Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Holy Trinity

Title: Holy Trinity

Artist: Jusepe de Ribera

Medium: Oil on canvas

Size: 226 × 118 cm

Date: 1636

Location: Museo del Prado, Madrid.

The Christian doctrine of the Trinity teaches the unity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as three persons in one Godhead. In this painting Ribera has depicted the three in their traditional guises: God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the dove of the Holy Spirit.

Ribera was a great exponent of Caravaggism, and his rise to prominence in Naples further entrenched Caravaggism as the dominant mode there. With the Holy Trinity, however, he had moved further from Caravaggio's example, lightening his palette and increasing the painterliness of his brushwork. Ribera still employed the distinct shift between light and dark, most notably around the figure of Jesus, which allows the nimbus around God the Father to radiate.

Jusepe de Ribera (January 12, 1591 - September 2, 1652) was a Spanish painter and printmaker, also known in Spanish as José de Ribera. Almost nothing is known of his training in Spain, although it is possible, as some experts have suggested, that he had some contact with Francisco Ribalta. In Italy, where all his mature work was done, he was known as Giuseppe Ribera or Lo Spagnoletto, "the Little Spaniard". By 1644 he was so renowned that he was knighted by the pope.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Christ in Majesty

Title: Christ in Majesty

Artist: Luçon Master

Medium: Ink on parchment

Size: 14.5 cm x 21.0 cm

Date: 1400 - 1415

Location: Free Library of Philadelphia, Rare Book Collection

Christ in Majesty, or in Latin Majestas Domini, is the Western Christian image of Christ seated on a throne as ruler of the world. This unique example, however, replaces the throne with a rainbow, still beautifully signifying Christ’s overarching glory.

The illustration shown above was included in a book of hours from Rennes, France. The books of hours were composed for lay people who wished to incorporate elements of monasticism into their devotional life. Reciting the hours typically centered upon the recitation or singing of a number of psalms, accompanied by set prayers. This particular image was on the leaf following a French prayer "To the Five Wounds of Christ," and indeed, all five of Christ's wounds are shown in the miniature.

This anonymous artist, whose oeuvre has been recognized by art historians, has been named Luçon Master after a noted cycle of miniatures he illustrated belonging to the Bishop of Luçon. A French illuminator and leading artist working in Paris in the Late Gothic style, his works are distinguished by meticulous finish, elegance and subtle tonalities. Characteristic are his sinuous figures echoed by curling arabesques in the backgrounds or borders.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Sacrament of the Last Supper

Title: The Sacrament of the Last Supper
Artist: Salvador Dali
Medium: Oil on canvas

Size: 267 cm × 166.7 cm

Date: 1955

Location: National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Depicted is a representation one of the most significant events in Christian theology. As described in all four Gospels, at the Passover meal with his twelve disciples Jesus presented bread and wine, offered as his body and blood, as the basis for a new covenant between God and his people.

This painting, however, rather than being a historical depiction like Da Vinci’s masterpiece, seems to represent the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Christ himself is translucent and casts no shadow, and the gathered disciples seem to be focused not on the figure, but on the bread and wine displayed on the table. Christ is present, yet not visible to the eye.

Salvador Dali (May 11, 1904 – January 23, 1989) was a Spanish painter born in Figueres, and considered a master of the 20th Century surrealist movement. In 1940, as World War II started in Europe, Dali moved to the United States and eventually returned to the practice of Catholicism. There he announced 'My painting in future will be an amalgam of my Surrealist experience and the classicism of the Pre-Raphaelites and the Renaissance.'

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Bleeding Woman

Title: Untitled (The Bleeding Woman)

Medium: Fresco
4th Century AD
Catacombs of Marcellinus and Peter, Rome, Italy.

The Roman catacombs, or underground burial places, are extremely important in the history of early Christian art, as they contain the great majority of the fresco and sculpture examples from before 400 AD.

Depicted appears to be events described in Mark 5:25-34, where a woman who had been bleeding for years came up behind Jesus in a crowd, believing that by touching his garments she would get well. The typically unbearded Christ gestures openly to her, graphically interpreting the passage “You are now well because of your faith.”

This fresco, and others like it, are over 1600 years old. As they had lain forgotten for hundreds of those years the name of the artist has been lost with the passage of time. Fortunately, through the work of Antonio Bosio, who accidentally rediscovered the catacombs in 1578, such priceless art treasures have allowed us a unique window into the early Christian church.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Saint John the Evangelist's Vision of Jerusalem

Title: Saint John the Evangelist's Vision of Jerusalem
Artist: Alonso Cano
Medium: Oil on canvas
Date: 1636-37
Size: 83 x 44 cm
Location: Wallace Collection, London.

This painting, contracted on 23 November 1635, was executed for the convent church of Santa Paula in Seville. It is evident that the artist had mastered an Italianate manner of painting. The partly clad figure of the angel, the complicated, foreshortened pose, and the mastery of anatomical drawing are unique elements in Sevillian painting of the time, as are the deep perspective of the landscape and the delicate, translucent colors.

Depicted are events from The Revelation of St. John 21:2, where St. John is shown the holy city, new Jerusalem, "coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband."

Alonso Cano or Alonzo Cano (19 March 1601 – 3 September 1667) was a Spanish painter, architect and sculptor born in Granada. While living in Madrid he was suspected of having murdered his wife, was unjustly condemned, and ordered to leave the city. He took refuge in Valencia, and entered the Carthusian convent so as to be able to devote himself wholly to painting, which henceforth occupied him to the exclusion of sculpture.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Christ in the Desert

Title: Christ in the Desert (aka Christ in the Wilderness)
Artist: Ivan Kramskoi

Medium: Oil on canvas
Date: 1872
Size: 180 x 210 cm
Location: Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia.

This painting depicts events in Matthew, Chapter 4, where Jesus is led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted, tested and tried by the devil. Here, he went without food for forty days and forty nights. Though a traditional topic, Kramskoi imbues the work with new social interpretation and deep philosophical meaning. Christ in the Desert carried the idea of man’s moral duty to society, and therefore greatly impressed the painter’s contemporaries.

The Artist, born in Russia in 1837, attended the prestigious St Petersburg Academy of the Arts, but was eventually expelled for his reactions to the Academy's insistence to adhere to Academic traditions. Under the influence of the ideas of the Russian revolutionary democrats, he was a key founder of the Peredvizhniki (Wanderers), the first truly Russian national “school of art”. It stressed the heroism of ordinary life and ordinary people engaged in their usual activities, resulting in touching and dignified paintings of the peasantry. He died April 26, 1887.

Miracle of the Snow: Assumption of the Virgin

Title: Miracle of the Snow: Assumption of the Virgin
Artist: Masolino da Panicale
Date: c. 1428-1432
Size: 144 x 76 cm
Location: Naples, Museo di Capodimonte

This painting is the central panel of a reverse side of the triptych 'Miracle of the Snow' made for the Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome. The feast day of the Assumption of the Virgin is August 15, date of the Miracle of the Snow.

The painting commemorates an event in August 352, when a rectangle of snow was discovered on Mount Esquiline, one of the famous Seven Hills of Rome. Snowfall of any sort was unheard of that time of year, but that it had fallen only in one place and in such a specific pattern was regarded as a phenomenon. People crowded to see the patch of snow, which persisted despite the heat. The Pope had dreamt that Our Lady desired a church to be built on Mount Esquiline, and he was so moved by his dream that he visited the mysterious snowfall. As soon as the plot for the building had been staked out the snow melted

The Artist, also known as Tommaso di Cristofano Fini, was born in Panicale in Valdelsa, about 1383 and died in Florence, Italy, 1435/40.It is likely that he was an assistant to the famous Florentine artist Ghilberti between 1403 and 1407.


Welcome to Icons & Imagery, a blog for exploring the rich heritage of Christian Art. From the etchings on the walls of the Roman Catacombs, through the historical richness of byzantine monasteries, through the unsullied folk art of the developing world, the diversity of Christian imagery is waiting to be explored.