Tuesday, November 30, 2010

St Andrew

Title: St Andrew
Artist: Jusepe de Ribera

Medium: Oil on canvas
Size:123 x 95 cm

Date: c. 1630-32
Location: Museo del Prado, Madrid.

St. Andrew, the Apostle, son of Jonah, was born in Bethsaida of Galilee. He was brother of Simon Peter, and both were fishermen who, at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, occupied the same house at Capernaum. As one of the Twelve, Andrew was admitted to the closest familiarity with Jesus during his public life. He was present at the Last Supper, beheld the risen Lord, witnessed the Ascension, shared in the first Pentecost, and helped, amid threats and persecution, to establish the Faith in Palestine. He was crucified by order of the Roman Governor Aegeas, at Patrae in Achaia, on November 30, A.D. 60. He was bound, not nailed, to the cross, in order to prolong his sufferings. The cross on which he suffered is commonly held to have been the decussate cross, now known as St. Andrew's, though the evidence for this view seems to be no older than the fourteenth century.

The feast of St. Andrew the Apostle (30 November) is used as a marking point for the beginning of Advent, the period of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus, which begins with the Sunday nearest to the feast day and embracing four Sundays. The first Sunday may be as early as 27 November, and then Advent has twenty-eight days, or as late as 3 December, giving the season only twenty-one days. With Advent the ecclesiastical year begins in the Western churches. Beginning today the Christmas Anticipatory Prayer, also known as the "Novena to St. Andrew" is prayed every day until Christmas.

Jusepe (or José) de Ribera, (January, 1591 – September, 1652) was a Spanish painter, etcher, and draughtsman, active for all his known career in Italy. Little is known of his life before he settled in Naples (at the time a Spanish possession) in 1616. In his earlier style, founded sometimes on Caravaggio and sometimes on the wholly diverse method of Correggio, the study of Spanish and Venetian masters can be traced. Along with his massive and predominating shadows, he retained from first to last a great strength in local coloring. His forms, though ordinary and sometimes coarse, are correct; the impression of his works gloomy and startling. He delighted in subjects of horror. In the early 1630s his style changed away from strong contrasts of dark and light to a more diffused and golden lighting.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Cursing of the Fig Tree

Title: Jesus curses the Fig Tree
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.


The eighth miracle account that displays Jesus' power over nature is recorded in Mark 11:12-14; 20-25. This miracle is known as the Cursing of the Fig Tree, and in Mark brackets the account of Jesus driving the money changers and merchants from the temple in Jerusalem.

The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it. [...] In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. Peter remembered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!” Jesus answered, Have faith in God. Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”

James Jacques Joseph Tissot (October 1836 – August 1902) was a French painter. After the death of his longtime companion Kathleen Newton in 1882, Tissot experienced a religious vision, after which he embarked on his ambitious project to illustrate the New Testament. Striving for historical accuracy, he made several expeditions to the Middle East to record the landscape and people of the Holy Land.

Title: Jesus Christ and the fruitless leafy tree
Artist: Alexandre Bida

Medium: Etching

Size: tdb.

Date: 1873

Location: Reproduced in “The Gospels in art: the life of Christ, by great painters from Fra Angelico to Holman Hunt” by Walter Shaw Sparrow, Pg 202.


Although the Gospel states that Jesus “found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs.”, we should not read this passage as if it were a horticultural manual. As these events bracket the cleansing of the temple we are meant to see that the fate of the unfruitful tree symbolizes the character and fate of the magnificent temple of Jerusalem. Jesus expected the temple to be a house of prayer, for the temple authorities to conduct their affairs unobscured by commercial exploitation. As Jesus saw it, there is never an off season for the Temple. Yet the temple authorities failed to produce fruit. In the words of writer Joseph O’Hanlon: All leaves, and no figs.

Alexandre Bida (1813–1895) was born in Toulouse, France and was a painter of the Romantic period. He specialized in Orientalism and studied under Eugène Delacroix, but with an artist's eye for precision and perfection, he soon developed his own style. During Bida's youth, he traveled and worked in Egypt, Greece, Turkey, Lebanon, and Palestine. He was also an illustrator of the Holy Bible. As a Bible illustrator, Bida's Les Saints Evangeles was published in 1873. In it, the four gospels were enriched by his twenty-eight etchings. Of Bida's work, it was said that he brought a truth and genius that made his Christ reverent, refined, dignified, and strong.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Transfiguration

Title: The Transfiguration

Artist: Cornelis Monsma

Medium: Oil on canvas panel

Size: 76 x 96 cm

Date: 2006

Location: Private collection


The seventh miracle account that displays Jesus' power over nature is recorded in Luke 9:28-36. This miracle is known as the Transfiguration.


About eight days later Jesus took Peter, John, and James up on a mountain to pray. And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was transformed, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly, two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared and began talking with Jesus. They were glorious to see. And they were speaking about his exodus from this world, which was about to be fulfilled in Jerusalem. Peter and the others had fallen asleep. When they woke up, they saw Jesus’ glory and the two men standing with him. As Moses and Elijah were starting to leave, Peter, not even knowing what he was saying, blurted out, “Master, it’s wonderful for us to be here! Let’s make three tabernacles — one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” But even as he was saying this, a cloud overshadowed them, and terror gripped them as the cloud covered them. Then a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, my Chosen One. Listen to him.” When the voice finished, Jesus was there alone. They didn’t tell anyone at that time what they had seen.


Cornelis Monsma, a modern day, self-professed expressionist visual artist, seeks to create modern Christian art work that “aims to visualize the deeper truth of Christianity.” Biblical inspiration has produced colorful contemporary artwork, with an expressionist, abstract flavor. Monsma, Friesian-Dutch born, resides in New Zealand and is inspired by the paintings and colors of Marc Chagall. More artwork can be viewed on the website http://www.monsmart.com/


Title: Transfiguration

Artist: Girolamo Savoldo

Medium: Oil on Wood

Size: 139 x 126 cm

Date: c. 1520

Location: Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence.


The disciples are trying to come to grips with what is happening. In their view Jesus is another great figure, like Moses and Elijah. He will found a people like Moses and sustain them through hope like Elijah. So Peter suggests they together celebrate Tabernacles, a feast that looked forward to the eschaton. Peter wants to enjoy the moment and prolong it in celebration. He wants to stay on the mountaintop for as long as possible. But Luke makes it clear that Peter has spoken because he did not know what he was saying. The voice from heaven explains: they need to listen to Jesus so they will understand his uniqueness, call and destiny to suffer. Also, as their role is not merely to contemplate Jesus but to serve him. Celebration awaits in the future, but now is a time for instruction, response and action. There is the divine voice, which stops all discussion between the disciples and Jesus, and there is the central instruction to listen to Jesus. The point in both cases is that instruction is needed, because the path Jesus walks is unexpected.


Girolamo Savoldo, also called Girolamo da Brescia (c. 1480 – after 1548) was an Italian High Renaissance painter. Active mainly in Venice, his output was small and his career is said to have been unsuccessful, but he is now remembered as a highly attractive minor master whose work stands somewhat apart from the main Venetian tradition. He carefully studied the effects of light and reflections in a way that was most unusual for the time, and had links to the current of realism and acute psychological portrayal.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Feeding of the 4000

Title: Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes

Artist: Giovanni Lanfranco

Medium: Oil on canvas

Size: 229 x 426 cm

Date: 1620-23

Location: National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin.


The sixth miracle account that displays Jesus' power over nature is recorded in Mark 8:1-9. This miracle is known as Feeding of the 4000, or Miracle of the Seven Loaves and Fishes.


During those days another large crowd gathered. Since they had nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, because some of them have come a long distance.” His disciples answered, “But where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?” Jesus asked, “How many loaves do you have?” They replied, “Seven.” He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. When he had taken the seven loaves and given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people, and they did so. They had a few small fish as well; he gave thanks for them also and told the disciples to distribute them. The people ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. About four thousand were present. After he had sent them away, he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the region of Dalmanutha.


Lanfranco’s ‘Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes’ was commissioned for the Blessed Sacrament chapel in the Basilica of Saint Paul Fuori le Mura, outside Rome. Lanfranco made eight canvases for this chapel on the theme of the Eucharist. This scene of the miracle is seen in perspective from below, therefore the painting was intended to hang high. The wonderfully bright Jesus stands out against the darker tones of the people who have come to hear the Messiah. Jesus shows the loaves to the people, reassuring them. All the figures are drawn in a different pose, some with theatrical movements of head and hands. The gestures remain believable however, a tour-de-force in such anecdotal painting.


Giovanni Lanfranco (January 1582 - November 1647) was an Italian painter of the Baroque period. His talent for drawing allowed him to begin an apprenticeship with the Bolognese artist Agostino Carracci, brother of Annibale Carracci, working alongside fellow Parmese Sisto Badalocchio in the local Farnese palaces. When Agostino died in 1602, both young artists moved to Annibale's large and prominent Roman workshop. Lanfranco painted many religious decorations for churches and palaces in Rome.


Title: Loaves and Fishes

Artist: Cornelius Edmund Sullivan

Medium: Oil on canvas

Size: 150 x 240 cm

Date: c. 2000

Location: Private collection


This miracle is similar to that of feeding the five thousand, and yet there are very significant differences. The ground of Jesus’ compassion in the first miracle was "the fact that the people are like sheep without a shepherd"; whereas, in this, "it is the fact that they have been so long without food." Perhaps the most significant difference of all is that this miracle took place among the Gentiles, whereas those fed in the other were principally Jews. This key fact explains why two such miracles were performed, showing God's fairness in dealing with Gentiles as he had dealt with the chosen people. Christ is the bread of life for all, not merely for Jews alone.


Cornelius Edmund Sullivan is an American painter, sculptor and printmaker. For many years he was an Artist in Residence for the City of Cambridge, MA School Department. At the same time he served as the elected Artist's Representative to The Board of Directors of The Boston Center for the Arts and was a Master Etching Printer at Impressions Workshop Atelier in Boston. His works are in many private collections and in universities and museums. More of his work can be seen on his website http://www.sullivanart.com/

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Jesus Walks on the Sea

Title: Jesus Walks on the Sea

Artist: William Hole

Medium: Printed book illustration

Size: 29 x 24 cm

Date: c.1905

Location: From “The Life of Jesus of Nazareth Portrayed in Colours.” London: Eyre & Spottiswoode.


The fifth miracle account that displays Jesus' power over nature is recorded in Matthew 14:22-32. This miracle is known as Walking on Water, or Jesus Walks on the Sea.


Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. After dismissing the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone. But the boat was already over a mile from land, battered by the waves, because the wind was against them. Around three in the morning, he came toward them walking on the sea. When the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified. "It's a ghost!" they said, and cried out in fear. Immediately Jesus spoke to them. "Have courage! It is I. Don't be afraid." Peter answered Him, "Lord, if it's You, command me to come to You on the water." "Come!" He said. And climbing out of the boat, Peter started walking on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the strength of the wind, he was afraid. And beginning to sink he cried out, "Lord, save me!" Immediately Jesus reached out his hand, caught hold of him, and said to him, "You of little faith, why did you doubt?" When they got into the boat, the wind ceased.


Hole uses his water colors to dazzling effect in his rendition of the disciples as they sight Jesus crossing the sea. The water shimmers, the clouds tumble, the moon glistens, and most of all, Jesus shines. There is no doubt that he is walking on water, no possibility of a sandbar or concealed isthmus. It is easy to understand the disciple’s terror, for they still failed to comprehend the true nature of their Lord.


William Hole (b. Salisbury 1846 – d. 1917) relocated to Edinburgh as a youth where he received his education at the Edinburgh Academy. After serving for a time as an apprentice to a civil engineer, he decided that he wanted to see more of the world. While traveling through Italy he befriended some artists in Rome who convinced him that he should pursue a career in art. On returning to Edinburgh, he began formal training in both painting and etching at the Royal Scottish Academy.


Title: Christ Walks on Water

Artist: Ivan Aivazovsky

Medium: Oil on Canvas

Size: tbd

Date: 1888

Location: tbd


Once Jesus has given the command, walking on water is simply a matter of trusting the One who has performed so many miracles in the past. Peter's failure comes as he observes the wind, looking to his situation rather than to God's power that is sustaining him. Still, Peter knows by this point whom to cry out to! It is important to note that while Jesus is disappointed with Peter's inadequate faith, Peter has still acted in greater faith than the other disciples - he is learning. Faith cannot be worked up by formulas or emotion, but it grows through various tests as we continue to trust our Lord and he continues to teach us. Faith grows out of a relationship with the Person of Jesus, and in no other way.


Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky (July, 1817 – May, 1900) was a Russian painter of Armenian descent. He was born in the town of Feodosiya, Crimea (modern-day Ukraine) to a poor Armenian family. His parents' family name was Aivazian. Some of the artist's paintings bear a signature, in Armenian letters, "Hovhannes Aivazian" . His talent as an artist earned him sponsorship and entry to the Simferopol gymnasium No.1 and later the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts, from which he graduated with a gold medal. Earning awards for his early landscapes and seascapes, he went on to paint a series of portraits of Crimean coastal towns before travelling throughout Europe. In later life, his paintings of naval scenes earned him a long-standing commission from the Russian Navy stationed in the Black Sea.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Feeding of the 5,000

Title: The Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes

Artist: Tintoretto (Jacopo Robusti)

Medium: Oil on Canvas

Size: 154.9 x 407.7 cm

Date: c 1545–50

Location: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.


The fourth miracle account that displays Jesus' power over nature is recorded in John 6:1-13. This miracle is known as The Feeding of the 5,000, or often the Miracle of the Five Loaves and Two Fish.


Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick. Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. The Jewish Passover Festival was near. When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish. When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.


This large and long horizontal canvas is characteristic of the laterali used to decorate Venetian chapels, especially those maintained by confraternities devoted to the Eucharist, known as Scuole del Sacramento. Painted about 1545–50, the present picture was designed by Tintoretto and executed, like many of his larger paintings, in part by the artist and in part by members of his workshop. The painting shows Christ handing Saint Andrew one of the five loaves and two fishes to be distributed to the multitude.


Tintoretto (September, 1518 – May, 1594) also known as Jacopo Robusti or Jacopo Comin, was an Italian painter and a notable exponent of the Venetian Renaissance school. His father, Giovanni, was a dyer, or tintore; hence the son got the nickname of Tintoretto, little dyer, or dyer's boy. Like Titian, Tintoretto kept a huge workshop, his chief assistants being his sons Domenico and Marco, and his daughter Marietta. Domenico became his foreman and is said to have painted many portraits, although none can be attributed to him with certainty.


Title: The Miracle of the loaves and fishes

Artist: Giacomo Cavedone

Medium: Chalk, ink, wash & oil on paper

Size: 37 x 24 cm

Date: c.1611-14

Location: Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.


Giacomo Cavedone (1577–1660) also called Giacomo Cavedoni, was an Italian Baroque painter of the Bolognese School. He was born in Sassuolo, near Modena, and was able to obtain a three year stipend to apprentice with Bernadino Baldi and Annibale Carracci. After Annibale's departure for Rome in 1595, Cavedone became one of Ludovico Carracci's primary assistants. His art is notable for his singular fusion of Annibale, and Ludovico Carracci's teachings to achieve a robust personal style. His career as a painter was cut short, however, by a set of misfortunes, including a 1623 fall from a church scaffold and the death of his wife and children from the plague. He lived in great poverty until his death in 1660.


The Miracle of the loaves and fishes occurs in the Gospel of John immediately after Jesus has spoken of Moses (John 5:45-47), and performs a sign that might be expected of a new Prophet like Moses: providing manna. Further connection to the Old Testament is provided by reference to “barley loaves”, reminiscent of 2 Kings 4:42-44, where Elisha multiplies such loaves. Indeed, even Philip’s and Andrew’s skepticism mirrors that of Elisha’s disciples. When Jesus asks Philip where to buy bread for these people to eat, Philip has already concluded it is impossible, he can think only in terms of "how." But in fact it is a test. A correct answer, in keeping with faithful responses earlier in the Gospel, might be something like, "Lord, you know." Or perhaps, "You, Lord, are able to provide." But even Philip has yet grasp the full significance of his earlier confession (John 1:45) that Jesus is "the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote".

Monday, November 8, 2010

Christ Calming the Storm

Title: Christ Asleep during the Tempest

Artist: Eugene Delacroix

Medium: Oil on canvas

Size: 50.8 x 61 cm

Date: c 1853

Location: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.


The third miracle account that displays Jesus' power over nature is recorded in Matthew 8:23-27. It is known as Christ Calming the Storm.


Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”


Delacroix painted fourteen variations of this New Testament lesson in faith. In the earlier works, the seascape is more prominent; in the later ones, as here, Christ's bark occupies a more significant place. After Vincent van Gogh saw this version in Paris in 1886, he wrote, "The 'Christ in the Boat'—I am speaking here of the sketch in blue and green with touches of violet, red and a little citron-yellow for the nimbus, the halo—speaks a symbolic language through color alone."


Ferdinand Victor Eugene Delacroix (April 1798 – August 1863) was a French Romantic artist regarded from the outset of his career as a leader of the French Romantic school. In 1815 he entered the studio of the neoclassical painter Pierre Narcisse Guérin, where he met Théodore Géricault, a romantic painter by whom he was much influenced. Delacroix took for his inspiration the art of Rubens and painters of the Venetian Renaissance, with an attendant emphasis on color and movement rather than clarity of outline and carefully modeled form. Delacroix's use of expressive brushstrokes and his study of the optical effects of color profoundly shaped the work of the Impressionists, while his passion for the exotic inspired the artists of the Symbolist movement.


Title: Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee

Artist: Ludolf Backhuysen

Medium: Oil on Canvas

Size: 58.4 x 72.4 cm

Date: 1695

Location: Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indiana.


If the disciples thought the boat might sink with Jesus aboard, it was because they did not understand Jesus' identity. His power over the sea, however, forces them to grapple afresh with that question. Faith in Jesus' authority flows from conviction concerning his true identity. In biblical tradition it was God whom the seas obeyed, as in Psalm 89:9 “You rule over the surging sea; when its waves mount up, you still them”. The astonishment of Jesus' disciples is therefore understandable. Their cry for Jesus to save them reflects one sense of the Greek term save ("deliver safely") but probably also alludes on a literary level to Jesus' broader mission.


Ludolf Backhuysen (or Bakhuizen ) (December, 1630 – November, 1708) was a German-born painter who was the leading painter of seascapes in Amsterdam during the last quarter of the 17th century. His compositions, which are numerous, are nearly all variations of one subject, the sea, and in a style peculiarly his own, marked by intense realism or faithful imitation of nature. His earliest biographer declared that he was "taught by nature" and reported that he often put to sea when a storm threatened in order observe the changing conditions of sky and water.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Wedding at Cana

Title: The Marriage at Cana

Artist: Jan Cornelisz Vermeyen

Medium: Oil on panel

Size: 66 x 85 cm

Date: c. 1530

Location: Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.


The second miracle account that displays Jesus' power over nature is recorded in John 2:1-10. It is known as the Wedding at Cana, or Turning Water into Wine.


On the third day there was a wedding celebration in the village of Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the celebration. The wine supply ran out during the festivities, so Jesus’ mother told him, “They have no more wine.” Jesus replied, “Dear woman, that’s not our problem. My time has not yet come.” But his mother told the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Standing nearby were six stone water jars, used for Jewish ceremonial washing. Each could hold twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus told the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” When the jars had been filled, he said, “Now dip some out, and take it to the master of ceremonies.” So the servants followed his instructions. When the master of ceremonies tasted the water that was now wine, not knowing where it had come from (though, of course, the servants knew), he called the bridegroom over. “A host always serves the best wine first,” he said. “Then, when everyone has had a lot to drink, he brings out the less expensive wine. But you have kept the best until now!”


The subject of this candle-lit scene of a group of people sitting at table is probably a moment that preceded the miracle: the calling of St John the Evangelist during the wedding feast at Cana. According to a late-medieval tradition, the wedding feast at Cana celebrated the marriage of John the Evangelist and Mary Magdalene. Seated in the centre behind the table are the beardless John and his bride, with the apostles Peter and Andrew to the left of them, at the moment when the meal is being served. In the foreground the Virgin Mary turns to her right and grasps the shoulder of the servant who tells her that there is no wine. The way in which Vermeyen depicts the scene as viewed from above with the figures closely packed around the circular table is highly original. The lighting of the faces and figures is capricious and imparts remarkable liveliness to the scene. According to tradition, John, followed by Mary Magdalene, opted for a spiritual rather than a physical marriage.


Jan Cornelisz Vermeyen (Beverwijk c. 1503 - Brussels 1559) was a Netherlandish painter and tapestry designer, probably a pupil of Mabuse. About 1525 he became Court Painter to Margaret of Austria, regent of the Netherlands at Mechelen and in 1535 he accompanied the Emperor Charles V to Tunis. This journey supplied him with scenes for later works, including tapestries designed 1545/48 for the Regent, Mary of Hungary.


Title: Wedding Feast at Cana

Artist: Louis Kahan

Medium: Oil on canvas

Size: tbd

Date: 1949

Location: tbd


Louis Kahan (1905-2002), was an Australian artist born in Vienna, who’s long and distinguished career spanned most of the twentieth century. The range and scope of his oeuvre defies categorization and covers a wide variety of media, encompassing painting, printmaking, design and stained glass. In 1993 his contribution to Australian cultural life was recognized when he was made an Officer in the Order of Australia (AO).


The Gospel of John says the mother of Jesus was at the wedding and that Jesus and his disciples were also invited, perhaps implying that they got into town at the last minute and were invited to come along. Their unexpected presence at the wedding may account for the wine shortage. When the wine runs out Jesus responds to his mother’s request with a cryptic saying, literally "what [is there] to me and to you?" It occurs a number of times in the New Testament (Mt 8:29; Mk 1:24; 5:7; Lk 8:28). Here, the idiom "what [is there] to me and to you?" expresses distance, but not disdain. It is part of the larger theme that Jesus is guided by his heavenly Father and not by the agenda of any human beings, even his family. However, the main point of this episode is that it reveals Jesus' glory. More specifically, the promised time of restoration is expressed in the imagery of marriage and of an abundance of wine. Here indeed is the one they have been waiting for. He himself is the good wine that has been kept back until now.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Miraculous Draught of Fishes

Title: The Miraculous Draught of Fishes

Artist: Peter Paul Rubens

Medium: Black chalk, pen and oil on paper, stuck on canvas

Size: 55 x 85 cm

Date: 1618-19

Location: National gallery, London.


The Miracles of Jesus are the supernatural deeds believed by many Christians to have been performed by Jesus Christ in the course of his ministry. These miracles are sometimes categorized into four groups: cures, exorcisms, resurrection of the dead and control over nature. The Gospels include eight pre-resurrection accounts concerning Jesus' power over nature. The first such account, as recorded in Luke 5:1-11, is The Miracle Draught of Fishes.


Jesus was standing on the shore of Lake Gennesaret, teaching the people as they crowded around him to hear God's message. Near the shore he saw two boats left there by some fishermen who had gone to wash their nets. Jesus got into the boat that belonged to Simon and asked him to row it out a little way from the shore. Then Jesus sat down in the boat to teach the crowd. When Jesus had finished speaking, he told Simon, "Row the boat out into the deep water and let your nets down to catch some fish." "Master," Simon answered, "we have worked hard all night long and have not caught a thing. But if you tell me to, I will let the nets down." They did it and caught so many fish that their nets began ripping apart. Then they signaled for their partners in the other boat to come and help them. The men came, and together they filled the two boats so full that they both began to sink. When Simon Peter saw this happen, he knelt down in front of Jesus and said, "Lord, don't come near me! I am a sinner." Peter and everyone with him were completely surprised at all the fish they had caught. His partners James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were surprised too. Jesus told Simon, "Don't be afraid! From now on you will bring in people instead of fish." The men pulled their boats up on the shore. Then they left everything and went with Jesus.


Sir Peter Paul Rubens (June 1577 – May 1640) was a prolific seventeenth-century Flemish painter, and a proponent of an extravagant Baroque style that emphasized movement, color, and sensuality. Not only was he an enormously successful painter whose workshop produced a staggering number of works; but he also played an important diplomatic role in 17th-century European politics. Rubens's major business was altarpieces, particularly suitable for an artist who enjoyed working on a grand scale. The central part of the design for his The Miraculous Draught of Fishes shares imagery with the central panel of a triptych in Notre Dame au delà de la Dyle, Malines, painted by Rubens in 1617-19.

Title: Miraculous Catch

Artist: Anton Losenko

Medium: Oil on Linen

Size: 159.5 X 194 cm

Date: 1762

Location: Russian State Museum, Saint Petersburg.


Anton Pavlovich Losenko (August 1737 - December 1773) was born to the family of a Ukrainian cossack. Soon he became an orphan and at the age of seven was sent to a Court Choir in Saint Petersburg. In 1753, as he had lost his voice but had shown talent for painting, he was sent for apprenticeship to the artist Ivan Argunov. In 1758, after five and a half years of apprenticeship, he was admitted to the Imperial Academy of Arts.


Losenko depicts the Miraculous Catch as it is hauled ashore where people have gathered in order to witness the miracle. Peter has fallen down to one elbow before Christ to proclaim “I am a sinner”, as James, John and the others drag in the nets. This event signifies not only what disciples are called to do, but who the disciples are as they do it. Simon Peter and Jesus represent different sides of the theology that undergirds the community Jesus is forging. Simon, for his part, knows that he is a sinner who is not worthy to experience the benefits of God's power and presence - there is no presumption that God owes him anything. Jesus, exemplifying God's grace, makes it clear that such a humble approach to God is exactly what God will use. Losenko’s skillful blending of stoic classicism and realism, was powerful enough to make an impression on Catherine II of Russia, who acquired this picture for the emperor hermitage.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

All Souls' Day

Title: All Souls' Day

Artist: Witold Pruszkowski

Medium: Oil on Canvas

Size: tbd

Date: 1888

Location: National Museum, Warsaw.


In Western Christianity, All Souls’ Day commemorates the faithful departed. The Roman Catholic celebration is associated with the doctrine that the souls of the faithful who at death had not yet attained full sanctification and moral perfection, a requirement for entrance into Heaven, may be helped to do so by prayer and by the sacrifice of the Mass. Traditionally, those observing All Souls’ day would attend the cemetery to visit, bless and decorate the graves. Loved ones often offer a spray of flowers or lighted candles. The lighted candles signify that the love, hope and joy they shared with departed shall be kept forever burning.


Pruszkowski’s haunting painting captures the both the ethereal otherworldliness of the cemetery, and the plaintive loss depicted on the young woman’s face. Rendered as though the viewer has interrupted a private moment of reflection, her eyes – wide - speak to us even through the diffuse light of the scene. Only a single candle burns. Faint, but resolute.


Witold Pruszkowski (1846 – October 10, 1896) was a Polish painter and draughtsman. He lived his youth in Odessa and Kiev, but later went to Paris where he served an apprenticeship under the renowned portrait painter Tadeusz Gorecki. He continued his studies in Munich and then Kraków under Jan Matejko. Though starting his career as a portrait painter, Pruszkowski later moved to painting subject matter with legend, fable, of folk-tale themes. The visionary element in these works draw their inspiration from the writings of the great Polish Romantic poets, in particular Juliusz Slowacki and Zygmunt Krasinski, and constitute a compelling link between Pruszkowski and the painters of the Young Poland (Mloda Polska) group.