Monday, April 11, 2011

Christ's Charge to Peter

Title: Christ's Charge to Peter
Medium: Bodycolor on paper on canvas
Size: 340 × 530 cm
Date: 1516
Location: Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

John 21:15-25 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep. “The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!” Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” Because of this, the rumor spread among the believers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?” This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true. Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.

Pope Leo X commissioned a set of tapestry designs, or cartoons, from Raphael in 1515. The ten cartoons depicted episodes from the lives of Saints Peter and Paul. Raphael here combines the two New Testament passages on which the catholic church bases its authority, that of Matthew 16:18-19 and this passage in John where Jesus orders Peter three times to feed the sheep - making it obvious that he actually charges Peter to take care of the believers. The tapestry was made in the workshop of the weaver Pieter van Aelst and is now in the Vatican Museums. Although Raphael's cartoons have been prized since the eighteenth century as independent works of art, in their own time they were seen as a stepping stone in the creation of the final object - the tapestry.

Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino (1483 – April 1520), better known simply as Raphael, was an Italian painter and architect of the High Renaissance, celebrated for the perfection and grace of his paintings and drawings. Together with Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, he forms the traditional trinity of great masters of that period. Raphael was highly admired by his contemporaries, although his influence on artistic style in his own century was less than that of Michelangelo. Mannerism, beginning at the time of his death, and later the Baroque, took art in a direction totally opposed to Raphael's qualities; "with Raphael's death, classic art - the High Renaissance - subsided", as Walter Friedländer put it. However, he was soon seen as the ideal model by those disliking the excesses of Mannerism.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Jesus Appeared To His Disciples By The Sea Of Galilee

Title: Jesus Appeared To His Disciples By The Sea Of Galilee
Artist: Alexandre Bida
Medium: Etching
Size: 28 x 21 cm
Date: 1873
Location: From Illustrations by Alexandre Bida, from Christ in Art; or, The Gospel Life of Jesus: With the Bida Illustrations. by Edward Eggleston. New York: Fords, Howard, & Hulbert, 1874.

John 21:1-14 Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” He called out to them. “No,” they answered. He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.

We now know that the Gospel of Mark ended at 16:8... or do we? There are scholars who state that the ending of Mark can be found in John 21. John 21 has synoptic affinities which do not appear in John 1-20: the sons of Zebedee appear, the disciples are fishing, 28 words in John 21 do not appear elsewhere in John, but only in the synoptics. Further, Mark 14:27-28, 16:7 states that Jesus will reappear in Galilee. There are other clues that Mark foreshadows John 21. The disciples will be unaware of the empty tomb, because the women told no-one of what they saw (Mark 16:8). Accordingly, in John 21, Peter and other disciples have lost hope and returned to the lake; for having witnessed the risen Christ before, they now fail to realize Jesus is present in 21:4. The whole story is more like a first appearance to the disciples than a "third".

Alexandre Bida (1813–1895) was born in Toulouse, France and was a painter of the Romantic period. During Bida's youth, he traveled and worked in Egypt, Greece, Turkey, Lebanon, and Palestine. 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. 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.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Doubting Thomas

Title: Doubting Thomas
Artist: Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn
Medium: Oil on panel
Size: 53 × 51 cm
Date: 1634
Location: Pushkin Museum, Moscow.

John 20:24-31 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Rembrandt depicts the well-known scene somewhat theatrical. By showing his wounds, Jesus takes away Thomas's incredulity. Contrary to most other depictions, Thomas does not stick his hand into the wound. His doubts vanish when he sees the wound, just as John describes it in his gospel. John himself is depicted on the right. He appears to be sleeping, but that should be regarded as having deep inner thoughts.

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (July 1606 – October 1669) was a Dutch painter and etcher. He is generally considered one of the greatest painters and printmakers in European art history. Born in Leiden into a middle class family, Rembrandt becomes a pupil of the painter Jacob van Swanenburgh. In 1624, he studies in Amsterdam in the studio of Pieter Lastman, who will greatly influence his artistic development. Some say it is Lastman who illustrates to Rembrandt Caravaggio's use of chiaroscuro – the application of light and darkness to suggest depth.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Christ Appearing to His Disciples After the Resurrection

Title: Christ Appearing to His Disciples After the Resurrection
Artist: William Blake
Medium: Color print (monotype), hand-colored with watercolor and tempera
Size: 43.2 x 57.5 cm
Date: c. 1795
Location: National Gallery of Art, Washington.

John 20:19-23 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven”.

In visual terms, this work tells us about the things that influenced Blake as an artist. The sinuous curves that roll over the backs of the disciples recall similar effects in Gothic art (which Blake had studied during his apprenticeship). However, Blake’s typically muscular figures demonstrate other inspirations at play, owing much to the Renaissance master Michelangelo. Here, the body of Christ is firmed up and thickened, backing up Blake’s belief in the resurrection. Although the stigmata and signs of physical suffering are showing, the muscled shoulders, defined thighs and solid arms add visual weight and vital credence to this cornerstone of Blake’s faith. This image does exude a sense of intimacy, with the huddle of heads, grinding and groveling (some are even flush to the floor), an odd (and totally engaging) backdrop. The syrupy glow that emanates from Jesus sets a definitive mood too. The warm flesh tones on the exposed bits of body flush fierce focus-on-the-physical into the picture. And Christ’s (just) larger than normal eyes could make someone look at this with new eyes.

William Blake (November 1757 – August 1827) was an English poet, painter, and printmaker. Blake is considered a seminal figure in the history of both the poetry and visual arts of the Romantic Age. In 1788 Blake developed a process of etching in relief that enabled him to combine illustrations and text on the same page and to print them himself, thus ensuring complete independence of thought and expression. Four illuminated books appeared between 1789 and 1794. Many of his large independent color prints, or monotypes, were done in 1795. His work was largely neglected for a generation after his death and was almost forgotten when Alexander Gilchrist began work on his biography in the 1860s. It was in the twentieth century, however, that Blake's work was fully appreciated and his influence increased.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Saint Mary Magdalene

Title: Saint Mary Magdalene
Artist: Guido Reni
Medium: Oil on canvas
Size: 79.3 x 68.5 cm
Date: c. 1634
Location: National Gallery, London.

John 20:18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.

Mary Magdalene or Mary of Magdala (original Greek Μαρία ἡ Μαγδαληνή, 1st century AD) was one of Jesus' most celebrated disciples. Mary Magdalene is the only person named by any of the canonical gospels as a witness to all three: Jesus' crucifixion, his burial, and the discovery of his empty tomb. Mary Magdalene is mentioned, along with various other women, as a witness to the crucifixion in Mark 15:40, Matthew 27:56 and John 19:25; in listing witnesses who saw where Jesus was buried by Joseph of Aramathea, Mark 15:47 and Matthew 27:61; and in Mark, Matthew, and John, Mary Magdalene is first witness to the Resurrection. New Testament scholar Frank Stagg points out that Mary's role as a witness is unusual because women at that time were not considered credible witnesses in legal proceedings. Because of this, and because of extra-biblical traditions about her subsequent missionary activity in spreading the Gospel, she is known by the title, "Equal of the Apostles".

Guido Reni (November 1575 – August 1642) was an Italian painter of high-Baroque style. As a child of nine, he was apprenticed under the Bolognese studio of Denis Calvaert. When Reni was about twenty years old, three Calvaert pupils migrated to the rising rival studio, named Accademia degli Incamminati (Academy of the "newly embarked", or progressives), led by Lodovico Carracci. They went on to form the nucleus of a prolific and successful school of Bolognese painters who followed Annibale Carracci to Rome. Many of his best known works were painted there, including the ceiling fresco, 'Aurora' (Casino Rospigliosi), carried out before 1614 for Cardinale Scipione Borghese. By 1613 Reni had returned to Bologna, and was largely active there until his death.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Noli Me Tangere

Title: Noli Me Tangere
Artist: Correggio
Medium: Oil on panel transferred to canvas
Size: 130 x 103 cm
Date: c. 1525
Location: Museo del Prado, Madrid.

John 20:15-17 He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”). Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

Jesus calls her by the name he used for her before, and she responds with ‘Rabboni’, the title she used before. She would naturally assume that their relationship could pick up where it left off and continue on as before. Jesus' response, however, lets her know there has been a radical change in him and consequently in his relationship with his followers. This change is indicated when Jesus tells her not to touch him. The use of the present tense (haptou) suggests in this context that he is not forbidding her to touch him but telling her to stop that which she is already doing.

Antonio Allegri da Correggio (August 1489 – March 1534), usually known as Correggio, was the foremost painter of the Parma school of the Italian Renaissance. Untempted by Rome, Florence or Venice, Correggio, working in the North Italian city of Parma, maintained his originality throughout the High Renaissance and became one of the most important influences on seventeenth-century Baroque painting. Little is known about Correggio's life or training. He appears to have emerged out of no major apprenticeship, and to have had little immediate influence in terms of apprenticed successors, but his works are now considered to have been revolutionary and influential on subsequent artists.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Morning of the Resurrection

Title: The Morning of the Resurrection
Artist: Edward Coley Burne-Jones
Medium: Oil on wood
Size: 84.5 x 151.1 cm
Date: 1886
Location: Tate Britain, London.

John 20:11-14 Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” She said, “They have taken my Lord away, and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.

Burrne-Jones began this painting in 1882, but did not complete it until four years later, when it was exhibited at the Grosvenor Gallery. After the death of the Hon. Laura Lyttleton (nee Tennant), a young friend of whom the artist was particularly fond, Burne-Jones inscribed a personal memorial or 'oblation' in the lower left-hand corner. He made at least two other versions of the subject. The painting falls at the end of Burne-Jones' Mantegnesque phase, and the regular horizontals and verticals and color strengthen the sad mood. According to de Lisle the angels are making the ancient sign of adoration, of covering the mouth.

Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones, 1st Baronet (August 1833 – June 1898) was an English artist and designer closely associated with the later phase of the Pre-Raphaelite movement, who worked closely with William Morris on a wide range of decorative arts as a founding partner in Morris, Marshall, Faulkner, and Company. Burne-Jones was closely involved in the rejuvenation of the tradition of stained glass art in England. On 16 June 1933, Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin, a nephew of Burne-Jones, officially opened a centenary exhibition at the Tate Gallery in London. But in fact, long before 1933, Burne-Jones was hopelessly out-of-fashion in the art world, much of which soon preferred the major trends in Modern art, and the exhibit marking the 100th anniversary of his birth was a sad affair, poorly attended. It was not until the mid-1970s that his work began to be re-assessed and once again acclaimed. A major exhibit in 1989 at the Barbican Art Gallery, London traced Burne-Jones's influence on the next generation of artists, and another at Tate Britain in 1997 explored the links between British Aestheticism and Symbolism.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Two Disciples at the Tomb

Title: Two Disciples at the Tomb
Artist: Henry Ossawa Tanner
Medium: Oil on canvas
Size: 129.5 x 105.7 cm
Date: c. 1906
Location: The Art Institute of Chicago.

John 20:2-10 So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!” So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) Then the disciples went back to where they were staying.

In this painting, John’s youthful face reflects the emptiness of the arched tomb. Next to him, bowing his head in awe, stands the bearded disciple Peter, who will later become the leader of the Christian church. The sense of spirituality is emphasized by the light radiating from the tomb. Although Tanner depicted a wide range of subjects he considered himself primarily a painter of religious subjects. “Two Disciples at the Tomb” became one of Tanner’s most well-known religious paintings in America, giving him at long last the kind of recognition that he had received abroad. Called "the most impressive and distinguished work of the season" in 1906, the painting competed against 350 other works to win the Harris Silver Medal at The Art Institute of Chicago. The museum purchased the painting later that year.

Henry Ossawa Tanner (June 1859 – May 1937) was an African American artist who earned international acclaim for his religious paintings. His father was a prominent minister and his mother a former slave who escaped the South through the Underground Railroad. At age eleven, Tanner decided to become an artist, and nine years later the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts accepted him, the only African American out of two hundred students. Throughout his life Tanner kept close ties with his native country and was proud of his contributions as a black American, but chose to live in France, where he felt that his race mattered less to other artists and critics. His painting “Sand Dunes at Sunset, Atlantic City” hangs in the Green Room at the White House, the first painting by an African-American artist to enter the permanent collection of the White House.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Resurrection Morning Maria Magdalina

Title: Resurrection Morning Maria Magdalina
Artist: Julia Bekhova
Medium: Oil on canvas
Size: 80 x 65 cm
Date: 1997
Location: Private collection

John 20:1 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance.

An interesting divergence between the Synoptic Gospels and that of John, is that in the latter it is Mary Magdalene alone who first attended the tomb. John's Gospel gives Mary Magdalene the greatest prominence in the Resurrection narrative, but why she is singled out, rather than attending with the other women, is a matter of some speculation. John does not tell us why Magdalene went, whereas the other gospels say that the women went to anoint the body. Primarily, it would seem, she went to the tomb to mourn just as we would go to the grave of a loved one.

Julia Bekhova (b. 1964) is a contemporary Russian painter. In 1995 she graduated from the Repin Institute for Painting, Sculpture and Architecture in St Petersburg, having studied monumental painting under Professor A. A. Mylnikov. In 1999 she took part in mural works in renovated cathedral of the Christ Rescuer, and between 2001 and 2003 she also assisted with mural works at the city cathedral in Kursk. Since 2000 she has been teaching at the department of painting at the Repin Institute, and participated in various international art shows in such diverse cities as London, Hamburg and Beijing, China. More of her work can be seen here:

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Entombment of Christ

Title: Entombment of Christ
Artist: Rogier van der Weyden
Medium: Oil on oak panel
Size: 110 x 96 cm
Date: 1450
Location: Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence.

John 19:41-42 At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid. Because it was the Jewish day of Preparation and since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

This painting, in a Renaissance frame decorated with pilasters, adorned the altar of the private chapel of the Medici villa in Careggi, near Florence, and there are good reasons to suppose that the Medici family commissioned it. The work closely follows the Entombment of Christ by Fra Angelico, painted around 1440 for the Florentine monastery church of San Marco. Its influence is evident in the display of the dead Christ, shown almost standing, with Mary and John holding his arms one on each side, and more particularly in the hill with the tomb in the rock, which runs entirely counter to Northern European tradition. Clear guidelines from his patrons would also explain why the painting was executed in almost square format, unusual for Netherlandish works but common in Italy and suitable for the architectural Renaissance setting. The patrons who commissioned the work would have been struck by the fine, realistic detail of the painting and the intense emotion of the faces. These qualities, and the slight asymmetry that suited late Gothic taste, distinguish the picture in significant respects from the work of Fra Angelico.

Rogier van der Weyden or Rogier de le Pasture (c. 1399 – June 1464) was an early Netherlandish painter. His surviving works consist mainly of religious triptychs, altarpieces and commissioned single and diptych portraits. Little is known about Rogier's training as a painter. The archival sources from Tournai were completely destroyed during World War II, but had been partly transcribed in the 19th and early 20th century. The sources on his early life are confusing and have led to different interpretations by scholars. His vigorous, subtle, expressive painting and popular religious conceptions had considerable influence on European painting, not only in France and Germany but also in Italy and in Spain. Van der Weyden had also a large influence on the German painter and engraver Martin Schongauer whose prints were distributed all over Europe from the last decades of the 15th century. Indirectly Schongauer's prints helped to disseminate Van der Weyden's style. As can be seen in existing paintings attributed to him, Rogier van der Weyden was a master in the depiction of emotions and grief.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Descent from the Cross

Title: Descent from the Cross
Artist: Peter Paul Rubens
Medium: Oil on Canvas
Size: 297 x 200 cm
Date: 1617-18
Location: The Hermitage, St. Petersburg.

John 19:38-40 Later, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders. With Pilate’s permission, he came and took the body away. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, the man who earlier had visited Jesus at night. Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds. Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices, in strips of linen. This was in accordance with Jewish burial customs.

John's account of the burial may continue to develop the theme of Jesus' royal identity. The large amount of spice used obviously expresses their love for Jesus, and such excessive amounts of spice were a feature of at least some royal funerals. Plenty of people besides kings had extravagant funerals and were buried in garden tombs, but given all the emphasis in the Passion account on Jesus as king, such details seem to continue this theme here at the burial.

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. Rubens was one of the most methodically assimilative and most prodigiously productive of Western artists. His abundant energy fired him to study and emulate the masters both of antiquity and of the 16th century in Rome, Venice, and Parma. His warmth of nature made him responsive to the artistic revolutions being worked by living artists, and robust powers of comprehension nourished his limitless resource in invention. He was able to infuse his own astounding vitality equally into religious and mythological paintings, portraits, and landscapes. He organized his complex compositions in vivid, dynamic designs in which limitations of form and contour are discounted in favor of a constant flow of movement. Rubens's major business was altarpieces, particularly suitable for an artist who enjoyed working on a grand scale.