Friday, March 5, 2010

The Holy Shroud

Title: The Holy Shroud

Artist: Georges Rouault

Medium: Oil on paper on canvas

Size: 74 x 51cm

Date: 1928

Location: National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne.

The Veil of Veronica, or Sudarium (Latin for sweat-cloth), or simply "The Veronica" is a Catholic relic, which, according to legend, bears the likeness of the face of Jesus not made by human hand (i.e. an Acheiropoieta). The legend recounts that Veronica from Jerusalem encountered Jesus on the way to Calvary. When she paused to wipe the sweat off his face with her veil, his image was imprinted on the cloth. Although this legend is not recorded in any of the Gospels, it is commemorated by one of the Stations of the Cross.

While the story has no basis in written history prior to the Middle Ages, there is no doubt that there was a physical image displayed in Rome in the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth centuries which was known and venerated as the Veil of Veronica. The history of that image is however, somewhat problematic. Firm recording of the Veronica only begins in 1199 when two pilgrims made two accounts a visit to Rome at different times which both made direct reference to the existence of the Veronica. Shortly after that, in 1207, the cloth became more prominent when it was publicly paraded and displayed by Pope Innocent III, who also granted indulgences to anyone praying before it.

For the next three hundred years the Veronica was regarded as the most precious of all Christian relics. When the Sack of Rome occurred in 1527, some writers recorded that the veil had been destroyed, while others testify to its continuing presence in the Vatican, and one witness to the sacking states emphatically that the Veronica was not found by the looters.

Georges Henri Rouault (27 May 1871 – 13 February 1958) was a French painter, and printmaker. Rouault was born in Paris into a poor family. His mother encouraged his love for the arts, and in 1885 the fourteen-year-old Rouault embarked on an apprenticeship as a glass painter and restorer, which lasted until 1890. This early experience as a glass painter has been suggested as a likely source of the heavy black contouring and glowing colors, likened to leaded glass, which characterize Rouault's mature painting style. At the end of his life he burned 300 of his pictures (today estimated to be worth more than 70 million Euros).

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