ‘who appointed me your judge, or the arbitrator of your claims?’ Then he said to them, ‘Watch, and be on your guard against avarice of any kind, for a man’s life is not made secure by what he owns, even when he has more than he needs.’

Then he told them a parable: ‘There was once a rich man who, having had a good harvest from his land, thought to himself, “What am I to do? I have not enough room to store my crops.” Then he said, “This is what I will do; I will pull down my barns and build bigger ones, and store all my grain and my goods in them, and I will say to my soul: My soul, you have plenty of good things laid by for many years to come; take things easy, eat, drink, have a good time.” But God said to him, “Fool! This very night the demand will be made for your soul; and this hoard of yours, whose will it be then?” So it is when a man stores up treasure for himself in place of making himself rich in the sight of God.’        

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: The parable of the rich fool painted by Rembrandt van Rijn, 1627. Oil on oak panel, 32cm x 43cm, it is located at the Gemäldegalerie, Berlin.

Rembrandt illustrates the parable of the rich fool, as told in Luke 12. At night a rich man studies one of his golden coins. In the early 17th century a stack of books was often used as a symbol of vanity. The Hebrew letters suggest a biblical setting. Having achieved youthful success as a painter, painting ‘the parable of the rich fool’ when only 21. Rembrandt, born in Leiden on July 15, 1606, was the son of a miller. Despite the fact that he came from a family of relatively modest means, his parents took great care with his education. Rembrandt began his studies at the Latin School, and at the age of 14 he was enrolled at the University of Leiden. The program did not interest him, and he soon left to study art – first with a local master, Jacob van Swanenburch, and then, in Amsterdam, with Pieter Lastman, known for his historical paintings. After six months, having mastered everything he had been taught, Rembrandt returned to Leiden, where he was soon so highly regarded that although barely 22 years old, he took his first pupils. One of his students was the famous artist Gerrit Dou.

Rembrandt moved to Amsterdam in 1631; his marriage in 1634 to Saskia van Uylenburgh, the cousin of a successful art dealer, enhanced his career, bringing him in contact with wealthy patrons who eagerly commissioned portraits. An exceptionally fine example from this period is the Portrait of Nicolaes Ruts (1631, Frick Collection, New York City). In addition, Rembrandt’s mythological and religious works were much in demand, and he painted numerous dramatic masterpieces such as The Blinding of Samson (1636, Städelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt). Because of his renown as a teacher, his studio was filled with pupils, some of whom (such as Carel Fabritius) were already trained artists. In the 20th century, scholars have reattributed a number of his paintings to his associates; attributing and identifying Rembrandt’s works is an active area of art scholarship.

Rembrandt produced many of his works in this fashionable town house in Amsterdam (above left). Purchased by the artist in 1639, when he was 33, it proved to be the scene of personal tragedy: his wife and three of his children died here. The house became a financial burden, and in 1660 Rembrandt was forced to move. A new owner added the upper story and roof, giving it the appearance it still bears. In 1911 the Dutch movement made it a Rembrandt museum -preserving it both as a shrine of a revered national artist and as an imposing example of 17th Century Dutch architecture.

 

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Seventeenth Sunday of the Year (C)

Luke 11: 1-13

Year C - 17th Sunday - Neighbour - Hunt 1

 

Once Jesus was in a certain place praying, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.’ He said to them, ‘Say this when you pray:

“Father, may your name be held holy, your kingdom come; give us each day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins,   for we ourselves forgive each one who is in debt to us. And do not put us to the test.” ‘

He also said to them, ‘Suppose one of you has a friend and goes to him in the middle of the night to say, “My friend, lend me three loaves, because a friend of mine on his travels has just arrived at my house and I have nothing to offer him”; and the man answers from inside the house, “Do not bother me. The door is bolted now, and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up to give it to you.” I tell you, if the man does not get up and give it him for friendship’s sake, persistence will be enough to make him get up and give his friend all he wants.

‘So I say to you: Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you. For the one who asks always receives; the one who searches always finds; the one who knocks will always have the door opened to him. What father among you would hand his son a stone when he asked for bread? Or hand him a snake instead of a fish? Or hand him a scorpion if he asked for an egg? If you then, who are evil, know how to give your children what is good, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!       

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: The parable of the friend at night by William Holman Hunt in 1895. Oil on canvas, 37cm x 52cm, it is located at the National Museum of Victoria, Australia.

William Holman Hunt (2 April 1827 – 7 September 1910) was an English painter and one of the founders of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. His paintings were notable for their great attention to detail, vivid colour, and elaborate symbolism. These features were influenced by the writings of John Ruskin and Thomas Carlyle, according to whom the world itself should be read as a system of visual signs. For Hunt it was the duty of the artist to reveal the correspondence between sign and fact. Of all the members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, Hunt remained most true to their ideals throughout his career. He was always keen to maximize the popular appeal and public visibility of his works.

After eventually entering the Royal Academy art schools, having initially been rejected, Hunt rebelled against the influence of its founder Sir Joshua Reynolds. He formed the Pre-Raphaelite movement in 1848, after meeting the poet and artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Along with John Everett Millais they sought to revitalise art by emphasising the detailed observation of the natural world in a spirit of quasi-religious devotion to truth. This religious approach was influenced by the spiritual qualities of medieval art, in opposition to the alleged rationalism of the Renaissance embodied by Raphael.

Hunt’s works were not initially successful, and were widely attacked in the art press for their alleged clumsiness and ugliness. He achieved some early note for his intensely naturalistic scenes of modern rural and urban life, such as The Hireling Shepherd and The Awakening Conscience. However, it was with his religious paintings that he became famous, initially The Light of the World (1851–1853), now in the chapel at Keble College, Oxford; a later version (1900) toured the world and now has its home in St Paul’s Cathedral.

In the mid-1850s Hunt travelled to the Holy Land in search of accurate topographical and ethnographical material for further religious works, and to “use my powers to make more tangible Jesus Christ’s history and teaching”; there he painted The ScapegoatThe Finding of the Saviour in the Temple and The Shadow of Death, along with many landscapes of the region. He eventually built his own house in Jerusalem.

 

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Sixteenth Sunday of the Year (C)

Luke 10: 38-42

Year C - 16th Sunday - Martha - Tintoretto

 

Jesus came to a village, and a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. She had a sister called Mary, who sat down at the Lord’s feet and listened to him speaking. Now Martha who was distracted with all the serving said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister is leaving me to do the serving all by myself? Please tell her to help me.’ But the Lord answered: ‘Martha, Martha,’ he said, ‘you worry and fret about so many things, and yet few are needed, indeed only one. It is Mary who has chosen the better part; it is not to be taken from her.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Christ with Mary and Martha, painted by Tintoretto. Painted mid 16th century, oil on canvas, 197cm x 129cm, it is located in the Alte Pinakothek, Munich.

Tintoretto, born Jacopo Comin in late September, 1518 – May 31, 1594, was an Italian painter and a notable exponent of the Renaissance school. For his phenomenal energy in painting he was termed Il Furioso. His work is characterised by its figures, dramatic gestures, and bold use of perspective in the Mannerist style, while maintaining colour and light typical of the Venetian School.

He studied from models of Michelangelo’s Dawn, Noon, Twilight and Night, and became expert in modelling in wax and clay method (practised likewise by Titian) which afterwards stood him in good stead in working out the arrangement of his pictures.

Between 1565 and 1567, and again from 1575 to 1588, Tintoretto produced a large number of paintings for the walls and ceilings of the Scuola Grande di San Rocco. The building, begun in 1525, was very deficient in light and thus ill-suited for any great scheme of pictorial adornment. The painting of its interior was commenced in 1560.

In that year five principal painters, including Tintoretto and Paolo Veronese, were invited to send in trial-designs for the centre-piece in the smaller hall named Sala dell’Albergo, the subject being S. Rocco received into Heaven. Tintoretto produced not a sketch but a picture, and got it inserted into its oval. The competitors remonstrated, not unnaturally; but the artist, who knew how to play his own game, made a free gift of the picture to the saint, and, as a bylaw of the foundation prohibited the rejection of any gift, it was retained in situ, Tintoretto furnishing gratis the other decorations of the same ceiling.

The crowning production of Tintoretto’s life, the last picture of any considerable importance which he executed, was the vast Paradise, in size 23 x 9 metres, reputed to be the largest painting ever done upon canvas.

 

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Fifteenth Sunday of the Year (C)

Luke 10: 25-37

Year C - 15th Sunday - Samaritan - Rembrandt

 

There was a lawyer who, to disconcert Jesus, stood up and said to him, ‘Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ He said to him, ‘What is written in the Law? What do you read there?’ He replied, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.’ ‘You have answered right,’ said Jesus. ‘Do this and life is yours.’

But the man was anxious to justify himself and said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbour?’ Jesus replied, ‘A man was once on his way down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell into the hands of brigands; they took all he had, beat him and then made off, leaving him half dead. Now a priest happened to be travelling down the same road, but when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. In the same way a Levite who came to the place saw him, and passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan traveller who came upon him was moved with compassion when he saw him. He went up and bandaged his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them. He then lifted him on to his own mount, carried him to the inn and looked after him. Next day, he took out two denarii and handed them to the innkeeper. “Look after him,” he said, “and on my way back I will make good any extra expense you have.” Which of these three, do you think, proved himself a neighbour to the man who fell into the brigands’ hands?’ ‘The one who took pity on him,’ he replied. Jesus said to him, ‘Go, and do the same yourself. ‘

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: The Good Samaritan, painted by Rembrandt, 1633. Oil on canvas, 69cm x 58cm, located in the Wallace Collection, National Museum, London.

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, 15 July 1606 – 4 October 1669, was a Dutch painter and etcher. He is generally considered one of the greatest painters and printmakers in European art and the most important in Dutch history. 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.

Having achieved youthful success as a portrait painter, Rembrandt’s later years were marked by personal tragedy and financial hardships. Yet his etchings and paintings were popular throughout his lifetime, his reputation as an artist remained high, and for twenty years he taught many important Dutch painters.Rembrandt’s greatest creative triumphs are exemplified most notably in his portraits of his contemporaries, self-portraits and illustrations of scenes from the Bible. His self-portraits form a unique and intimate biography, in which the artist surveyed himself without vanity and with the utmost sincerity.

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.”

During his early years in Amsterdam (1632–1636), Rembrandt began to paint dramatic biblical and mythological scenes in high contrast and of large format, seeking to emulate the baroque style of Rubens. With the occasional help of assistants in Uylenburgh’s workshop, he painted numerous portrait commissions both small and large.

By the late 1630s Rembrandt had produced a few paintings and many etchings of landscapes. Often these landscapes highlighted natural drama, featuring uprooted trees and ominous skies. From 1640 his work became less exuberant and more sober in tone, possibly reflecting personal tragedy. Biblical scenes were now derived more often from the New Testament than the Old Testament, as had been the case before.

 

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Fourteenth Sunday of the Year (C)

Luke 10: 1-12. 17-20

Year C - 14th Sunday - Apostles - Poussin

 

The Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them out ahead of him, in pairs, to all the towns and places he himself was to visit. He said to them, ‘The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest. Start off now, but remember, I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Carry no purse, no haversack, no sandals. Salute no one on the road. Whatever house you go into, let your first words be, “Peace to this house!” And if a man of peace lives there, your peace will go and rest on him; if not, it will come back to you. Stay in the same house, taking what food and drink they have to offer, for the labourer deserves his wages; do not move from house to house. Whenever you go into a town where they make you welcome, eat what is set before you. Cure those in it who are sick, and say, “The kingdom of God is very near to you.” But whenever you enter a town and they do not make you welcome, go out into its streets and say, “We wipe off the very dust of your town that clings to our feet, and leave it with you. Yet be sure of this: the kingdom of God is very near.” I tell you, on that day it will not go as hard with Sodom as with that town.’

The seventy-two came back rejoicing. ‘Lord,’ they said, ‘even the devils submit to us when we use your name.’ He said to them, ‘I watched Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Yes, I have given you power to tread underfoot serpents and scorpions and the whole strength of the enemy; nothing shall ever hurt you. Yet do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you; rejoice rather that your names are written in heaven.

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Christ sends out the Apostles painted by Nicolas Poussin, 1636-1640. Oil on canvas, 96cm x 122cm, it is located in the Kimbell Art Museum, Texas.

Nicolas Poussin, June 1594 – 19 November 1665, was the leading painter of the classical French Baroque style, although he spent most of his working life in Rome. His work is characterised by clarity, logic, and order, and favours line over colour.

He worked in Rome for a circle of leading collectors from there and elsewhere, except for a short period when Cardinal Richelieu ordered him back to France to serve as First Painter to the King. Most of his works are history paintings of religious or mythological subjects that very often have a large landscape element.

During the late 1620s and 1630s, he experimented and formulated his own style. He studied the Antique as well as works such as Titian’s Bacchanals (The Bacchanal of the AndriansBacchus and Ariadne, and The Worship of Venus) at the Casino Ludovisi and the paintings of Domenichino and Guido Reni. At the same time, the Roman Baroque was emerging: in the 1620s Cortona was producing his early Baroque paintings for the Sacchetti family; Bernini, having established his reputation in sculpture, was designing the great bronze baldachin in St. Peter’s; and an ingenious architectural imagination was emerging in works by Borromini.

At the time the papacy was Rome’s foremost patron of the arts. Poussin’s Martyrdom of St. Erasmus for St. Peter’s was Poussin’s only papal commission, secured for him by Cardinal Barberini, the papal nephew, and Poussin was not asked again to contribute major altarpieces or paint large scale decorations for a pope. His subsequent career depended on private patronage. Apart from Cardinal Francesco Barberini, his first patrons included Cardinal Luigi Omodei, for whom he produced the Triumphs of Flora (c 1630–32, Louvre); Cardinal de Richelieu, who commissioned various Bacchanals; Vincenzo Giustiniani, for whom he painted the Massacre of the Innocents (uncertain early date, Museé Condé, Chantilly); Cassiano dal Pozzo who became the owner of the first series of the Seven Sacraments (late 1630s, Belvoir Castle); and Paul Fréart de Chantelou, with whom Poussin, at the call of Sublet de Noyers, returned to France in 1640.

Throughout his life Poussin stood apart from the popular tendency toward the decorative in French art of his time. In Poussin’s works a survival of the impulses of the Renaissance is coupled with conscious reference to the art of classical antiquity as the standard of excellence. His goal was clarity of expression achieved by disegno or ‘nobility of design’ in preference to colore or colour. Perhaps his concern with disegno can best be seen in the line engraved copies of his works; among the many who reproduced his paintings, some of the most successful are Audran, Claudine Stella, Picart and Pesne.

Poussin is an important figure in the development of landscape painting. In his early paintings the landscape usually forms a graceful background for a group of figures; later he progressed to the painting of landscape for its own sake, although the figure is never entirely absent.

 

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Thirteenth Sunday of the Year (C)

Luke 9: 51-62

Year C - 13th Sunday - Jerusalem - Edwin

 

As the time drew near for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely took the road for Jerusalem and sent messengers ahead of him. These set out, and they went into a Samaritan village to make preparations for him, but the people would not receive him because he was making for Jerusalem. Seeing this, the disciples James and John said, ‘Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to burn them up?’ But he turned and rebuked them, and they went off to another village.

As they travelled along they met a man on the road who said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ Jesus answered, ‘Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’

Another to whom he said, ‘Follow me,’ replied, ‘Let me go and bury my father first.’ But he answered, ‘Leave the dead to bury their dead; your duty is to go and spread the news of the kingdom of God.’

Another said, ‘I will follow you, sir, but first let me go and say good-bye to my people at home.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Once the hand is laid on the plough, no one who looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’

 The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Road to Jerusalem painted by Frederic Edwin Church, 1870. Located at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas. Oil on Canvas.

Frederic Edwin Church (May 4, 1826 – April 7, 1900) was an American landscape painter born in Hartford, Connecticut. He was a central figure in the Hudson River School of American landscape painters, perhaps best known for painting large panoramic landscapes, often depicting mountains, waterfalls, and sunsets, but also sometimes depicting dramatic natural phenomena that he saw during his travels to the Arctic and Central and South America. Church’s paintings put an emphasis on light and a romantic respect for natural detail. In his later years, Church painted classical Mediterranean and Middle Eastern scenes and cityscapes.

Church, used extraordinary detail, romanticism, and luminism in his paintings. Romanticism was prominent in Britain and France in the early 1800s as a counter-movement to the Enlightenment virtues of order and logic. Artists of the Romantic period often depicted nature in idealized scenes that depicted the richness and beauty of nature, sometimes also with emphasis on the grand scale of nature.

This tradition carries on in the works of Frederic Church, who idealises an uninterrupted nature, highlighted by creating excruciatingly detailed art. The emphasis on nature is encouraged by the low horizontal lines, and preponderance of sky to enhance the wilderness; humanity, if it is represented, is depicted as small in comparison with the greater natural reality. The technical skill comes in the form of luminism, a Hudson River School innovation particularly present in Church’s works. Luminism is also cited as encompassing several technical aspects, which can be seen in Church’s works. One example is the attempt to “hide brushstrokes,” which makes the scene seem more realistic and lessen the artist’s presence in the work. Most importantly is the emphasis on light (hence luminism) in these scenes. The several sources of light create contrast in the pictures that highlights the beauty and detailed imagery in the painting.

Americans soon began to consider Church the “Michelangelo of Landscape Art” and he became one of the most renowned American artists. Part of Church’s appeal was the fact that he had resisted the American artist “norm” of the day by refusing to go to Europe, as most artists did to train, instead focusing his efforts and talents on South America. This was a conscious decision on Church’s part to gain notoriety. Church’s art was extremely lucrative, he was reported to be worth approximately half-a-million dollars at his death, about 12.5 million dollars today. Americans were enamored with Church’s all-American appeal and brilliant body of work. Church exhibited his art at the American Art Union, the Boston Art Club, and (most impressively for a young artist) the National Academy of Design. He joined his contemporaries in the Hudson River School: Thomas ColeAsher Brown DurandJohn F. Kensett, and Jasper F. Cropsey.

 

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Twelveth Sunday of the Year (C)

Luke 9: 18-24

Year C - 12th Sunday - Peter calling - Caravaggio

 

One day when Jesus was praying alone in the presence of his disciples he put this question to them, ‘Who do the crowds say I am?’ And they answered, ‘John the Baptist; others Elijah; and others say one of the ancient prophets come back to life.’ ‘But you,’ he said, ‘who do you say I am?’ It was Peter who spoke up. ‘The Christ of God,’ he said. But he gave them strict orders not to tell anyone anything about this.

‘The Son of Man’, he said, ‘is destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes and to be put to death, and to be raised up on the third day.’

Then to all he said, ‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross every day and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, that man will save it.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: The Calling of Saints Peter is a painting by the Italian Baroque master Caravaggio. Oil on canvas, painted approx. 1603.

The painting shows a young, beardless Christ, leading the two much older-looking brothers, Peter and Andrew. The more prominent of the brothers, presumably Peter, is holding a fish in his right hand. The edge of the canvas is rather damaged, but the central panel is in good condition. The presence of “incisions” into the ground of the canvas marking out St. Peter’s ear and the eyes of Christ are typical of Caravaggio’s technique. The painting appears to date from the height of Caravaggio’s Roman period, c. 1603–06.

The work was purchased by Charles I, an avid art collector, in 1637. Sold during the Commonwealth, it was re-acquired by Charles II after the Restoration. It has since remained in royal possession, and is today owned by Queen Elizabeth II. Kept in Hampton Court Palace, it was long believed to be a virtually worthless copy of a lost original, but after six years of restoration and examination the Royal Collection declared on 10 November 2006, that this was, in fact, an authentic Caravaggio. The verdict has been corroborated by external experts, and the painting is now probably worth more than £50 million. The Queen, however, may not sell paintings from the Royal Collection as she holds the collection in trust for the nation.

After a 6-year cleaning project, it went on display as part of a small exhibition of Caravaggio paintings at the Termini Art Gallery in Rome‘s Termini Station from 22 November to 31 January 2006. It then moved to an exhibition (from March 2007) of Italian Baroque and Renaissance art at the Queen’s GalleryBuckingham Palace. In 2015 it was put on display in the Cumberland Gallery in Hampton Court Palace.

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (29 September 1571 in Milan – 18 July 1610) was an Italian painter active in RomeNaplesMalta, and Sicily between 1592 and 1610. His paintings, which combine a realistic observation of the human state, both physical and emotional, with a dramatic use of lighting, had a formative influence on Baroque painting.

Caravaggio trained as a painter in Milan under Simone Peterzano who had himself trained under Titian. In his twenties Caravaggio moved to Rome where there was a demand for paintings to fill the many huge new churches and palazzos being built at the time. It was also a period when the Church was searching for a stylistic alternative to Mannerism in religious art that was tasked to counter the threat of Protestantism. Caravaggio’s innovation was a radical naturalism that combined close physical observation with a dramatic, even theatrical, use of chiaroscuro which came to be known as tenebrism (the shift from light to dark with little intermediate value).

 

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Eleventh Sunday of the Year (C)

Luke 7:36 – 8:3

Year C - 11th Sunday - Mary - Scorel

 

One of the Pharisees invited Jesus to a meal. When he arrived at the Pharisee’s house and took his place at table, a woman came in, who had a bad name in the town. She had heard he was dining with the Pharisee and had brought with her an alabaster jar of ointment. She waited behind him at his feet, weeping, and her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them away with her hair; then she covered his feet with kisses and anointed them with the ointment.

When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet, he would know who this woman is that is touching him and what a bad name she has.’ Then Jesus took him up and said, ‘Simon, I have something to say to you.’ ‘Speak, Master,’ was the reply. ‘There was once a creditor who had two men in his debt; one owed him five hundred denarii, the other fifty. They were unable to pay, so he pardoned them both. Which of them will love him more?’ ‘The one who was pardoned more, I suppose,’ answered Simon. Jesus said, ‘You are right.’

Then he turned to the woman. ‘Simon,’ he said, ‘you see this woman? I came into your house, and you poured no water over my feet, but she has poured out her tears over my feet and wiped them away with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but she has been covering my feet with kisses ever since I came in. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. For this reason I tell you that her sins, her many sins, must have been forgiven her, or she would not have shown such great love. It is the man who is forgiven little who shows little love.’ Then he said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’ Those who were with him at table began to say to themselves, ‘Who is this man, that he even forgives sins?’ But he said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace.’

Now after this he made his way through towns and villages, preaching, and proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom of God. With him went the Twelve, as well as certain women who had been cured of evil spirits and ailments: Mary surnamed the Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, Joanna the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, Susanna, and several others who provided for them out of their own resources. 

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Mary Magdalene painted by Jan van Scorel (1495-1552). Oil on oak panel, dimensions 67cm x 76cm, dated 1530. The painting is located at the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

Jan van Scorel was a Dutch painter, who played a leading role in introducing aspects of Italian Renaissance painting into Dutch and Flemish Renaissance painting. Van Scorel was one of the early painters of the Romanist style who had spent a number of years in Italy, where he thoroughly absorbed the Italian style of painting. His trip to Italy coincided with the brief reign of the only Dutch pope in history, Adrian VI in 1522-23. The pope made him a court painter and superintendent of his collection of antiquities. His stay in Italy lasted from 1518 to 1524. He also visited NurembergVenice and Jerusalem. Venetian art had an important impact on the development of his style.

He differed from most Romanists in that he was a native of the northern Netherlands and not of Flanders and that he remained most of his life in the northern Netherlands. He settled permanently in Utrecht in 1530 and established a large workshop on the Italian model. The workshop mainly produced altarpieces, many of which were destroyed in the Reformation iconoclasm in the years just after his death. He also held clerical appointments.

Van Scorel began traveling through Europe in his early twenties after visiting Utrecht. In 1518-22 he is registered in Venice, and along the way, heading to Nuremberg and then on via Austria over the Alps. In the village of Obervellach in 1520, he completed his first representative work, the “Sippenaltar” in St. Martin’s church. Giorgione was a considerable influence on van Scorel during his tenure in Venice. After leaving Venice, van Scorel was in Rome from 1522 to 1524 and made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. His experiences in Jerusalem are depicted in many of his later works. Perhaps van Scorel’s example encouraged van Heemskerck to travel to Rome himself later.

In 1521, van Scorel returned to Rome where he met the Dutch pope Pope Adrian VI, who he may have met earlier in Utrecht. The pope appointed him painter to the Vatican. The pope sat for a portrait by van Scorel. Van Scorel underwent the influence of Michelangelo and Raphael and succeeded Raphael as Keeper of the Belvedere.

 

 

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Tenth Sunday of the Year (C)

Luke 7:11-17

Year C - 10th Sunday - Nain - Cranach

 

Jesus went to a town called Nain, accompanied by his disciples and a great number of people. When he was near the gate of the town it happened that a dead man was being carried out for burial, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a considerable number of the townspeople were with her. When the Lord saw her he felt sorry for her. ‘Do not cry,’ he said. Then he went up and put his hand on the bier and the bearers stood still, and he said, ‘Young man, I tell you to get up.’ And the dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Everyone was filled with awe and praised God saying, ‘A great prophet has appeared among us; God has visited his people.’ And this opinion of him spread throughout Judaea and all over the countryside. 

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Resurrection of the Widow’s son from Nain, altar panel by Lucas Cranach the Younger, painted 1569, now located in the Stadtkirche, Wittenberg, Germany.

Lucas Cranach the Younger (4 October 1515 – 25 January 1586) was a German Renaissance painter and portraitist, also known as the son of Lucas Cranach the Elder.

Lucas Cranach the Younger was born in Wittenberg on 4 October 1515 as the youngest son of Lucas Cranach the Elder and Barbara Brengebier. He began his career as an apprentice in his father’s workshop alongside his brother Hans. Henceforth, his own reputation and fame grew. After his father’s death, he assumed control over the workshop.

He is known for portraits and simple versions of allegorical and mythical scenes. The style of his paintings can be so similar to those of his father that there have been some difficulties in attribution of their works. Prominent scholars seem to, nowadays, tend toward the opinion of honest description of his talent as, stoic and undeveloped, at most.

His works include many religious paintings, which can be found across Germany and Russia. These include painting from the Old and New Testaments.

 

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Ninth Sunday of the Year (C) – Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi)

Luke 9:11-17

Year C - 9th Sunday Corpus Christi - feeding 5000 - Bernardo

 

Jesus made the crowds welcome and talked to them about the kingdom of God; and he cured those who were in need of healing.

It was late afternoon when the Twelve came to him and said, ‘Send the people away, and they can go to the villages and farms round about to find lodging and food; for we are in a lonely place here.’ He replied, ‘Give them something to eat yourselves.’ But they said, ‘We have no more than five loaves and two fish, unless we are to go ourselves and buy food for all these people.’ For there were about five thousand men. But he said to his disciples, ‘Get them to sit down in parties of  about fifty.’ They did so and made them all sit down. Then he took the five loaves and the two fish, raised his eyes to heaven, and said the blessing over them; then he broke them and handed them to his disciples to distribute among the crowd. They all ate as much as they wanted, and when the scraps remaining were collected they filled twelve baskets.            

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Jesus feeding a crowd with 5 loaves of bread and two fish by Bernardo Strozzi. Painted early 1600s, oil on canvas, located in the Pushkin Museum, Moscow, Russia.

Bernardo Strozzi (c. 1581 – August 2, 1644) was a prominent and prolific Italian Baroque painter born and active mainly in Genoa, and also active in Venice.

Strozzi was born in Genoa. He was probably not related to the Florentine Strozzi family.

In 1598, at the age of 17, he joined a Capuchin monastery, a reform branch of the Franciscan order. When his father died c. 1608, he left the order to care for his mother, earning their living with his paintings, which were often influenced by Franciscan teachings, for example his Adoration of the Shepherds (c. 1615). In 1625, he was charged with illegally practicing as a painter. When his mother died c. 1630, Bernardo was pressured in court by the Capuchins to re-enter the order. He was briefly imprisoned in Genoa, and upon release fled to Venice to avoid confinement in a monastery in 1631. He became nicknamed all his life as il prete Genovese (the Genoa priest).

Early paintings, such as The Ecstasy of St Francis show the dark emotionalism of Caravaggio. But by the second decade of the 17th century, while working in Venice, Strozzi had synthesized a personal style which fused painterly influences of the North (including Rubensand Veronese) with a monumental, realistic starkness. For example, in the painting The Incredulity of Thomas, the background is muted, yet Jesus’ face, haloed and his outline, misty, in a style atypical of Caravaggio. Never as dark as the Caravaggisti, Venice infused his painting with a gentler edge, a style more acceptable to the local patronage, and one derived from his precursors in Venice, Jan Lys (died 1629) and Domenico Fetti (died 1626), who had also fused the influence of Caravaggio into Venetian art. Examples of this style can be found in his Parable of the Wedding Guests (1630),Christ’s Charge to St. Peter (1630), Saint Lawrence distributing Alms at San Nicolò da Tolentino, and a Personification of Fame(1635-6). He was also likely influenced by Velázquez (who visited Genoa in 1629-30).

 After a commission to paint Claudio Monteverdi his fame grew, and his portrait paintings included many of the leading Venetians. His pupils and other painters strongly influenced by him included Giovanni Andrea de Ferrari (1598–1669), Giovanni Bernardo Carbone, Valerio Castello, Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione, and Ermanno Stroifti.

 

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Eighth Sunday of the Year (C) – Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

John 16:12-15

Year C - 8th Sunday - Trinity - Tiepolo

 

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘I still have many things to say to you but they would be too much for you now. But when the Spirit of truth comes he will lead you to the complete truth, since he will not be speaking as from himself but will say only what he has learnt; and he will tell you of the things to come. He will glorify me, since all he tells you will be taken from what is mine.

Everything the Father has is mine; that is why I said: All he tells you will be taken from what is mine.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Pope St Clement Adoring the Trinity painted by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, between 1737 & 1738. Oil on canvas, 488 x 256 cm, it resides at the Alte Pinakothek, Munich.

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, born 5 March 1696, was an Italian painter and printmaker from the Republic of Venice. He was prolific, and worked not only in Italy, but also in Germany and Spain.

Giovan Battista Tiepolo, together with Giambattista PittoniCanalettoGiovan Battista PiazzettaGiuseppe Maria Crespi and Francesco Guardi forms the traditional great Old Masters of that period.

Successful from the beginning of his career, he has been described by Michael Levey as “the greatest decorative painter of eighteenth-century Europe, as well as its most able craftsman.”

Born in Venice, he was the youngest of six children of Domenico and Orsetta Tiepolo. In 1710 he became a pupil of Gregorio Lazzarini, a successful painter with an eclectic style. He was, though, at least equally strongly influenced by his study of the works of other contemporary artists such as Sebastiano Ricci and Giovanni Battista Piazzetta and those of his Venetian predecessors.

Some major commissions came from the patrician Dolfin family. Dioniso Dolfin, the Archbishop of Udine in Friuli employed him to decorate a chapel in the cathedral at Udine, and then to paint another cycle depicting episodes from the lives of Abraham and his descendants from the book of Genesis at his archiepiscopal palace (the “Arcivescovado”) (completed 1726–1728). Despite their elevated subject matter, they are bright in colour, and light-hearted in mood: Michael Levey describes the paintings at the palace as “a shimmering set of tableaux, full of wit and elegance.  Tiepolo used a much cooler palette than previous Venetian painters, in order to create a convincing effect of daylight. His first masterpieces in Venice were a cycle of ten enormous canvases painted to decorate a large reception room of Ca’ Dolfin on the Grand Canal of Venice (ca. 1726–1729), depicting battles and triumphs from the history of ancient Rome.

These early masterpieces, innovative amongst Venetian frescoes for their luminosity, brought him many commissions. He painted canvases for churches such as that of Verolanuova (1735–1740), for the Scuola dei Carmini (1740–1747), and the Chiesa degli Scalzi (1743–1744; now destroyed) in Cannaregio, a ceiling for the Palazzi Archinto and Casati-Dugnani in Milan (1731), the Colleoni Chapel in Bergamo (1732–1733), a ceiling for the Gesuati (Santa Maria del Rosario) in Venice of St. Dominic Instituting the Rosary (1737–1739), Palazzo Clerici, Milan (1740), decorations for Villa Cordellini at Montecchio Maggiore (1743–1744) and for the ballroom of the Palazzo Labia in Venice (now a television studio), showing the Story of Cleopatra (1745–1750).

By 1750, Tiepolo’s reputation was firmly established throughout Europe.

 

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Seventh Sunday of the Year (C) – Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday

John 20:19-23

Year C - 7th Sunday - Pentecost - Restout

 

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 by Jean II Restout , painted 1732, oil on canvas. The painting is 465 x 778cm and is located in the Musée du Louvre, Paris.

Jean Restout came of a family of painters and did many religious and mythological pictures, and worked for a time for Frederick the Great. This enormous canvas, a masterpiece of 18th-century religious painting, once adorned the refectory (dining room) of the Abbey of Saint-Denis outside Paris. With its exaggerated view from below and the extreme perspective of the rows of columns to the left and right, the work is reminiscent of Baroque ceiling paintings.

Jean II Restout (26 March 1692 – 1 January 1768) was a French painter, whose late baroque classicism rendered his altarpieces, such as the Death of Saint Scholastica an “isolated achievement” that ran counter to his rococo contemporaries.

Jean Restout was born in Rouen, the son of Jean I Restout and Marie M. Jouvenet, sister and pupil of the then well-known painter Jean Jouvenet.

In 1717, the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture having elected him a member on his work for the Prix de Rome, he remained in Paris, instead of proceeding to Italy, exhibited at all the salons, and filled successively every post of academical distinction. His works, chiefly altar-pieces (Louvre Museum), ceilings and designs for Gobelin tapestries, were engraved by Charles-Nicolas CochinDrevet and others.

His son, Jean-Bernard Restout (1732–1797), won the Prix de Rome in 1758, and on his return from Italy was received into the Academy; but his refusal to comply with rules led to a quarrel with that body. Roland appointed him keeper of the Garde Meuble, but this piece of favour nearly cost him his life during the Terror.

 

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

Luke 24: 46-53

Year C - Easter week 7 - Ascension - Rembrandt

 

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘You see how it is written that the Christ would suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that, in his name, repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses to this.

‘And now I am sending down to you what the Father has promised. Stay in the city then, until you are clothed with the power from on high.’

Then he took them out as far as the outskirts of Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. Now as he blessed them, he withdrew from them and was carried up to heaven. They worshipped him and then went back to Jerusalem full of joy; and they were continually in the Temple praising God.

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: The Ascension by Rembrandt, Part of Rembrandt’s Passion Cycle for Frederick Henry, Prince of Orange. Painted 1636, oil on canvas, 93cm x 69cm. It is currently located at Alte Pinakothek, Munich, Germany.

Rembrandt received a commission from the court in about 1628 through Constantijn Huygens, secretary to the Prince of Orange, for five paintings of the Passion of Christ. The series started with the Raising of the Cross and Descent from the Cross. He was hired to create small versions of Rubens famous altarpieces in Antwerp, the Raising of the Cross and the Descent from the Cross. Huygens asked Rembrandt to produce paintings less than one-twenty-fifth the size of the Rubenses. It must also have been agreed between Huygens and Rembrandt that the artist would inset himself into the composition of the Descent from the Cross as one of the followers of Christ who eased the body to the ground.

The two paintings, finished in 1633 are plainly modelled on Rubens’s versions of those subjects. When they were delivered in 1633, a new commission followed, for three more paintings of scenes from the Passion of Christ, The Entombment, The Resurrection and The Ascension. The first to be delivered, early in 1636, was The Ascension, the last in iconographic order. If in the Raising and Descent Rembrandt had vied with Rubens, in the Ascension he had moved back in time to the Venetian master Titian. In a composition based on one of Titian’s most famous works, the Assumption of the Virgin in the Church of Frari in Venice, Rembrandt created an image of earth, sky, and heaven, with mortals taking leave of a divine creature being raised by angels to the Godhead itself.

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, 15 July 1606 – 4 October 1669, was a Dutch painter and etcher. He is generally considered one of the greatest painters and printmakers in European art and the most important in Dutch history. 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.

Having achieved youthful success as a portrait painter, Rembrandt’s later years were marked by personal tragedy and financial hardships. Yet his etchings and paintings were popular throughout his lifetime, his reputation as an artist remained high, and for twenty years he taught many important Dutch painters. Rembrandt’s greatest creative triumphs are exemplified especially in his portraits of his contemporaries, self-portraits and illustrations of scenes from the Bible. His self-portraits form a unique and intimate biography, in which the artist surveyed himself without vanity and with the utmost sincerity.

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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Sixth Sunday of Easter (C)

John 14: 23-29

Minolta DSC

 

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘If anyone loves me he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we shall come to him and make our home with him. Those who do not love me do not keep my words. And my word is not my own: it is the word of the one who sent me. I have said these things to you while still with you; but the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all I have said to you. Peace I bequeath to you, my own peace I give you, a peace the world cannot give, this is my gift to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. You heard me say: I am going away, and shall return. If you loved me you would have been glad to know that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. I have told you this now before it happens, so that when it does happen you may believe.’             

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Stained glass window by Gian Lorenzo Bernini – Dove of the Holy Spirit, 1660, above the Throne of St. Peter, St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican.

At St Peter’s Basilica, Bernini made a special throne out of bronze, to hold an ancient wood and ivory throne that had been at the basilica for more than 500 years. It is called the Cattedra Petri or “throne of St. Peter”. The bronze throne, with the old wooden throne inside it, is held up high at the end of the basilica, by four important saints who are called “Doctors of the Church” because they were all great writers and teachers. The statues are made of bronze. They are Saints Ambrose and Augustine for the Church of Rome and Saints Athanasius and John Chrysostum for the Orthodox Church. Above the chair is a window which is made not from glass but thin translucent stone called alabaster. The Dove of the Holy Spirit is in the middle of the window with rays of light spreading out into the basilica through a sculpture of golden clouds and angels. Bernini designed this to look like a window into Heaven. There was a great celebration when the chair was put in place on January 16, 1666.

Gian Lorenzo Bernini, 7 December 1598 – 28 November 1680, was an Italian sculptor and architect. A major figure in the world of architecture, he was the leading sculptor of his age, credited with creating the Baroque style of sculpture. As one scholar has commented, “What Shakespeare is to drama, Bernini may be to sculpture: the first pan-European sculptor whose name is instantaneously identifiable with a particular manner and vision, and whose influence was inordinately powerful…” In addition, he was a painter (mostly small canvases in oil) and a man of the theatre: he wrote, directed and acted in plays (mostly Carnival satires), also designing stage sets and theatrical machinery, as well as a wide variety of decorative art objects including lamps, tables, mirrors, and even coaches. As architect and city planner, he designed both secular buildings and churches and chapels, as well as massive works combining both architecture and sculpture, especially elaborate public fountains and funerary monuments and a whole series of temporary structures (in stucco and wood) for funerals and festivals.

Bernini possessed the ability to depict dramatic narratives with characters showing intense psychological states, but also to organize large-scale sculptural works which convey a magnificent grandeur. His skill in manipulating marble ensured that he would be considered a worthy successor of Michelangelo, far outshining other sculptors of his generation, including his rivals, François Duquesnoy and Alessandro Algardi. His talent extended beyond the confines of sculpture to a consideration of the setting in which it would be situated; his ability to synthesize sculpture, painting, and architecture into a coherent conceptual and visual whole has been termed by the art historian Irving Lavin the “unity of the visual arts”. In addition, a deeply religious man, working in Counter Reformation Rome, Bernini used light both as an important theatrical and metaphorical device in his religious settings, often using hidden light sources that could intensify the focus of religious worship or enhance the dramatic moment of a sculptural narrative.

Bernini was also a leading figure in the emergence of Roman Baroque architecture along with his contemporaries, the architect Francesco Borromini and the painter and architect Pietro da Cortona. Early in their careers they had all worked at the same time at the Palazzo Barberini, initially under Carlo Maderno and, following his death, under Bernini. Later on, however, they were in competition for commissions, and fierce rivalries developed, particularly between Bernini and Borromini. Despite the arguably greater architectural inventiveness of Borromini and Cortona, Bernini’s artistic pre-eminence, particularly during the reigns of popes Urban VIII (1623–44) and Alexander VII (1655–65), meant he was able to secure the most important commissions in the Rome of his day, the various massive embellishment projects of the newly finished St. Peter’s Basilica, completed under Pope Paul V with the addition of Maderno’s nave and facade and finally re-consecrated by Pope Urban VIII on November 18, 1626, after 150 years of planning and building. Bernini’s design of the Piazza San Pietro in front of the Basilica is one of his most innovative and successful architectural designs. Within the basilica he is also responsible for the Baldacchino, the decoration of the four piers under the cupola, the Cathedra Petri (Throne of St. Peter) in the apse, the chapel of the Blessed Sacrament in the right nave, and the decoration (floor, walls and arches) of the new nave.

During his long career, Bernini received numerous important commissions, many of which were associated with the papacy. At an early age, he came to the attention of the papal nephewCardinal Scipione Borghese, and in 1621, at the age of only twenty-three, he was knighted by Pope Gregory XV. Following his accession to the papacy, Urban VIII is reported to have said, “It is a great fortune for you, O Cavaliere, to see Cardinal Maffeo Barberini made pope, but our fortune is even greater to have Cavalier Bernini alive in our pontificate.” Although he did not fare so well during the reign of Innocent X, under Alexander VII, he once again regained pre-eminent artistic domination and continued to be held in high regard by Clement IX.

Bernini and other artists fell from favour in later neoclassical criticism of the Baroque. It is only from the late nineteenth century that art historical scholarship, in seeking an understanding of artistic output in the cultural context in which it was produced, has come to recognise Bernini’s achievements and restore his artistic reputation. The art historian Howard Hibbard concludes that, during the seventeenth century, “there were no sculptors or architects comparable to Bernini”.

 

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Fifth Sunday of Easter (C)

John 13: 31-35

Year C - Easter week 5 - Farewell - Duccio

 

When Judas had gone Jesus said:

‘Now has the Son of Man been glorified, and in him God has been glorified. If God has been glorified in him, God will in turn glorify him in himself, and will glorify him very soon.

My little children, I shall not be with you much longer. I give you a new commandment: love one another; just as I have loved you, you also must love one another. By this love you have for one another, everyone will know that you are my disciples.’         

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: The New Commandment (Farewell Discourse), part of the Maesta by Duccio di Buoninsegna, painted between 1308 and 1311. Tempera on wood, 50cm x 53cm This piece is preserved in the State Archives of Siena, Italy.

The Maestà of Duccio is an altarpiece composed of many individual paintings commissioned by the city of Siena in 1308 from the artist Duccio di Buoninsegna. The front panels make up a large enthroned Madonna and Child with saints and angels, and a predella of the Childhood of Christ with prophets. The reverse has the rest of a combined cycle of the Life of the Virgin and the Life of Christ in a total of forty-three small scenes; several panels are now dispersed or lost. The base of the panel has an inscription that reads (in translation): “Holy Mother of God, be thou the cause of peace for Siena and life to Duccio because he painted thee thus.”  Though it took a generation for its effect truly to be felt, Duccio’s Maestà set Italian painting on a course leading away from the hieratic representations of Byzantine art towards more direct presentations of reality. The painting was installed in the cathedral of Siena on 9 June 1311. One person who witnessed this event wrote:

And on that day when it was brought into the cathedral, all workshops remained closed, and the bishop commanded a great host of devoted priests and monks to file past in solemn procession. This was accompanied by all the high officers of the Commune and by all the people; all honorable citizens of Siena surrounded said panel with candles held in their hands, and women and children followed humbly behind. They accompanied the panel amidst the glorious pealing of bells after a solemn procession on the Piazza del Campo into the very cathedral; and all this out of reverence for the costly panel… The poor received many alms, and we prayed to the Holy Mother of God, our patron saint, that she might in her infinite mercy preserve this our city of Siena from every misfortune, traitor or enemy.

Besides the Virgin Mary and the Baby Jesus, saints depicted in the painting include John the Evangelist (to the left of the throne); Saint PaulCatherine of AlexandriaJohn the Baptist (to the right of the throne); Saint Peter; and Saint Agnes. In the foreground are Siena’s various patron saintsSaint AnsanusSaint SabinusSaint Crescentius; and Saint Victor.

The altarpiece remained in place until 1711, when it was dismantled in order to distribute the pieces between two altars.The five-meter high construction was dismantled and sawn up, and the paintings damaged in the process. Partial restoration took place in 1956. The dismantling also led to pieces going astray, either being sold, or simply unaccounted for. Extant remains of the altarpiece not at Siena are divided among several other museums.

 

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Fourth Sunday of Easter (C)

John 10: 27-30

Year C - Easter week 4 - Sheep - Catacomb 4

 

Jesus said: ‘The sheep that belong to me listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life; they will never be lost and no one will ever steal them from me. The Father who gave them to me is greater than anyone, and no one can steal from the Father. The Father and I are one.’           

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Good Shepherd in catacomb of Priscilla (Second half of the 3rd century).

The Catacomb of Priscilla on the Via Salaria in Rome, Italy, is situated in what was a quarry in Roman times. This quarry was used for Christian burials from the late 2nd century through the 4th century. Some of the walls and ceilings display fine decorations illustrating Biblical scenes. The Catacombs of Priscilla are believed to be named after Priscilla, a member of the gens Acilia and who was probably the wife of the Consul Acilius who became a Christian and was killed on the orders of Domitian. They contain a number of wall paintings of saints and early Christian symbols, such as the painting reproduced in Giovanni Gaetano Bottari‘s folio of 1754, where the Good Shepherd is depicted as feeding the lambs, with a crowing cock on His right and left hand.

Particularly notable is the “Greek Chapel” (Capella Greca), a square chamber with an arch which contains 3rd century frescoes generally interpreted to be Old and New Testament scenes, including the Fractio Panis. Above the apse is a Last Judgment. New, and somewhat controversial research has begun to suggest that the scenes traditionally interpreted as the deuterocanonical story of Susannah (Dn 13) may actually be scenes from the life of a prestigious Christian woman of the 2nd century AD. Near this are figures of the Madonna and Child and the Prophet Isaiah, also dating from the early 3rd century.

The Priscilla catacombs contain the oldest known Marian paintings, from the early third century. Mary is shown with Jesus on her lap. The catacomb also has a depiction of the Annunciation.

The catacomb of Priscilla, mentioned in all the ancient liturgical and topographic sources, has its modern entrance on the Via Salaria through the cloister of the monastery of the Benedictines of Priscilla. The Catacombs of Priscilla is divided into three principal areas: anarenarium, a cryptoportico from a large Roman villa, and an underground burial area of the noble Roman family Acilius Glabrio.

On account of the fact that seven early popes and many martyrs were buried in the cemetery, it was known as the “Queen of the Catacombs” in antiquity. Two popes were buried in the Catacomb of Priscilla: Pope Marcellinus (296 – 304) and Pope Marcellus I (308 – 309).

Alleged relics of Popes Sylvester I, Stephen I, and Dionysius were exhumed and enshrined beneath the high altar of San Martino ai Monti(founded as Santi Silvestro e Martino ai Monti), in the Esquiline area of Rome. Pope Sylvester I was likely originally buried in San Martino ai Monti, although some sources say his remains were transferred there. An unidentified papal sarcophagus discovered during the demolition of Old Saint Peter’s Basilica was attributed to Sylvester I and moved to Nonantola Abbey, near the altar that contains the remains of Pope Adrian III. Other sources describe a combination of Sylvester I and Vigilius in an altar in St. Peter’s.

 

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Third Sunday of Easter (C)

John 21: 1-19

Year C - Easter week 3 - Fish - Bassano

 

Jesus showed himself again to the disciples. It was by the Sea of Tiberias, and it happened like this: Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee and two more of his disciples were together. Simon Peter said, ‘I’m going fishing.’ They replied, ‘We’ll come with you.’ They went out and got into the boat but caught nothing that night.

It was light by now and there stood Jesus on the shore, though the disciples did not realise that it was Jesus. Jesus called out, ‘Have you caught anything, friends?’ And when they answered, ‘No’, he said, ‘Throw the net out to starboard and you’ll find something.’ So they dropped the net, and there were so many fish that they could not haul it in. The disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord.’ At these words ‘It is the Lord’, Simon Peter, who had practically nothing on, wrapped his cloak round him and jumped into the water. The other disciples came on in the boat, towing the net and the fish; they were only about a hundred yards from land.

As soon as they came ashore they saw that there was some bread there, and a charcoal fire with fish cooking on it. Jesus said, ‘Bring some of the fish you have just caught.’ Simon Peter went aboard and dragged the net to the shore, full of big fish, one hundred and fifty-three of them; and in spite of there being so many the net was not broken. Jesus said to them, ‘Come and have breakfast.’ None of the disciples was bold enough to ask, ‘Who are you?’; they knew quite well it was the Lord. Jesus then stepped forward, took the bread and gave it to them, and the same with the fish. This was the third time that Jesus showed himself to the disciples after rising from the dead.

After the meal Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these others do?’ He answered, ‘Yes Lord, you know I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ A second time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ He replied, ‘Yes, Lord, you know I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Look after my sheep.’ Then he said to him a third time, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter was upset that he asked him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ and said, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep.

‘I tell you most solemnly, when you were young you put on your own belt and walked where you liked; but when you grow old you will stretch out your hands, and somebody else will put a belt round you and take you where you would rather not go.’

In these words he indicated the kind of death by which Peter would give glory to God. After this he said, ‘Follow me.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: The Miraculous Draught of Fishes, painted 1545 by Jacopo Bassano. Oil on Canvas, 144cm x 244cm, it resides in the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC.

This painting, which came to light in 1989, is a major addition to the work of Jacopo Bassano. One of the four leading mid–to–late 16th–century Venetian painters, Jacopo is less well–known than are his contemporaries Titian, Veronese, and Tintoretto. Only with the exhibition of his work in his native town of Bassano del Grappa in 1992 did the artist finally get the recognition he deserves. Aside from the quality and variety of his production, Bassano had the most extraordinary development of any 16th–century Venetian master except Titian. After modest beginnings, Bassano’s work exploded into greatness with a series of pictures dating from the 1540s, which demonstrated his true measure as an artist. He overcame his provincial isolation and kept abreast of artistic trends by studying prints by or after other masters such as Raphael. Bassano’s mannerist compositions of the 1540s and 1550s, with their rich colour and animated figures, gave way to the expressive lighting and more genre–like character of the works of the 1560s. Thereafter, Bassano’s art increasingly emphasized figures of peasants and their animals. With their dark tonality, flickering brushwork, and somber mood, the best of his late pictures approach Rembrandt.

As we learn from the painter’s account book, The Miraculous Draught of Fishes was ordered in April 1545 by the Venetian governor of Bassano, Pietro Pizzamano. Returning to Venice later that same year, the patron took his picture with him, where, in 1547, Titian copied it for the background of an altarpiece he painted. In The Miraculous Draught of Fishes Jacopo typically drew on a print source for the composition—Ugo da Carpi’s chiaroscuro woodcut of the same subject. The print in turn reproduces (in reverse) Raphael’s great tapestry cartoon of The Miraculous Draught of Fishes of 1515, which, with the other cartoons in the series, is now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Though relying here, as elsewhere, on a visual source, Jacopo nevertheless transformed the print he took as a point of departure. The aesthetic appeal of The Miraculous Draught of Fishes lies in the way the brilliant hues of rose red, ocher, and green are set off against the broad expanse of blue water. Jacopo’s colourful tableau, extending across the width of the canvas, has an almost vertiginous effect, in which the play of gestures and expressions of Christ, Peter, and Andrew on the left contrasts with the denser grouping of Zebedee and his sons James and John on the right. Uniting the two groups of apostles is the dramatic form of Andrew’s billowing cape, a signature motif of the artist. Bassano further enlivened the composition through the careful observation of nature, reflected in Zebedee’s oaring, the fish struggling in the net, and the view of his native town in the upper right.

 

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Second Sunday of Easter (C)

John 20:19-31

Year C - Easter week 2 - Thomas - Duccio 2

 

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 Maesta Altarpiece – The Incredulity of St.Thomas, painted 1308-11 by Duccio di Buoninsegna. Located in the Museo Dell’Opera Del Duomo, Siena, Italy.  Tempera on wood, 56cm x 51cm.

Duccio di Buoninsegna  (1255-1319) was an Italian painter, active in the city of Siena in Tuscany, where he was born, in the late 13th and early 14th centuries. 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 this high altar painting of Siena Cathedral in 1308 and completed by June 1311.

His 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. 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. With this he flirts with naturalism but his paintings are still awe inspiring.

 

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Sunday of the Resurrection (C)

John 20:1-9

Year C - Easter Sunday week 1 - Resurrrection - Fra A

 

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: Resurrection of Christ and Women at the Tomb, painted by artist Fra Angelico, 1440-1442. A fresco painting, 181 x 151cm. Located in the Gallery of Convento di San Marco, Florence. 

Fra Angelico (1395 –1455) was an Early  painter described by Vasari in his Lives of the Artists as having “a rare and perfect talent”.

He was known to contemporaries as Fra Giovanni da Fiesole (Brother John of Fiesole) and Fra Giovanni Angelico (Angelic Brother John). In modern Italian he is called il Beato Angelico (Blessed Angelic One); the common English name Fra Angelico means the “Angelic friar”.

In 1982 Pope John Paul II proclaimed his beatification in recognition of the holiness of his life, thereby making the title of “Blessed” official. Vasari wrote of Fra Angelico that “it is impossible to bestow too much praise on this holy father, who was so humble and modest in all that he did and said and whose pictures were painted with such facility and piety.

In 1436 Fra Angelico was one of a number of the friars from Fiesole who moved to the newly built Friary of San Marco in Florence. This was an important move which put him in the centre of artistic activity of the region and brought about the patronage of one of the wealthiest and most powerful members of the city’s governing authority, or “Signoria”, who had a large cell (later occupied by Savonarola) reserved for himself at the friary in order that he might retreat from the world. It was, according to Vasari, at Cosimo’s urging that Fra Angelico set about the task of decorating the monastery, including the magnificent Chapter House fresco, the often-reproduced Annunciation at the top of the stairs to the cells, the Maesta with Saints and the many smaller devotional frescoes depicting aspects of the Life of Christ that adorn the walls of each cell.

In 1439 he completed one of his most famous works, the San Marco Altarpiece at Florence. The result was unusual for its time. Images of the enthroned Madonna and Child surrounded by saints were common, but they usually depicted a setting that was clearly heavenlike, in which saints and angels hovered about as divine presences rather than people. But in this instance, the saints stand squarely within the space, grouped in a natural way as if they were able to converse about the shared experience of witnessing the Virgin in glory. Paintings such as this, known as Sacred Conversations, were to become the major commissions of Giovanni BelliniPerugino and Raphael.

In 1440, he started the fresco above. On the left, St Dominic in meditation. The three women on the right were painted by Benozzo Gozzoli who that time was an apprentice in the workshop of Fra Angelico. He collaborated in the pictorial decoration of the Dominican convent of San Marco, Florence. The figures are arranged with simple formality, and yet it would be wrong to think there was a lack of sophistication: Fra Angelico is intent only on his subject, and he does not distract the viewer with unnecessary details. The grace and dignity of the women does not conceal their grief; they turn for some explanation to the figure of the angel who should, by its nature, be physically insubstantial but instead has a sort of reassuring solidity and authority. Dominic prays, head bowed and eyes lowered. The Risen Christ watches over them all.

 

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Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord (C)

Luke 22:14-23:56

Year C - Lent week 6 - Last Supper - Bouts

 

When the hour came Jesus took his place at the table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, ‘I have longed to eat this passover with you before I suffer; because, I tell you, I shall not eat it again until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.’

Then, taking the cup, he gave thanks to them and said, ‘Take this and share it among you, because from now on, I tell you, I shall not drink wine until the kingdom of God comes.’

Then he took some bread, and when he had given thanks, broke and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body which will be given for you; do this as a memorial of me.’ He did the same with the cup after supper, and said, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood which will be poured out of you.

‘And yet, here with me on the tables is the hand of the man who betrays me. The Son of Man does indeed go to his fate even as it has been decreed, but alas for that man by whom he is betrayed!’ And they began to ask one another which of them it could be who was to do this thing.

A dispute arose also between them about which should be reckoned the greatest, but he said to them, ‘Among pagans it is the kings who lord it over them, and those who have authority over them are given the Benefactor. This must not happen with you. No; the greatest among you must behave as if he were the youngest, the leader as if he were the one who serves. For who is the greater: the one at the table or the one who serves? The one at the table, surely? Yet here I am among you as the one who serves!

‘You are the men who have stood by me faithfully in my trials; and now I confer a kingdom on you, just as my Father conferred one on me: you will eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and will sit on the thrones to judge the twelve tribes of Israel.

‘Simon, Simon! Satan, you must know, has got his wish to sift you all like wheat; but I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail, and once you have recovered, you in your turn must strengthen your brothers.’ He answered, ‘Lord, I would be ready to go to prison with you, and to death.’ Jesus replied, ‘I tell you, Peter, by the time the cock crows today you will have denied three times that you know me.’

He said to them, ‘When I sent you out without purse or haversack or sandals, were you short of anything?’ They answered, ‘No’. He said to them, ‘But now if you have a purse, take it: if you have a haversack, do the same; if you have no sword, sell your cloak and buy one, because I tell you these words of scripture have to be fulfilled in me: He let himself be taken for a criminal. Yes, what scripture says about me is even now reaching its fulfilment.’ They said, ‘Lord, there are two swords here now.’ He said to them, ‘That is enough!’

He then left the upper room to make his way as usual to the Mount  of Olives, with the disciples following. When the reached the place he said to them, ‘Pray not to be put to the test.’

Then he withdrew from them, about a stone’s throw away, and knelt down and prayed, saying, ‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me, nevertheless, let your will be mine.’ Then the angel appeared to him, coming from heaven to give him strength. In his anguish he prayed even more earnestly, and his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood.

When he rose from the prayer he went to his disciples and found them sleeping for sheer grief. He said to them, ‘Why are you asleep? Get up and pray not to be put to the test.’

He was still speaking when a number of men appeared, and at the head of them the man called Judas, one of the Twelve, who went up to Jesus to kiss him. Jesus said ‘Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?’ His followers, seeing what was happening, said, ‘Lord, shall we use our swords?’ And one of them struck out at the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear. But at this Jesus spoke. ‘Leave off! That will do!’ And touching the man’s ear he healed him.

Then Jesus spoke to the chief priests and captains of the Temple guard and elders who had come for him. He said, ‘Am I a brigand that you had to set out with swords and clubs? When I was among you in the Temple day after day you never moved to lay hands on me. But this is your hour;. This is the reign of darkness.’

They seized him and then led him away, and they took him to the high priest’s house. Peter followed at a distance. They had lit a fire in the middle of the courtyard and peter sat down among them, and as he was sitting there by the blaze a servant-girl saw him, peered at him, and said, ‘This person was with him too.’ But he denied it, saying, ‘Woman, I do not know him.’ Shortly afterwards someone else saw him and said, ‘ You are another of them.’ But Peter replied, ‘I am not my friend.’ About an hour later another man insisted, saying, ‘This fellow was certainly with him. Why, he is a Galilean.’ Peter said, ‘My friend, I do not know what you are talking about.’ At that instant, while he was still speaking, the cock crew, and the Lord turned and looked straight at Peter, and peter remembered what the Lord had said to him, ‘Before the cock crows today, you will have disowned me three times.’ And he went outside and wept bitterly.

Meanwhile the men who guarded Jesus were mocking and beating him. They blindfolded him and questioned him, saying, ‘Play the prophet. Who hit you then?’ And they continued heaping insults on him. When day broke there was a meeting of the elders of the people, attended by the chief priests and scribes. He was brought before their council, and they said to him, ‘If you are the Christ, tell us,’ He replied, ‘If I tell you, you will not believe me, and if I question you, you will not answer. But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the Power of God.’ Then they all said, ‘So you are the Son of God then?’ He answered, ‘It is you who say I am.’ They said, ‘What need of witnesses have we now? We have heard it for ourselves from his own lips.’ The whole assembly then rose, and they brought him before Pilate.

They began their accusation by saying, ‘We found this man inciting our people to revolt, opposing payment of tribute to Caesar, and claiming to be Christ, a king.’ Pilate put to him this question, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ He replied, ‘It is you who say it.’ Pilate then said to the chief priests and the crowd, ‘I find no case against this man,’ But they persisted, ‘He is inflaming the people with this teaching all over Judaea; it has come all the way from Galilee, where he started, down to here.’ When Pilate heard this, he asked if the man were a Galilean; and finding that he came under Herod’s  jurisdiction he passed him over to Herod who was also in Jerusalem at that time.

Herod was delighted to see Jesus; he had heard about him and had been delighted for a long time to set eyes on him; moreover, he was hoping to see some miracles worked by him. So he questioned him at some length; but without getting any reply. Meanwhile the chief priests and the scribes were there, violently pressing their accusations. Then Herod, together with his guards, treated him with contempt and made fun of him; he put a rich cloak on him and sent him back to Pilate. And though Herod and Pilate had been enemies before, they were reconciled that same day.

Pilate then summoned the chief priests and the leading men and the people. He said, ‘You brought this man before me as a political agitator. Now I have gone into the matter myself in your presence and found no case against the man in respect of all the charges you bring against him. Nor has Herod either, since he sent him back to us. As you can see, the man has done nothing that deserves death, so I shall have him flogged and then let him go.’ But as one man they howled, ‘Away with him! Give us Barrabas!’ This man had been thrown into prison for causing a riot in the city and for murder.

Pilate was anxious to set Jesus free and addressed them again, but they shouted back, ‘Crucify him! Crucify him!’ And for the third time he spoke to them, ‘Why? What harm has this man done? I have found no case against him that deserves death, so I shall have him punished and then let him go.’ But they kept on shouting at the tops o their voices, demanding that he should be crucified. And their shouts were growing louder.

Pilate then gave his verdict: their demand was to be granted. He released the man they asked for, who had been imprisoned for rioting and murder, and handed Jesus over to them to deal with as they pleased.

As they were leading him away they  seized on a man, Simon from Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and made him shoulder the cross and carry it behind him Jesus, Large numbers of people followed him, and of women too, who mourned and lamented to him. But Jesus turned to them and said, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep rather for yourselves and for your children. For the days will surely come when people will say, “:Happy are those who are barren, the wombs that have never borne, the breasts that have never suckled!” Then they will begin to say to the mountains, “Fall on us!”; to the hills, “Cover us!” For if men use the green wood like this, what will happen when it is dry?’ Now with him they were also leading out two other criminals to be executed.

When they reached the place called The Skull, they crucified him there and the two criminals also, one on the right, the other on the left. Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing.’ Then they cast lots to share out his clothing.

The people stayed there watching him. As for the leaders, they jeered at him, saying ‘He saved others, let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.’ The soldiers mocked him too and when they approached to offer him vinegar they said, ‘If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself.’ Above him there was an inscription: ‘This is the King of the Jews.’

One of the criminals hanging there abused him, saying ‘Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us as well.’ But the other spoke up and rebuked him. ‘Have you no fear of God at all? You got the same sentence as he did. But in our case we deserved it: we are paying for what we did. But this man has done nothing wrong. Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ He replied, ‘Indeed, I promise you, today you will be with me in paradise.’

It was now about the sixth hour and, with the sun eclipsed, a darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour. The veil of the Temple was torn right down the middle; and when Jesus had cried out in a loud voice, he said, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’ With these words he breathed his last.

When the centurion saw what had taken place, he gave praise to God and said, ‘This was a great and good man.’ And when all the people who had gathered for the spectacle saw what had happened, they went home beating their breasts.

All his friends stood at a distance; so also did the women who had accompanied him from Galilee, and they saw all this happen.

Then a member of the council arrived, an upright and virtuous man named Joseph. He had not consented to what the others had planned and carried out. He came from Arimathaea, a Jewish town, and lived in the hope of seeing the kingdom of God. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. He then took it down, wrapped it in a shroud and put him in a tomb which was hewn in stone in which no one had yet been laid. It was Preparation Day and the Sabbath was imminent.

Meanwhile the women who had come from Galilee with Jesus were following behind. They took note of the tomb and of the position of the body.

Then they returned and prepared spices and ointments. And on the Sabbath day they rested, as the Law required.

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: The Last Supper, painted by Dieric Bouts between 1464 & 1467. Oil on panel, 180cmx 150cm, located at St Peter’s Church, Leuven, Belguim.

Dieric Bouts (born 1415 –1475) was an Early Netherlandish painter. Bouts was born in Haarlem and was mainly active in Leuven (Louvain), where he was city painter from 1468. He is first documented in Leuven in 1457 and worked there until his death in 1475.

Bouts was among the first northern painters to demonstrate the use of a single vanishing point (as illustrated in his Last Supper). His work has a certain primitive stiffness of drawing, and his figures are often disproportionately long and angular, but his pictures are highly expressive, well designed and rich in colour, with especially good landscape backgrounds.

Bouts’ earliest work is the Triptych of the Virgin’s Life in the Prado (Madrid), dated to about 1445. The Deposition Altarpiece in Granada (Capilla Real) probably also dates to this period, around 1450–60. A dismembered canvas altarpiece—now in the Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique (Brussels), the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles), National Gallery (London), Norton Simon Museum (Pasadena), and a Swiss private collection—with the same dimensions as the Altarpiece of the Holy Sacrament may belong to this period. The Louvre Lamentation (Pietà) is another early work.

The Last Supper is the central panel of Altarpiece of the Holy Sacrament, commissioned from Bouts by the Leuven Confraternity of the Holy Sacrament in 1464. All of the central room’s orthogonals (lines imagined to be behind and perpendicular to the picture plane that converge at a vanishing point) lead to a single vanishing point in the center of the mantelpiece above Christ’s head. However the small side room has its own vanishing point, and neither it nor the vanishing point of the main room falls on the horizon of the landscape seen through the windows. The Last Supper is the second dated work (after Petrus Christus‘ Virgin and Child Enthroned with St. Jerome and St. Francis in Frankfurt, dated 1457) to display an understanding of Italian linear perspective.

Scholars also have noted that Bouts’s Last Supper was the first Flemish panel painting to depict the Last Supper. In this central panel, Bouts did not focus on the biblical narrative itself but instead presented Christ in the role of a priest performing the consecration of the Eucharistic host from the Catholic Mass. This contrasts strongly with other Last Supper depictions, which often focused on Judas‘s betrayal or on Christ’s comforting of John. Bouts also added to the complexity of this image by including four servants (two in the window and two standing), all dressed in Flemish attire. Although once identified as the artist himself and his two sons, these servants are most likely portraits of the confraternity’s members responsible for commissioning the altarpiece. The Last Supper was the central part of the altarpiece in the St. Peter’s Church, Leuven.

 

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Fifth Sunday of Lent (C)

John 8:1-11

Year C - Lent week 5 - Woman Adultery - Guercino

 

Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. At daybreak he appeared in the Temple again; and as all the people came to him, he sat down and began to teach them.

The scribes and Pharisees brought a woman along who had been caught committing adultery; and making her stand there in full view of everybody, they said to Jesus, ‘Master, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery, and Moses has ordered us in the Law to condemn women like this to death by stoning. What have you to say?’ They asked him this as a test, looking for something to use against him. But Jesus bent down and started writing on the ground with his finger. As they persisted with their question, he looked up and said, ‘If there is one of you who has not sinned, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.’ Then he bent down and wrote on the ground again. When they heard this they went away one by one, beginning with the eldest, until Jesus was left alone with the woman, who remained standing there. He looked up and said, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ ‘No one, sir,’ she replied. ‘Neither do I condemn you,’ said Jesus ‘go away, and don’t sin any more.’

The Gospel of the Lord

 

Picture: The Woman taken in Adultery painted by Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, 1621, oil on canvas, 99cm x 123cm. Located at the Dulwich picture Gallery, London.

Giovanni Francesco Barbieri (1591-1666), known as Guercino or ‘squint-eyed’ after he developed a squint as a result of a childhood accident, was largely self-taught and became the leading painter in Bologna from the 1640s. The Woman taken in Adultery, with its bold, fluid brushwork, powerful chiaroscuro and inventive composition, is characteristic of the artist’s early work before he travelled to Rome in 1621 and came under the more classicising influence of Guido Reni (1575-1642).

The story of the adulteress is recorded in Saint John’s Gospel and describes how a woman was saved from being stoned to death by Christ’s words: ‘Whichever of you is free from sin shall cast the first stone at her.’ Guercino as a master storyteller captures this pivotal moment just as Christ is about to speak, not through overt or emphatic expression, but through the subtle drama created by an interchange of glances and hand gestures. The hands themselves carry the thrust of the story; the juxtaposition of the soldier’s tight fist against the adulteress’s own pale hands folded in submission illustrates with poetic directness her extreme vulnerability, while the confused mesh of fingers held up by the Pharisee are dismissed by the open and clear indication of Jesus’s single pointing finger.

Guercino’s early work is celebrated today for such visual understatement, an approach to storytelling which rather than creating distance between his images and his viewers with an idealised scene, draws them into the composition by depicting what appears to be a fleeting, unposed moment. The artist here expresses great empathy with the adulteress and emphasises above all her humanity. Although she and her captors are pushed up against the picture plane to evoke the claustrophobia of the moment, her bent head casts her eyes in shadow, granting her a sense of quiet dignity. 

 

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Fourth Sunday of Lent (C)

Luke 15:1-3,11-32

Year C - Lent week 4 - Prodigal Son - Spada

 

The tax collectors and the sinners were all seeking the company of Jesus to hear what he had to say, and the Pharisees and the scribes complained. ‘This man’ they said ‘welcomes sinners and eats with them.’ So he spoke this parable to them:

‘A man had two sons. The younger said to his father, “Father, let me have the share of the estate that would come to me.” So the father divided the property between them. A few days later, the younger son got together everything he had and left for a distant country where he squandered his money on a life of debauchery.

‘When he had spent it all, that country experienced a severe famine, and now he began to feel the pinch, so he hired himself out to one of the local inhabitants who put him on his farm to feed the pigs. And he would willingly have filled his belly with the husks the pigs were eating but no one offered him anything. Then he came to his senses and said, “How many of my father’s paid servants have more food than they want, and here am I dying of hunger! I will leave this place and go to my father and say: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as one of your paid servants.” So he left the place and went back to his father.

‘While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with pity. He ran to the boy, clasped him in his arms and kissed him tenderly. Then his son said, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son.” But the father said to his servants “Quick! Bring out the best robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the calf we have been fattening, and kill it; we are going to have a feast, a celebration, because this son of mine was dead and has come back to life; he was lost and is found.” And they began to celebrate.

‘Now the elder son was out in the fields, and on his way back, as he drew near the house, he could hear music and dancing. Calling one of the servants he asked what it was all about. “Your brother has come” replied the servant “and your father has killed the calf we had fattened because he has got him back safe and sound.” He was angry then and refused to go in, and his father came out to plead with him; but he answered his father, “Look, all these years I have slaved for you and never once disobeyed your orders, yet you never offered me so much as a kid for me to celebrate with my friends. But, for this son of yours, when he comes back after swallowing up your property – he and his women – you kill the calf we had been fattening.”

‘The father said, “My son, you are with me always and all I have is yours. But it was only right we should celebrate and rejoice, because your brother here was dead and has come to life; he was lost and is found.” ‘

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Return of the Prodigal Son, painted 1608-1611 by Leonello Spada. Oil on canvas painting (160cm x 119cm) located in the Louvre Museum, Paris.

Leonello Spada  (1576 –1622) was an Italian painter of the Baroque period, active in Rome and his native city of Bologna, where he became known as one of the followers of Caravaggio.

He first apprenticed with painter Cesare Baglioni. By the early 17th century, Spada was active, together with Girolamo Curti, as a member of a team specializing in decorative quadratura painting in Bologna. His early independent canvases reflect a mannerist style akin to the Bolognese Denis Calvaert. In 1604 he made an unsuccessful bid for the commission to decorate the sacristy of the Basilica of Santa Maria di Loreto. By then he had already gravitated to the Carracci Academy, having contributed to the decorations for the funeral of Agostino Carracci in 1603. His earliest surviving major painting, the altarpiece of the Virgin and Saints Dominic & Francis Interceding with Christ(1604), shows that he had modeled his style on that of Ludovico Carracci. He frequently collaborated with other students of Ludovico, especially Francesco Brizio and remained in Bologna until 1607. Spada’s figurative style gradually became more robust, as shown by the Miraculous Draught of Fishes (1607).

Whether Spada either met or became an assistant of Caravaggio, like Manfredi, is unclear. The biographer Malvasia makes plain in his Felsina pittrice his distaste for Caravaggio, and apparently describes Spada and Caravaggio as equally “dissolute” and “precipitous”; and there are suggestions that for Caravaggio, Spada was a man “close to his heart”, Malvasia also tells the story of Spada posing for Caravaggio’s ‘’Death of John the Baptist’’: afraid that Spada might flee and, that without a model the painting would be incomplete, Caravaggio imprisoned him in a room until he had finished. However, it is unclear if Spada ever encountered Caravaggio in Rome. Spada supposedly was in Rome after 1608-9, when Caravaggio had fled to Malta. Malvasia suggests the Spada followed Caravaggio to Malta. This is possible since Spada himself painted frescoes in the Magisterial palace of Valleta in 1609-1610; but Caravaggio again had fled to Sicily by 1608, thus their overlap in Malta must have been short. The dark violence of a painting such as the Cain Killing Abel (Museo di Capodimonte) and his derivative realism Musical Concert garnered him in Bologna, the maligning appellation of “scimmia del Caravaggio” (ape of Caravaggio).

But this, as much of Spada’s output, may not reflect a gathered flame of inspiration but a pale reflection, a mimicry of the harsh passion, which when linked to his Carraci upbringing leads to a weakened pastiche. Leonello Spada is known to have made many copies of other painters.

He painted a large canvas for the Basilica of San Domenico in Bologna, depicting St Dominic Burning the Books of the Heretics, (1616). The Ghiara frescoes in Reggio Emilia are perhaps his masterpiece and demonstrate a return to Carraccian models, along with other works of this fruitful period include the Return of the Prodigal Son (above).

 

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Third Sunday of Lent (C)

Luke 13:1-9

Year C - Lent week 3 -Tower of Siloam - Tissot

 

Some people arrived and told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with that of their sacrifices. At this he said to them, ‘Do you suppose these Galileans who suffered like that were greater sinners than any other Galileans? They were not, I tell you. No; but unless you repent you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen on whom the tower at Siloam fell and killed them? Do you suppose that they were more guilty than all the other people living in Jerusalem? They were not, I tell you. No; but unless you repent you will all perish as they did.’

He told this parable: ‘A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came looking for fruit on it but found none. He said to the man who looked after the vineyard, “Look here, for three years now I have been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and finding none. Cut it down: why should it be taking up the ground?” “Sir,” the man replied “leave it one more year and give me time to dig round it and manure it: it may bear fruit next year; if not, then you can cut it down.” ‘

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: The Tower of Siloam, painted by James Tissot, 1886, resides in the Brooklyn Musuem, New York. Opaque watercolours over graphite on gray wove paper, 24 x 15cm.

Jacques Joseph Tissot (15 October 1836 – 8 August 1902), anglicised as James Tissot, was a French painter and illustrator. He left Paris for London in 1871. He was a successful painter of Paris society before moving to London in 1871.

Paintings by Tissot appealed greatly to wealthy British industrialists during the second half of the 19th-century. During 1872 he earned 94,515 francs, an income normally only enjoyed by those in the echeleons of the upper classes.

In 1885, Tissot had a revival of his Catholic faith, which led him to spend the rest of his life making paintings about Biblical events. Many of his artist friends were skeptical about his conversion, as it conveniently coincided with the French Catholic revival, a reaction against the secular attitude of the French Third Republic. At a time when French artists were working in impressionismpointilism, and heavy oil washes, Tissot was moving toward realism in his watercolors. To assist in his completion of biblical illustrations, Tissot travelled to the Middle East in 1886, 1889, and 1896 to make studies of the landscape and people. His series of 365 gouache (opaque watercolour) illustrations showing the life of Christ were shown to critical acclaim and enthusiastic audiences in Paris (1894–5), London (1896) and New York (1898–9), before being bought by the Brooklyn Museum in 1900. During July 1894, Tissot was awarded the Légion d’honneur, France’s most prestigious medal. Tissot spent the last years of his life working on paintings of subjects from the Old Testament. Although he never completed the series, he exhibited 80 of these paintings in Paris in 1901 and engravings after them were published in 1904.

 

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Second Sunday of Lent (C)

Luke 9:28-36

Year C - Lent week 2 -Transfiguration - Sinai

 

Jesus took with him Peter and John and James and went up the mountain to pray. As he prayed, the aspect of his face was changed and his clothing became brilliant as lightning. Suddenly there were two men there talking to him; they were Moses and Elijah appearing in glory, and they were speaking of his passing which he was to accomplish in Jerusalem. Peter and his companions were heavy with sleep, but they kept awake and saw his glory and the two men standing with him. As these were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, ‘Master, it is wonderful for us to be here; so let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ – He did not know what he was saying. As he spoke, a cloud came and covered them with shadow; and when they went into the cloud the disciples were afraid. And a voice came from the cloud saying, ‘This is my Son, the Chosen One. Listen to him.’ And after the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. The disciples kept silence and, at that time, told no one what they had seen.

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Mosaic of the Transfiguration, 12th century, located at Saint Catherine’s MonasteryMount Sinai.

Saint Catherine’s Monastery, lies on the Sinai Peninsula, at the mouth of a gorge at the foot o of Mount Sinai, in the city of Saint Catherine in Egypt‘s South Sinai Governorate. The monastery is Greek Orthodox  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 monastery library preserves the second largest collection of early codices and manuscripts in the world, outnumbered only by the Vatican Library. It contains Greek, Arabic, Coptic, Hebrew, Georgian, and Aramaic texts.

In May 1844 and February 1859, Constantin von Tischendorf visited the monastery for research and discovered theCodex 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 TsarAlexander 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 most important manuscripts have since been filmed or digitized, 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 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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First Sunday of Lent (C)

Luke 4:1-13

Year C - Lent week 1 -Temptations of Christ - SimonBening

 

Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit through the wilderness, being tempted there by the devil for forty days. During that time he ate nothing and at the end he was hungry. Then the devil said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to turn into a loaf.’ But Jesus replied, ‘Scripture says: Man does not live on bread alone.’

Then leading him to a height, the devil showed him in a moment of time all the kingdoms of the world and said to him, ‘I will give you all this power and the glory of these kingdoms, for it has been committed to me and I give it to anyone I choose. Worship me, then, and it shall all be yours.’ But Jesus answered him, ‘Scripture says:

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

Then he led him to Jerusalem and made him stand on the parapet of the Temple. ‘If you are the Son of God’, he said to him ‘throw yourself down from here, for scripture says: He will put his angels in charge of you to guard you, and again: They will hold you up on their hands in case you hurt your foot against a stone.’

But Jesus answered him, ‘It has been said: You must not put the Lord your God to the test.’

Having exhausted all these ways of tempting him, the devil left him, to return at the appointed time.

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Temptation of Christ, 1525, tempera colours, gold paint, and gold leaf on parchment(17cm x 12cm), painted by 16th century master illuminator Simon Bening‘s depicting of the devil approaching Jesus with a stone to be turned into bread. Located Bruges, Belgium.

Simon Bening (c. 1483 – 1561) was a Flemish miniaturist, generally regarded as the last major artist of the Netherlandish tradition. Bening, born either in Ghent , was trained by his father, illuminator Alexander Bening, in the family workshop in Ghent. He travelled between Ghent and Bruges and became a member of the guild of San John and Saint Luke in Bruges as an illuminator in 1508. He made his own name after moving to Bruges in about 1510, where he had lived since. From 1517 until 1555 he is listed regularly in the guild’s annual accounts. Three times (1524, 1536, 1546) Bening served as a dean of the calligraphers, booksellers, illuminators and bookbinders in the Guild of Saint John and Saint Luke.

Bening specialised in book of hours, but by his time these were produced only for royal or very rich patrons. He also created genealogical tables and portable altarpieces on parchment. Many of his finest works are Labours of the Months for books of Hours which are largely small scale landscapes, at that time a nascent genre of painting. In other respects his style is relatively little developed beyond that of the years before his birth, but his landscapes serve as a link between the 15th century illuminators and Peter Brueghel. His self-portrait and other portraits equally are early examples of the portrait miniature.

He produced books for German rulers, like Cardinal Albrecht of Brandenburg, and royalty like Emperor Charles V and Don Fernando, the Infante of Portugal. Robert de Clercq, abbot of the Cistercian monastery of Ter Duinen (“Les Dunes”) at Koksijde, near Bruges, commissioned a Benedictional from him sometime between 1519 and 1529. Bening portrayed the abbot in a colourful Crucifixion scene.

 

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Fifth Sunday of the Year (C)

Luke 5:1-11

Year C - 5th Sunday - Fish - Raphael

 

Jesus was standing one day by the Lake of Gennesaret, with the crowd pressing round him listening to the word of God, when he caught sight of two boats close to the bank. The fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats – it was Simon’s – and asked him to put out a little from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat.

When he had finished speaking he said to Simon, ‘Put out into deep water and pay out your nets for a catch.’ ‘Master,’ Simon replied, ‘we worked hard all night long and caught nothing, but if you say so, I will pay out the nets.’ And when they had done this they netted such a huge number of fish that their nets began to tear, so they signalled to their companions in the other boats to come and help them; when these came, they filled the two boats to sinking point.

When Simon Peter saw this he fell at the knees of Jesus saying, ‘Leave me, Lord; I am a sinful man.’ For he and all his companions were completely overcome by the catch they had made; so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were Simon’s partners. But Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid; from now on it is men you will catch.’ Then, bringing their boats back to land, they left everything and followed him.

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: The Miraculous Draught of Fishes, painted 1515 by Raphael. Body colour over charcoal underdrawing on paper, mounted on canvas, 319cm x 399cm.  Located at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino (April 6, 1483 – April 6, 1520), known as Raphael), an Italian painter and architect of the High Renaissance. His work is admired for its clarity of form, ease of composition, and visual achievement of the Neoplatonic ideal of human grandeur. Together with Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, he forms the traditional trinity of great masters of that period.

Raphael was enormously productive, running an unusually large workshop and, despite his death at 37, leaving a large body of work. Many of his works are found in the Vatican Palace, where the frescoed Raphael Rooms were the central, and the largest, work of his career. The best known work is The School of Athens in the Vatican Stanza della Segnatura. After his early years in Rome much of his work was executed by his workshop from his drawings, with considerable loss of quality. He was extremely influential in his lifetime, though outside Rome his work was mostly known from his collaborative printmaking. After his death, the influence of his great rival Michelangelo was more widespread until the 18th and 19th centuries, when Raphael’s more serene and harmonious qualities were again regarded as the highest models. His career falls naturally into three phases and three styles, first described by Giorgio Vasari: his early years in Umbria, then a period of about four years (1504–1508) absorbing the artistic traditions of Florence, followed by his last hectic and triumphant twelve years in Rome, working for two Popes and their close associates.

One of his most important papal commissions was the Raphael Cartoons (now in the Victoria and Albert Museum), a series of 10 cartoons, of which seven survive, for tapestries with scenes of the lives of Saint Paul and Saint Peter, for the Sistine Chapel. The cartoons, including the one above, were sent to Brussels to be woven in the workshop of Pier van Aelst. It is possible that Raphael saw the finished series before his death—they were probably completed in 1520. He also designed and painted the Loggie at the Vatican, a long thin gallery then open to a courtyard on one side, decorated with Roman-style grottesche. He produced a number of significant altarpieces, including The Ecstasy of St. Cecilia and the Sistine Madonna. His last work, on which he was working up to his death, was a large Transfiguration, which together with Il Spasimo shows the direction his art was taking in his final years—more proto-Baroque than Mannerist.

 

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Fourth Sunday of the Year (C)

Luke 4:21-30

Year C - 4th Sunday - Christ_Pantocrator -Cathedral_of_Cefalù

 

Jesus began to speak in the synagogue, ‘This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen.’ And he won the approval of all, and they were astonished by the gracious words that came from his lips.

They said, ‘This is Joseph’s son, surely?’ But he replied,’ No doubt you will quote me the saying, “Physician, heal yourself” and tell me, “We have heard all that happened in Capernaum, do the same here in your own countryside.” ‘ And he went on, ‘I tell you solemnly, no prophet is ever accepted in his own country.

‘There were many widows in Israel, I can assure you, in Elijah’s day, when heaven remained shut for three years and six months and a great famine raged throughout the land, but Elijah was not sent to any one of these: he was sent to a widow at Zarephath, a Sidonian town. And in the prophet Elisha’s time there were many lepers in Israel, but none of these was cured, except the Syrian, Naaman.’

When they heard this everyone in the synagogue was enraged. They sprang to their feet and hustled him out of the town; and they took him up to the brow of the hill their town was built on, intending to throw him down the cliff, but he slipped through the crowd and walked away.

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Christ Pantokrator, mosaic, can be found in Cefalu Cathedral. The Cathedral-Basilica of Cefalù, (Duomo di Cefalù) is a Roman Catholic church in CefalùSicilyItaly.

The cathedral, dating from 1131, was commenced in the Norman style, the island of Sicily having been conquered by the Normans in 1091. According to tradition, the building was erected after a vow made to the Holy Saviour by the King of Sicily, Roger II, after he escaped from a storm to land on the city’s beach. The fortress-like character of the building, which, seen from a distance, rises as a huge bulk above its medieval town, may in part reflect the vulnerability of the site to attack from the sea. It also made a powerful statement of the Norman presence.

The Cathedral was built in an area of ancient and continuing population, as attested by the findings of a Roman road and a Palaeo-Christian mosaic. Construction began in 1131, the apse mosaics begun in 1145 and the sarcophagi that Roger II provided for his tomb and that of his wife were put in place the same year.

The famous façade is characterised by the presence of two large Norman towers, with mullioned windows, each surmounted by a small spire added in the 15th century. Each spire is different: one has a square plan surrounded by flame-shaped merlons, the latter symbolising the Papal authority and the mitre; the other has an octagonal plan and Ghibelline merlons, symbolizing the Royal and the temporal power.

The interior of the cathedral is on the Latin cross plan, divided into a nave and two aisles by arcades of antique columns: fourteen in pink granite and two in cipolin. The bases and capitals are from the 2nd century AD. Two large capitals supporting the triumphal arch of the nave were probably made by an Apulian workshop in the mid-12th century.

It was probably planned that the entire church should be decorated in mosaic, but it was only completed in the presbyterium area. It still covers the apse and some half of the side walls. Roger II brought masters in the technique of mosaic from Constantinople. They adapted their traditional Byzantine decorative art to an architectural structure that was of Northern European origin.

The dominant figure of the decorative scheme is the bust of the Christ Pantokrator, portrayed with a hand raised in Benediction on the semi-dome of the apse. In his left hand he carries the Gospels, in which can be read, in Greek and Latin: “I am the light of the world, who follows me will not wander in the darkness but will have the light of life”.

The chief figure of The Christ Pantokrator is clothed in blue, given a great luminosity by the background of gold tiles. The work is of the highest order, having great elegance in the draping of the robes and sensitivity in the face and gestures. It is considered the finest Byzantine mosaic in Italy and comparable to other fine Late Byzantine work from Constantinople.

The Byzantine mosaic decoration was completed before 1170. The lower part and the side walls of the presbyterium were completed only in the 17th century, covering preceding paintings of which scarce traces remain today.

 

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Third Sunday of the Year (C)

Luke 1: 1-4, 4:14-21

Year C - 3rd Sunday - Luke - Reni

 

Seeing that many others have undertaken to draw up accounts of the events that have taken place among us, exactly as these were handed down to us by those who from the outset were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word, I in my turn, after carefully going over the whole story from the beginning, have decided to write an ordered account for you, Theophilus, so that your Excellency may learn how well founded the teaching is that you have received.

Jesus, with the power of the Spirit in him, returned to Galilee; and his reputation spread throughout the countryside. He taught in their synagogues and everyone praised him.

He came to Nazara, where he had been brought up, and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day as he usually did. He stood up to read, and they handed him the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Unrolling the scroll he found the place where it is written:

The spirit of the Lord has been given to me, for he has anointed me. He has sent me to bring the good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives and to the blind new sight, to set the downtrodden free, to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour.

He then rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the assistant and sat down. And all eyes in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to speak to them, ‘This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: St Luke, completed in 1621 by Guido Reni (4 November 1575 – 18 August 1642) an Italian painter of high-Baroque style. Oil on canvas, 78cm x 65cm, located at Bob Jones University, Greenville, SC, USA.

Born in Bologna into a family of musicians, Guido Reni was the son of Daniele Reni and Ginevra de’ Pozzi. As a child of nine, he was apprenticed under the Bolognese studio of Denis Calvaert. Soon after, he was joined in that studio by Albani and Domenichino. By late 1601, Reni and Albani had moved to Rome to work with the teams led by Annibale Carracci in fresco decoration of the Farnese Palace. After a few year sojourn in Bologna, he returned to Rome to become one of the premier painters during the papacy of Paul V (Borghese). From 1607–1614, he was one of the painters patronised by the Borghese family.

Reni’s frescoed ceiling of the large central hall of garden palace, Casino dell’Aurora located in the grounds of the Palazzo Pallavicini-Rospigliosi, is considered his masterpiece. The casino was originally a pavilion commissioned by Cardinal Scipione Borghese; the rear portion overlooks the Piazza Montecavallo and Palazzo del Quirinale. The massive fresco is framed in quadri riportati and depicts Apollo in his Chariot preceded by Dawn (Aurora) bringing light to the world. The work is restrained in classicism. During Reni’s years in Rome, two among Rome’s most important and noble families were the Barberini and the Pamphilj; considering that Pope Urban VIII (Maffeo Barberini, 1568-1644) was a member of the former family, while among the cardinals was a member of the latter one, Giovanni Battista Pamphilj. The two families were in rather bad relations, and the reason for such friction was their constant quest for temporal power.

In 1618, Reni traveled to Naples to complete a commission to paint a ceiling in a chapel of the San Gennaro. However, in Naples, the other local prominent painters, including CorenzioCaracciolo and Ribera, were vehemently resistant to competitors, and according to rumour, conspired to poison or otherwise harm Reni (as may have befallen Domenichino in Naples after him). He passed briefly by Rome, but left that city abruptly, during the pontificate of Urban VIII, after being reprimanded by Cardinal Spinola.

 

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Second Sunday of the Year (C)

John 2: 1-11

Year C - 2nd Sunday - Marriage Cana - Gerard David

 

There was a wedding at Cana in Galilee. The mother of Jesus was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited. When they ran out of wine, since the wine provided for the wedding was all finished, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ Jesus said, ‘Woman, why turn to me? My hour has not come yet.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ There were six stone water jars standing there, meant for the ablutions that are customary among the Jews: each could hold twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants. ‘Fill the jars with water,’ and they filled them to the brim. ‘Draw some out now’ he told them ‘and take it to the steward.’ They did this; the steward tasted the water, and it had turned into wine. Having no idea where it came from – only the servants who had drawn the water knew – the steward called the bridegroom and said, ‘People generally serve the best wine first, and keep the cheaper sort till the guests have had plenty to drink; but you have kept the best wine till now.’

This was the first of the signs given by Jesus: it was given at Cana in Galilee. He let his glory be seen, and his disciples believed in him.

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: The Marriage of Cana, painted by Gerard David, 1500. Oil on panel, 100cm x 128cm, resides in the Louvre Museum. 

Gerard David (1460 –1523) was an Early Netherlandish painter and manuscript illuminator known for his brilliant use of colour. Only a bare outline of his life survives, although some facts are known. He may have been the “Meester gheraet van brugghe” who became a master of the Antwerp guild in 1515. He was very successful in his lifetime and ran two workshops, in Antwerp and Bruges. His reputation diminished in the 17th century until he was rediscovered in the 19th century.

He was born in Oudewater, now located in the province of Utrecht. His year of birth is approximate as 1460 on the basis that he looks to be around 50 years in the 1509 self-portrait found in his “Virgin among the Virgins”. He spent his mature career in Bruges, where he was a member of the painters’ guild. Upon the death of Hans Memling in 1494, David became Bruges’ leading painter. He moved to Bruges in 1483, where he had formed his early style under Albert van Oudewater, and joined the guild of St Luke at Bruges in 1484. He became dean of the guild in 1501, and in 1496 married Cornelia Cnoop, daughter of the dean of the goldsmiths‘ guild. He died on 13 August 1523 and was buried in the Church of Our Lady at Bruges.

David had been completely forgotten when in the early 1860s he was rescued from oblivion by William Henry James Weale, whose researches in the archives of Bruges brought to light the main facts of the painter’s life and led to the reconstruction of David’s artistic personality, beginning with the recognition of David’s only documented work, the Virgin Among Virgins at Rouen.

David’s surviving work mainly consists of religious scenes. They are characterised by an atmospheric, timeless, and almost dream like serenity, achieved through soft, warm and subtle colourisation, and masterful handling of light and shadow. He is innovative in his recasting of traditional themes and in his approach to landscape, which was then only an emerging genre in northern European painting. His ability with landscape can be seen in the detailed foliage of his Triptych of the Baptism.

Today most view him as a master colourist, and a painter who according to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, worked in a “progressive, even enterprising, mode, casting off his late medieval heritage and proceeding with a certain purity of vision in an age of transition.”

Other works for which David is best known are the altarpieces painted before his visit to Antwerp: the Marriage of St Catherine at the National Gallery, London; the triptych of the Madonna Enthroned and Saints of the Brignole-Sale collection in Genoa; the Annunciation of the Sigmaringen collection; and above all, the Madonna with Angels and Saints, which he donated to the Carmelite Nuns of Sion at Bruges, and which is now in the Rouen museum.

 

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First Sunday of the Year (C) – Feast of the Baptism of the Lord

Luke 3: 15-16, 21-22

Year C - 1st Sunday - Feast of the Baptism of the Lord - Scrovegni

 

A feeling of expectancy had grown among the people, who were beginning to think that John might be the Christ, so John declared before them all, ‘I baptise you with water, but someone is coming, someone who is more powerful than I am, and I am not fit to undo the strap of his sandals; he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire.’

Now when all the people had been baptised and while Jesus after his own baptism was at prayer, heaven opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily shape, like a dove, And a voice came from the heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests with you.’           

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Baptism of the Christ fresco, by Giotto di Bondone. Located in the Scrovegni Chapel (Cappella degli Scrovegni, also known as the Arena Chapel), a church in PaduaVenetoItaly. It contains a fresco cycle by Giotto, completed about 1305, that is one of the most important masterpieces of Western art.

Giotto di Bondone (1266 – 1337), was an Italian painter and architect from Florence in the late Middle Ages. He is generally considered the first in a line of great artists who contributed to the Renaissance. Giotto’s contemporary, the chronicler Giovanni Villani, wrote that Giotto was “the most sovereign master of painting in his time, who drew all his figures and their postures according to nature. And he was given a salary by the Comune of Florence in virtue of his talent and excellence.”

The late-16th century biographer Giorgio Vasari describes Giotto as making a decisive break with the prevalent Byzantine style and as initiating “the great art of painting as we know it today, introducing the technique of drawing accurately from life, which had been neglected for more than two hundred years.”

Giotto’s masterwork is the decoration of the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua, completed around 1305. This fresco cycle depicts the life of the Virgin and the life of Christ. It is regarded as one of the supreme masterpieces of the Early Renaissance. That Giotto painted the Arena Chapel and that he was chosen by the Comune of Florence in 1334 to design the new campanile (bell tower) of the Florence Cathedral are among the few certainties of his biography. Almost every other aspect of it is subject to controversy: his birthdate, his birthplace, his appearance, his apprenticeship, the order in which he created his works, whether or not he painted the famous frescoes at Assisi, and his burial place.

 

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Christmas Week 2 – Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord – Year C

Matthew 2: 1-12

Year C - Christmas week 2 - Adoration of the Magi - Botticelli

 

After Jesus had been born at Bethlehem in Judaea during the reign of King Herod, suddenly some wise men came to Jerusalem from the east asking, ‘Where is the infant king of the Jews? 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. They told him,

‘At Bethlehem in Judaea, for this is what the prophet wrote: And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, you are by no means the least among the leaders of Judah, for from 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 with the words, ‘Go and find out all about the child, 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 suddenly the star they had seen rising 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 given a warning 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: The Adoration of the Magi is a painting by the Italian Renaissance master Sandro Botticelli, dating from 1475 or 1476. Tempera on panel, 111 x 134cm. It is housed in the Uffizi of Florence. Botticelli was commissioned to paint at least seven versions of The Adoration of the Magi.

The Adoration of the Magi theme was popular in Renaissance Florence. The work was commissioned by Gaspare di Zanobi del Lama, a banker of humble origins and dubious morality connected to the House of Medici, for his chapel in the church of Santa Maria Novella (now destroyed). In the scene are present numerous characters among which are several members of the Medici familyCosimo de’ Medici (the Magus kneeling in front of the Virgin, described by Vasari as “the finest of all that are now extant for its life and vigour”), his sons Piero (the second Magus kneeling in the centre with the red mantle) and Giovanni (the third Magus), and his grandsons Giuliano and Lorenzo. The three Medici portrayed as Magi were all dead at the time the picture was painted, and Florence was effectively ruled by Lorenzo.

‘In his Lives’ Vasari describes the Adoration in the following way: “The beauty of the heads in this scene is indescribable, their attitudes all different, some full-face, some in profile, some three-quarters, some bent down, and in various other ways, while the expressions of the attendants, both young and old, are greatly varied, displaying the artist’s perfect mastery of his profession. Sandro further clearly shows the distinction between the suites of each of the kings. It is a marvellous work in colour, design and composition.”

Del Lama is portrayed as the old man on the right with white hair and a light blue robe looking and pointing at the observer. In the picture is also present Botticelli’s alleged self-portrait, as the blond man with yellow mantle on the far right. The attention to details, such as the garments rendering, show the acquisition by the Florentine artist of the influences from the Flemish school at this point of his career.

 

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Christmas Week 1 – Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph – Year C

Luke 2: 41-52

Year C - Christmas week 1 - Temple - Hunt

 

Every year the parents of Jesus used to go to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up for the feast as usual. When they were on their way home after the feast, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem without his parents knowing it. They assumed he was with the caravan, and it was only after a day’s journey that they went to look for him among their relations and acquaintances. When they failed to find him they went back to Jerusalem looking for him everywhere.

Three days later, they found him in the Temple, sitting among the doctors, listening to them, and asking them questions; and all those who heard him were astounded at his intelligence and his replies. They were overcome when they saw him, and his mother said to him, ‘My child, why have you done this to us? See how worried your father and I have been, looking for you.’ ‘Why were you looking for me?’ he replied. ‘Did you not know that I must be busy with my Father’s affairs?’ But they did not understand what he meant.

He then went down with them and came to Nazareth and lived under their authority. His mother stored up all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom, in stature, and in favour with God and men.      

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: The Finding of the Saviour in the Temple (1860) is a painting by William Holman Hunt. Oil on canvas (141cm x 86cm), it is located at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. Intended as anethnographically accurate version of the subject traditionally known as “Christ Among the Doctors“, an illustration of the child Jesus debating the interpretation of the scripture with learned rabbis. The passage illustrated is from the Gospel of Luke, 2:41.

Hunt depicts the moment at which Mary and Joseph find Jesus, while the rabbis in the temple are reacting in various contrasting ways to his discourse, some intrigued, others angry or dismissive. This depiction of contrasting reactions is part of the tradition of the subject, as evidenced in Albrecht Dürer‘s much earlier version. Hunt would also have known Bernardino Luini‘s version of the subject in the National Gallery. At the time this was ascribed to Leonardo da Vinci.

Obsessed with the idea of revitalising religious art by emphasising ethnographical accuracy combined with detailed Biblical symbolism, Hunt had travelled to the Middle East to create the picture, using local people as models and studying ancient Judaic customs and rituals. Progress on the painting was delayed by difficulties with models, and eventually Hunt postponed it to work on another project, The Scapegoat. He eventually completed it in 1860, back in England. His friend Frederic George Stephens wrote a pamphlet containing a detailed explanation of the content and the characters. It was then shown in a series of popular travelling exhibitions at which visitors could buy the pamphlet and subscribe to an engraved reproduction. These were organised by the dealer Ernest Gambart, and proved a great financial success.

 

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Fourth Sunday of Advent – Year C

Luke 1: 39-44

Year C - Advent week 4 - Annuciation - Matteis

 

Mary set out and went as quickly as she could to a town in the hill country of Judah. She went into Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. Now as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. She gave a loud cry and said, ‘Of all women you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord? For the moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy. Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.’  

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: The Annunciation painted by Paolo de Matteis, oil on canvas 1712. 207cm x 179cm, it is located in Saint Louis Art Museum, Missouri, USA.

The white lily in the angel’s hand is symbolic of Mary’s purity in Marian art. The Blessed Virgin Mary has been one of the major subjects of Christian ArtCatholic Art and Western Art for many centuries. Literally hundreds of thousands of pieces of Marian art in the Catholic Church covering a range of Marian artistic topics have been produced, from masters such as Michelangelo and Botticelli to humble peasant artists. Although Marian art items may at times be viewed from an artistic perspective and sold at auctions, or discussed from an academic viewpoint in the context of art history, from a religious viewpoint they form part of the very fabric of Roman Catholic Marian culture through their emotional impact on the veneration of the Blessed Virgin.

Paolo de Matteis (also known as Paolo de’ Matteis; 9 February 1662 – 26 January 1728) was an Italian painter. He was born in Cilento near Salerno, and died in Naples. He trained with Francesco di Maria in Naples, then with Luca Giordano. He served in the employ of the Spanish Viceroy of Naples. From 1702 to 1705, de’ Matteis worked in Paris, Calabria, and Genoa. In Genoa, he painted an Immaculate Conception with St. Jerome Appearing to St. Sevrio. Returning to Naples, he painted decorative schemes for Neapolitan churches, including the vault of the chapel of San Ignatius in the church of Gesù Nuovo in Naples. He also painted an Assumption of the Virgin for the Abbey at Monte Cassino. Between 1723–1725, de’ Matteis lived in Rome, where he received a commission from Pope Innocent XIII

He had as pupils Ignacio de OliveiraBernardes Peresi, and members of the Sarnelli family including Francesco,  Gennaro,  Giovanni, and Antonio Sarnelli. Others who were his pupils were Giuseppe Mastroleo,  Giovanni Pandozzi, and Nicolas de Filippis.

 

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Third Sunday of Advent – Year C

Luke 3: 10-18

Year C - Advent week 3 - John the Baptist - Murillo

 

When all the people asked John, ‘What must we do?’ he answered, ‘If anyone has two tunics he must share with the man who has none, and the one with something to eat must do the same.’ There were tax collectors too who came for baptism, and these said to him, ‘Master, what must we do?’ He said to them, ‘Exact no more than your rate.’ Some soldiers asked him in their turn, ‘What about us? What must we do?’ He said to them, ‘No intimidation! No extortion! Be content with your pay!’

A feeling of expectancy had grown among the people, who were beginning to think that John might be the Christ, so John declared before them all, ‘I baptise you with water, but someone is coming, someone who is more powerful than I am, and I am not fit to undo the strap of his sandals; he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing-fan is in his hand to clear his threshing-floor and to gather the wheat into his barn; but the chaff he will burn in a fire that will never go out.’ As well as this, there were many other things he said to exhort the people and to announce the Good News to them.   

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Saint John the Baptist pointing to Christ, painted 1655, oil on canvas by Bartolome Esteban Murillo. 271cm x 185cm it can be located at the Art Institute of Chicago, USA.

One of the most popular artists of his time, Bartolome Esteban Murillo was a Spanish baroque painter, best known for his religious works, as well as realistic depictions of the everyday life of his times. His early work was influenced by the painters Zubaran, Jusepe de Ribera, and Alonzo Cano, who all held a realistic approach to painting, a technique which was adapted by Murillo. His work was characterised by both realism and tenebrism, or the contrast of light and shade, which he combined to make soft forms full of rich colours. His later works evolved into a polished style that fed the tastes of the Bourgeois and aristocrats of his day, and he received many commissions for them. 

He also received many important commissions from the religious orders of the Franciscans and the confraternities in Seville and Andalusia. The themes that therefore gave him the greatest success were religious, being the Virgin and the Child and the Immaculate Conception.

In his lifetime, Murillo had a great number of pupils and followers, and in 1660, he founded the Academia de Bellas Artes in Seville, Spain. Until the 19th century, he was the only Spanish artist widely known in the European world, and his work was subsequently imitated, ensuring his fame throughout Spain and in Europe.

 

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Second Sunday of Advent – Year C

Luke 3: 1-6

Year C - Advent week 2 - John the Baptist - Preti

 

In the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar’s reign, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judaea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of the lands of Ituraea and Trachonitis, Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, during the pontificate of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah, in the wilderness. He went through the whole Jordan district proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the sayings of the prophet Isaiah:

A voice cries in the wilderness: Prepare a way for the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley will be filled in, every mountain and hill be laid low, winding ways will be straightened and rough roads made smooth. And all mankind shall see the salvation of God.

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: St John the Baptist preaching, painted oil on canvas, 1665 by Mattia Preti. 218cm x 171cm, it is located in the Fine Arts Museum in San Francisco, USA.

Mattia Preti (24 February 1613 – 3 January 1699) was an Italian Baroque artist who worked in Italy and Malta. He was also a member of the Order of Saint John.

Born in the small town of Taverna in Calabria, Preti was called Il Cavalier Calabrese (the Calabrian Knight) after he was accepted into the Order of St. John (Knights of Malta) in 1660. His early apprenticeship is said to have been with the “Caravaggist” Giovanni Battista Caracciolo, which may account for his lifelong interest in the style of Caravaggio.

1630, Preti joined his brother Gregorio (also a painter), in Rome, where he became familiar with the techniques of Caravaggio and his school as well as with the work of GuercinoRubensGuido Reni, and Giovanni Lanfranco. In Rome, he painted fresco cycles in the churches of Sant’Andrea della Valle and San Carlo ai Catinari. Between 1644 and 1646, he spent time in Venice, but remained based in Rome until 1653, returning later in 1660-61. He painted frescoes for the church of San Biagio at Modena (1651–2) and participated in the fresco decoration of the Palazzo Pamphilj in Valmontone.

1653-1660, he worked in Naples, where he was influenced by another major painter of his era, Luca Giordano. One of Preti’s masterpieces were a series of large frescoes, ex-votos of the plague (which were painted on seven city gates but have since been lost to the ravages of time), depicting the Virgin or saints delivering people from the plague. Preti also won a commission to supervise the construction, carving, and gilding for the nave and transept of San Pietro a Maiella.

Having been made a Knight of Grace in the Order of St John, he visited the order’s headquarters in Malta in 1659 and spent most of the remainder of his life there. Preti transformed the interior of St. John’s Co-Cathedral in Valletta, with a huge series of paintings on the life and martyrdom of St. John the Baptist (1661–1666). In Malta one also can find many paintings of Preti in private collections and in parish churches.

 

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First Sunday of Advent – Year C

Luke 21: 25-28, 34-36

Year C - Advent week 1 - St Luke - Mantegna

 

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘There will be signs in the sun and moon and stars; on earth nations in agony, bewildered by the clamour of the ocean and its waves; men dying of fear as they await what menaces the world, for the powers of heaven will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand erect, hold your heads high, because your liberation is near at hand.

‘Watch yourselves, or your hearts will be coarsened with debauchery and drunkenness and the cares of life, and that day will be sprung on you suddenly, like a trap. For it will come down on every living man on the face of the earth. Stay awake, praying at all times for the strength to survive all that is going to happen, and to stand with confidence before the Son of Man.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: St Luke, painted 1453-54, 177cm x 230cm, located in Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan. The picture is part of the San Lucas Altarpiece, also known as the San Lucas Polyptych, is a polyptych panel painting by Northern Italian Renaissance painter Andrea Mantegna. The altarpiece is a polyptych panel painting featuring 12 figures each in his or her own arch. The seven figures in the top row flank the central figure of Jesus Christ. The five beneath flank Saint Luke pictured above.

On August 10, 1453, Mantegna signed a contract to paint the work for the monastery of Santa Giustina in Padua. In return for 50 ducats, Mantegna agreed to complete the work, providing paints with which to depict the figures and the azzurro todesco (a blue pigment derived from copper) with which to inlay them. The work was completed within that or the following year. 

Andrea Mantegna (1431 – 1506) an Italian painter, was 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, close to Padua (then part of the Republic of Venice), second son of a carpenter, Biagio. At the age of eleven he became the apprentice of Francesco SquarcionePaduan painter. Squarcione, whose original vocation was tailoring, appears to have had a remarkable enthusiasm for ancient art, and a faculty for acting. Like his famous compatriot Petrarca, Squarcione was something of a fanatic for ancient Rome: he travelled in Italy, and Greece, amassing antique statues, reliefs, vases, etc., forming a collection of such works, then making drawings from them himself, and throwing open his stores for others to study. All the while, he continued undertaking works on commission for which his pupils no less than himself were made available.

At the time, Mantegna was said to be a favorite pupil. Squarcione taught him Latin and instructed him to study fragments of Roman sculpture. The master also preferred forced perspective, the lingering results of which may account for some of Mantegna’s later innovations. Among early Mantegna frescoes are the two saints over the entrance porch of the church of Sant’Antonio in Padua, 1452, and this altarpiece of San Luca Altarpiece from 1453, with St. Luke and other saints now in Milan (1453). As the young artist progressed in his work, he came under the influence of Jacopo Bellini, father of the celebrated painters Giovanni Bellini and Gentile Bellini.