Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Appearance of Christ to Mary Magdalene

Title: The Appearance of Christ to Mary Magdalene

Artist: Alexander Ivanov

Medium: Oil on canvas

Size: tdb.

Date: 1835

Location: The State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg.

Mark 16:9 When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons.

Most biblical scholars agree that the original writer of the Gospel of Mark did not write the verses that follow 16:8, and the question arises as to whether that verse was the original ending of the Gospel. That idea has always seemed to make readers uneasy, and in antiquity there were several attempts to graft an ending onto Mark (16:9-20). These spurious endings offer the reader a choice: did the writer mean for the Gospel to end at 16:8, or was there an original ending that was somehow lost? Some scholars have proposed that the Gospel of John, chapter 21, contains most of the elements that were originally found in Mark. There is also evidence that Luke knew the original Mark complete with the material found in John 21, as Luke 5:3-10 merged Mark's story of how Jesus met Peter with a tale of a miraculous catch of fish found in John.

Ivanov’s ‘The Appearance of Christ to Mary Magdalene’ was warmly welcomed in St Petersburg and won him the title of Academician. The artist himself, however, was not entirely happy with the painting and it’s formal theatricality, reportedly referring to it as merely "corn-cob." Yet in his fascinating preparatory drawings for it, he conveyed the figures in a freer and more natural manner.

Alexander Andreyevich Ivanov (July 28, 1806 – July 15, 1858) was a Russian painter. His father, Andrey Ivanov, was an artist, the professor of the Academy of Arts, and it was his father who first taught Alexander art. Beginning around 1833, and throughout the next twenty years of his life, Ivanov consistently pondered over the theme of his masterpiece ‘The Appearance of Christ to the People’. This huge painting became, with time, synonymous with Ivanov's entire career. In 1858 Ivanov returned to St Petersburg and died two months later. His tremendous influence on Russian art can hardly be assessed in a few words. He undoubtedly ranks among the major Russian artists of the first half of the nineteenth century. His paintings, studies and drawings are a priceless part of the classical heritage.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Two Marys at the Tomb

Title: The Two Marys at the Tomb

Artist: Bartolomeo Schedoni

Medium: Oil on canvas

Size: tbd.

Date: 1613

Location: Galleria Nazionale, Parma.

Mark 16:6-8 "Don't be alarmed," he said. "You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, 'He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.' "

Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.

Throughout Mark, people spread news that they were supposed to keep quiet; here, when Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome are finally commanded to spread the word, they keep quiet. Again, the Gospel displays and ironic twist.

This memorable masterpiece, The Two Marys at the Tomb, gives us cause to regret the brevity of Bartolomeo Schedoni's tormented artistic life. It shows that he really would have been able to point Baroque painting in an original and intense direction. The way he blocked out gestures, used violent light and dazzling whites, combined with perfect clarity of detail to produce an almost metaphysical effect.

Bartolomeo Schedoni (1578-1615) was an Italian early Baroque painter and an eccentric exponent of the Emilian school. Schedoni went to Rome at the close of the sixteenth century, but he soon returned to Emilia and settled in Parma. It was there that he painted a small but fascinating group of masterpieces in a severe and noble style. At the same time his works were warmed by a light that softened fabrics and added delicacy to expressions. His untimely death (perhaps suicide owing to gambling debts) brought an abrupt end to the career of one of the most attractive painters of the seventeenth century.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Holy Women at the Sepulcher

Title: Le Saintes Femmes au Tombeau (The Holy Women at the Sepulcher)

Artist: William-Adolphe Bouguereau

Medium: Oil on Canvas

Size: tbd

Date: 1890

Location: Private Collection

Mark 16: 4-5 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.

This painting by Bouguereau has an immediacy and vividness, an seems to have been influenced by photography. The young man in white, only just visible in the light that comes from the tomb, at first seems largely redundant. The first and third women are also well composed, but all the meaning and power of the picture is focused in the central figure, on her astonished face and her clasped hands. But the composition invites us to look beyond just the surface image. We can see a fourth place left available to stand among the women, to peer into the tomb, to see what the three women see. There is a place for us to bear witness if we are willing to take the step forward.

William-Adolphe Bouguereau (November 30, 1825 - August 19, 1905) was a French academic painter. Bouguereau was a staunch traditionalist whose realistic genre paintings and mythological themes were modern interpretations of Classical subjects. Toward the end of his career, at the same time that he was admired by the public, he was also impugned by a growing clique of painters and writers of the new generation who considered themselves progressive, and who believed that rebellion against traditional values in painting was their raison d'etre. Bouguereau and his colleagues were rapidly labeled as reactionaries in the face of this growing cult of the new, found first in Impressionism and Post Impressionism. His fate was to be much like that of Rembrandt, whose work was also ridiculed and banished from museums and official art circles for the hundred years following his death.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Women the Morning of the Third Day

Title: Femmes au Matin du 3e Jour (Women the morning of the third day)

Artist: Macha Chmakoff

Medium: Oil on canvas

Size: 81 x 65 cm

Date: c. 2008

Location: Private collection

Mark 16:1-3 When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus' body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, "Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?"

The women return to the tomb to finish the burial preparations for Jesus that had been omitted due to he onset of Sabbath two nights previous. The spices they bought were not part of a traditional burial for everyone, but would have been used only for the bodies of special persons. In other words, their reason for coming was to serve Jesus. In the Gospel of Mark, women occupy a central position in the mission and message of Jesus as examples of model disciples. These women frequently serve as triumphant examples of faith and sacrifice in contrast to unbelieving men.

Macha Chmakoff is a French psychologist, author, and painter, who studied theology at the Université Catholique de Paris. Chmakoff’s work reflects her belief that society is marked by the divorce between religion and spirituality, and the Christian religion proposes to guide the believer into the fullness of his humanity. To become fully human takes awareness of an emptiness, and Christianity provides the tools required to penetrate the source of this emptiness. More of her work can be viewed on her website at

Saturday, March 27, 2010


Title: Resurrection

Artist: Jan Styka

Medium: Oil on cardboard

Size: 41 x 32.5 cm

Date: 1901

Location: Private collection

The Gospel of Mark has no actual account of the resurrection. Events progress from the entombment to the morning when the Sabbath has past. An argument can be made that the resurrection, while a real event according to the unanimous testimony of the canonical Gospels, is not historical in the sense that ordinary events are. It occurs at a point where history ends and God’s end-time kingdom begins. It is not in itself an observable occurrence. No one saw God raise Jesus from the dead. Nor can it be verified. In a sense, it is an inference from the disciple’s Easter visions, and the empty tomb.

Yet the mind can not help but wonder what kind of a sight it would have been to witness. According to Matthew 27:66, the chief priests and the Pharisees, with the sanction of Pilate, went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting a guard. But even here there is no clear indication if anything was witnessed, or if everything happened behind sealed doors. In keeping with tradition, however, Styka’s painting depicts a transcendent, glorious Christ, at the moment of his freedom from the tomb, the moment when God’s promise of eternal life becomes fulfilled.

Jan Styka (April 8, 1858 - April 11, 1925) was an ethnic Polish-born painter noted for producing large historical and Christian panoramas. Styka, son of an officer in Austria-Hungary, attended school in his native Lemberg and then studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, Austria. Afterward he took up residence in Italy for a short time before moving to France where the great art movements at Montmartre and Montparnasse were taking shape, and where he would spend a large part of his life.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Christ in Limbo

Title: Christ in Limbo

Artist: Fra Angelico

Medium: Fresco

Size: 183 x 166 cm

Date: c. 1450

Location: Florence, Cloister, cell 31, Museo di San Marco.

Christ’s Descent into Hell, or Descent into Limbo, is a legend not depicted in any of the canonical Gospels. One of the first written references can be found in the Apocryphal text, the Gospel of Nicodemus. Before his bodily Resurrection, Jesus descended into Hell and led the just, the patriarchs, the prophets of the Old Testament and Adam and Eve, into the light. Later, a clarity was introduced that they had not been in Hell at all, but in the bordering region, Limbo (from the Latin word limbus, a hem); it was taught that because they lived and died before the Christ's self-sacrifice for peoples redemption, they were put in the lower place until such time when Jesus could liberate them.

In ‘Christ in Limbo’, Christ, as Conqueror, enters through the gate, which has fallen flat at His approach, beneath it Lucifer lies crushed, the impersonation of death and sin. The Saviour stretches forth His hand to Abraham, the father of the faithful, foremost among the vast multitude of "spirits in prison," who have so long awaited His coming. Among these can be seen Adam and Eve. The Italian critics look upon it as a marvelous rendering of the well-known passage in the Inferno (Canto IV, 54 et seq).

Fra Angelico (c. 1395 – February 18, 1455), was a Florentine painter as well as a Dominican friar, having entered a Dominican convent in Fiesole in 1418. He rose from obscure beginnings as a journeyman illuminator to the renown of an artist whose last major commissions were monumental fresco cycles in St Peter’s and the Vatican Palace, Rome. Within his lifetime or shortly thereafter he was also called Il Beato (the Blessed), in reference to his skills in painting religious subjects. In 1982 Pope John Paul II conferred beatification, in recognition of the holiness of his life, thereby making this title official.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Sorrows of the Mother of God

Title: The Sorrows of the Mother of God

Artist: Mikhail Petrovich Botkin

Medium: Oil on Canvas

Size: tbd.

Date: c. 1870

Location: tbd.

Mary, mother of Jesus, is depicted as forlorn. The three crosses used in the crucifixion are outlined against the setting sun, a reminder against the orange glow on the horizon. Mary, too, holds reminders of the trauma: left over linen and the crown of thorns are draped in her arms. She is a portrait of disbelieving grief.

Mikhail Petrovich Botkin (1839-1914) was an academically trained history painter, know for his Christian paintings and genre compositions. He came from a famous family in Russia. One of his brothers was a famous author, and another a brilliant. Botkin entered the Academy of Fine Arts in St Petersburg in 1856, but he left without finishing his studies there, and instead went to Italy using his own means. From there he also visited Germany, France, and Spain, studying the techniques of the artists in these countries. Botkin also worked in business, and was a director of several firms, including the Russian Steam Navigation and Trade Society, the first Russian insurance society, and a St Petersburg commercial bank. The means earned from such activity allowed him to support public initiatives developing young artists. Botkin was an avid art collector and connoisseur, and paintings from his collection were carried to many exhibitions in Russia and all over Europe.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Entombment of Christ

Title: The Entombment of Christ

Artist: Sisto Badalocchio

Medium: Oil on canvas

Size: tbd.

Date: 1610

Location: Galleria Borghese, Rome.

Mark 15:46-47 and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid.

Though no direct participation in the preparation of Christ’s body by the women is mentioned in the Gospel, Mark still stresses the importance of their knowledge about those events. They are not participants, but rather witnesses.

This important painting, ‘The Entombment of Christ’, dating from the first decade of the 17th century, is attributed to Sisto Badalocchio. Here human participation in the event has become the main focus. A comparison with Raphael's Deposition (also in the Galleria Borghese), which inspired it, reveals how the painter insisted on the emotions as reflected in natural movements, and was influenced both by Dürer's prints and antique sculpture.

Sisto Badalocchio Rosa (c.1581 - c.1647) was an Italian painter and engraver of the Bolognese School. Born in Parma, he worked first under Agostino Carracci in Bologna, then Annibale Carracci, in Rome. Annibale's death in 1609 precipitated Badalocchio's return to Emilia. There in 1613 he created his most important work, the frescoes in the cupola and pendentives of San Giovanni Evangelista, Reggio Emilia, a reinterpretation of Correggio's work in the church of the same name in Parma.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Removal from the Cross

Title: The Removal from the Cross

Artist: Vasili Perov

Medium: Oil on canvas

Size: tbd.

Date: 1878

Location: The Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.

Mark 15:46 [Joseph] wrapped the body in the linen,

Mary, Mary Magdalene and Joseph of Arimathea have removed Christ from the cross and have been preparing body for entombment. Christ rests on the ground, his livid body a shocking contrast with the blood-red sky in the background, the crown of thorns and the nail from his feet lying next to him. A mourning Mary looks as if she could barely sit up. Mary Magdalene makes no effort to rise and lies holding his feet and burying her face in grief. Joseph has straightened up after cleaning the body and his ramrod straight back parallels the crosses while offering a contrast with the bowed, almost crushed female figures and denoting the upright man. The basin, full of Christ's blood, may evoke the legend according to which Joseph filled a holy grail with Christ's blood.

Vasili Grigorievich Perov (December 23, 1834 – May 29, 1882) was a Russian painter. He was an illegitimate son of the baron G. K. Kridiner, an Arzamas prosecutor. In 1846, he entered the Art School of Stupin in Arzamas, where he got his nickname of Perov for his good handwriting (from Russian pero, pen). He lived at a time when an artist’s indifference to social problems was considered immoral in Russia. And it was Perov who took up a vital and most complicated task of establishing the principles of critical realism. He became one of the most predominating figures in Russian painting of the 1860s. In 1871, together with Ivan Kramskoi, Nikolai Ge, and Grigory Miasoyedov became a founder of the Itinerants’ Society of Traveling Exhibitions (the Peredvizhniki). Also in 1871, Perov became a professor at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture, and he turned out to be an excellent teacher.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Christ with Joseph of Arimathea

Title: Christ with Joseph of Arimathea

Artist: Giovanni Girolamo Savoldo

Medium: Oil on wood

Size: 105 x 192 cm

Date: c. 1525

Location: Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland.

According to the Gospels, Joseph of Arimathea was a wealthy Israelite, a good and a just man who was looking for the kingdom of God. He is described by St. Mark a bouleutes, literally, "a senator", whereby is meant a member of the Sanhedrin or supreme council of the Jews. He was a disciple of Jesus, probably ever since Christ's first preaching in Judea, but he did not declare himself as such. On account of this allegiance to Jesus, he did not consent to His condemnation by the Sanhedrin, and was most likely absent from the meeting which sentenced Jesus to death. The crucifixion of his Master quickened Joseph's faith and love.

In this painting, aside from an amorphous, cloudy sky, Savoldo eliminated the background entirely and reduced the narrative to the two monumental figures, brought to the front of the picture plane. These qualities surely had a great impact on Caravaggio, who initially trained in Northern Italy, where Savoldo spent his career. This work originally hung over a large altarpiece, which explains the unusual perspective, the panel’s horizontal shape, and the figures’ position above the viewer.

Giovanni Girolamo Savoldo, also called Girolamo da Brescia (c. 1480-1485 – c. 1548) was an Italian High Renaissance painter. Savoldo was born in Brescia, but little is known about his early years. By 1506 he was in Parma, and by 1508, he had joined the Florentine painter’s guild. Savoldo may have spent some years of his life in Milan. He had a Dutch wife. The exact date of Savoldo's death is not known: in 1548 he was cited as still living in Venice, though vecchione ("Very old").

Sunday, March 21, 2010


Title: Pietà

Artist: Luis de Morales

Medium: Oil on panel

Size: 98 x 126 cm

Date: 1560

Location: Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, Madrid.

The Pietà (Italian for pity) is a subject in Christian art depicting the Virgin Mary cradling the dead body of Jesus. As discussed previously, it would have been highly unorthodox for women to assist in the burial of Jesus immediately after his death, but his mother, grief stricken, may have been overcome. Morales conveys the emotion of the scene like few others: mother and son, faces pressed close together, her eyes red and swollen from crying, while his are white and lifeless. He is limp as she cradles him.

Most of Morales's clientele preferred simplified compositions comprising a few figures, dramatically illuminated and posed against a dark or neutral background, the purpose of which was to arouse feelings of tragedy in the viewers and even move them to tears. This Pietà, which came from the Jesuit church in Córdoba, is a masterful example of this type of composition.

Luis de Morales (c. 1520, Badajoz - 1586, Badajoz) was a Spanish painter. He worked for most of his life in Badajoz, a town on the Portuguese border, and his style, formed away from the influence of the court or great religious and artistic centres such as Seville, is highly distinctive. His pictures are usually fairly small and he concentrated on devotional images. He painted numerous versions of the Virgin and Child, and touching visions inspired by the theme of the Pieta, which are among his most popular works. The piety of his work has earned him the nickname 'El Divino'.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Descent from the Cross

Title: Descent from the Cross

Artist: Jean-Baptiste Jouvenet

Medium: Oil on canvas

Size: 424 x 312 cm

Date: 1697

Location: Musée du Louvre, Paris.

Mark 15:46 So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body,

The Descent from the Cross, or Deposition of Christ, is the scene, as depicted in art, from the Gospels' accounts of Christ being taken down from the cross after his crucifixion. In Byzantine art the topic became popular in the 9th century, and in the West from the 10th century. It was forbidden for Jews to touch a dead body, and even though the men made themselves unclean by burying Jesus, it’s unlikely that any of the women would have actually had any direct contact. In fact, Luke 23:54-56 indicates that they planned to do their part in the burial after the Sabbath, on Sunday morning. Taking Jesus off the cross and placing Him in the tomb was men’s work.

This bold and vigorous painting, with its magnificent harmony of warm colors, foreshadows the most beautiful of the nineteenth-century Romantic Paintings. He details the bodies and the faces with precision. The arms, legs and torsos knotted around the slanting cross convey a power which rivals that of the baroque masters. Executed for the church of the Capuchins in the Place Louis-le-grande, Paris, it was donated to the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture in 1756. During the French Revolution, it was acquired by the Louvre, as were all the other paintings which had belonged to the Académie.

Jean-Baptiste Jouvenet (1644 – 5 April 1717) was a French painter, especially well know for his religious subjects. "Theatrical" is a term often used to describe the work of Jouvenet, an artist who was influenced by Poussin and took Charles Le Brun as his model. However, while he maintains the "grand goût" of his masters, he breaks with reflective painting, investigating broad dramatic effects, warm tones, and a certain realism. Due to Jouvenet's work, French painting in the late 17th century attained a pictorial expression which could rival the great foreign baroque masters. He was born into an artistic family in Rouen. His first training in art was from his father, Laurent Jouvenet; a generation earlier, his grandfather, Noel Jouvenet, may have taught Nicolas Poussin.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Crucifixion of Christ

Title: The Crucifixion of Christ

Artist: Carl Bloch

Medium: Etching

Size: 25 x 33 cm

Date: 1881

Location: Hope Gallery, Park City, UT

Just as he suffered alone, Christ is solitarily placed against the ominous sky looming above him. Being the focal point of the piece, his lifeless body brings the eye down to the mournful scene below him with Mary Magdalene, the Virgin Mother, and John the Beloved, all grieving in disbelief. John’s gaze carries the viewer to the three figures on the right approaching with a ladder and linens for Christ’s descension. Having been granted permission to remove Jesus’ body from the cross, this engraving depicts Joseph of Arimathea approaching triumphantly with the help needed to remove the Lord’s body.

Carl Heinrich Bloch (May 23, 1834 – February 22, 1890) was a Danish painter. He was born in Copenhagen and studied with Wilhelm Marstrand at the Royal Danish Academy of Art (Det Kongelige Danske Kunstakademi). His early work featured rural scenes from everyday life. From 1859 to 1866, Bloch lived in Italy. After many of Bloch’s paintings that were coming out of Italy were seen by influential patrons back home, he was commissioned to paint 23 new paintings for the King's Praying Chamber in the newly restored Frederiksborg Castle Chapel, in Hillerød, Denmark. Those paintings have become very popular illustrations, so much so that for over 40 years the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has made heavy use of the imagery in Bloch's paintings in its church buildings and printed media. Carl Bloch also excelled through his etchings. Sigurd Mueller, a leading Danish art critic, stated "No other Danish artist has given us so many great etchings as Carl Bloch".

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Joseph of Arimathea Seeks Pilate

Title: Joseph of Arimathea Seeks Pilate to Beg Permission to Remove the Body of Jesus

Artist: James Tissot

Medium: Watercolor over graphite on gray wove paper

Size: 22.7 x 30.8 cm

Date: c. 1890

Location: Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, New York.

Mark 15:42-45 It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath). So as evening approached, Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus' body. Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph.

That the Jewish Council included pious members like Joseph, and not just the sort who appeared at Jesus’ trial, fits the known diversity within the aristocracy of the period. That Pilate granted his request to remove the body is also remarkable; it was exceedingly rare that victims of crucifixion were given a proper burial, but it may have been the unorthodox request of a pious Council member like Joseph that persuaded Pilate.

James Jacques Joseph Tissot (October 15, 1836 – August 8, 1902) was a French painter who enjoyed a successful artistic career in Paris and London painting society. While visiting the church of Saint-Sulpice, he experienced a religious vision and began work on drawings of the life of Christ, which debuted In Paris in 1896. Tissot created his precisely rendered watercolors of the life of Christ with the same meticulous attention to detail that he had applied to painting society. He strove for historical authenticity, making expeditions to the Middle East to record the landscape, architecture, costumes, and customs of the Holy Land.