Friday, August 14, 2009

The Ascension

Title: The Ascension
Artist: Unknown
Medium: Encaustic Icon
Size: 46 x 29.5 cm
Date: 6th century
Location: Saint Catherine's Monastery, Sinai.

As recorded in the Acts of the Apostles 1:8-9, the last time they gathered with the risen Christ he told them “[...] you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” And after saying this, he was taken up into a cloud while they were watching, and they could no longer see him." On this occasion we can see the completion of Christ’s physical presence among his apostles and the consummation of the union of God and humanity as Christ ascends in his glorified human body to sit at the right hand of the Father. The Ascension is the final visible sign of Christ’s two natures, divine and human, and it shows us that redeemed humanity now has a higher state than humanity had before the fall.

The panel is split vertically and stapled together. Mary stands in the center in an orant position, signifying the Church, surrounded by the apostles including St. Paul, while Christ rises in a mandorla flanked by angels. She alone makes eye contact with us, the Church. The depiction here is clearly not historical, but highly symbolic of the nature of the Church Christ established and left, and His promise to send the Spirit and never to abandon His Church.

The iconography already seems well established by this period, as it recalls the Monza ampullae from Palestine. This icon is an encaustic painting, also known as hot wax painting, involving the use of heated beeswax to which colored pigments are added. The liquid/paste is then applied to a surface, in this case prepared wood. This icon, along with many others, is still located at Saint Catherine's Monastery at the mouth of an inaccessible gorge at the foot of Mount Sinai. The monastery is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

No comments:

Post a Comment