Thursday, June 30, 2011


Title: The Archangel St Michael
Artist: Jaume Huguet
Medium: Tempera, stucco reliefs and gold leaf on wood
Size: 213 x 136 cm
Date: c. 1455-1460
Location: Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya, Barcelona.


Saint Michael the Archangel (Hebrew “who is like God" mi-ke-El) is an archangel in Jewish, and Islamic tradition, and has been part of Christian teachings since the earliest times. Only Michael is called an archangel in the Bible. He is viewed as the field commander of the Army of God. He is mentioned by name in the Book of Daniel, the Book of Jude, and the Book of Revelation, in which he leads God's armies against Satan's forces during his uprising. The original meaning of the name Michael gave rise to the Latin phrase ‘Quis ut Deus?’ which can be seen on many artistic portrayals when he rhetorically and scornfully asks ‘Who is like God?’ as he defeats Satan. The Prayer to Saint Michael is part of the Roman Catholic Ritual and can be used as part of the Roman Catholic practice of exorcism. His other roles include saving souls at the hour of death, weighing souls on Judgment Day and acting as Guardian of the Church.

The painting belongs to the central compartment of the altarpiece of Saint Michael of the Retailers. The Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya has five more compartments from the same work. The altarpiece comes from the chapel of the Shopkeepers' and Retailer's guild, in the church of Santa Maria del Pi, Barcelona. The other panels include such well known depictions of St. Michael as ‘Apparition of Saint Michael at the Castle of Sant'Angelo’, and ‘Saint Michael Vanquishes the Antichrist’. In this portrait, Huguet style combines Gothic traditions (compressed space and generous use of gilding) with a certain Flemish realism in the depiction of the figures.

Jaume Huguet (1412 - 1492) was a Catalan painter, who is considered to represent the golden age of Catalan Gothic painting. Originally from Valls, he moved to Tarragona to stay with his uncle Pere Huguet, who was also a painter. When they moved to Barcelona he was exposed to modern trends of the time. Between 1440 and 1445 he worked in Zaragoza and later in Tarragona, where he was influenced by the Flemish style of Luis Dalmau. His studio produced many sumptuous composite altarpieces of the type that became typical in Spanish art and his work exercised a wide influence on the painting of Catalonia and Aragón.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Title: Saint George and the Dragon
Artist: Gustave Moreau
Medium: Oil on canvas
Size: 141 x 96.5 cm
Date: 1889-90
Location: National Gallery, London.


Saint George (c. 275 – April 303) was, according to tradition, a Roman soldier in the Guard of Diocletian, who is venerated as a Christian martyr. In hagiography Saint George is one of the most venerated saints as well as being the patron saint of several nations. The episode of Saint George and the Dragon is Eastern in origin, brought back with the Crusaders and retold. The city of Silene was terrorized by a dragon, and to appease the dragon the people fed it their children. One day the king's daughter was to be fed to the dragon, when, by chance, St George rode past, and subdued the dragon. So that the king and the people of Silene would convert, George slew the dragon. Remembering the unscrupulous freedom with which any wild story, even when pagan in origin, was appropriated by the early hagiographers to the honor of a popular saint, scholars are fairly safe in assuming that the Acts of St. George, though ancient in date and preserved to us (with endless variations) in many different languages, afford absolutely no indication at all for arriving at the saint's authentic history.

This late work is one of the Moreau’s rare completed oils. The design is based on a drawing that he had produced about twenty years earlier. The figures of the horse and the dragon are reminiscent of those of Raphael, but the painting is otherwise a more abstract and ornamental rendering of the legendary subject. The haloed figure of the saint recalls works of the early Renaissance that Moreau would have seen in Italy, notably those of Carpaccio and Crivelli. The figure of the princess with her hands folded in prayer in the right background, and the visionary Gothic castle in the distance, have been compared to those seen in eastern miniatures.

Gustave Moreau (April 1826 – April 1898) was a French Symbolist painter whose main emphasis was the illustration of biblical and mythological figures. He trained at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. The work of Delacroix - and that of Theodore Chassériau, who was an admirer of Delacroix's and a friend of Moreau's - was a great influence on his development. He visited Italy and developed an interest in Byzantine art and the primitive Italian painters. Moreau sought to perpetuate the traditions of religious and mythological painting, at a time when naturalism was becoming increasingly dominant. Hostile criticism of his work caused him to exhibit only intermittently at the Salon, though later he was elected a member of the Academy. He also taught at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts from 1892, winning the admiration of students, who included Matisse and Georges Rouault. He was a leading painter of the French Symbolist movement.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


Title: Joan of Arc
Artist: Noah Massey
Medium: Oil on canvas
Size: 111.7 x 73.7 cm
Date: 2010
Location: Private Collection.


Saint Joan of Arc or The Maid of Orléans (c. 1412 – 30 May 1431) is considered a national heroine of France and a Catholic saint. A peasant girl born in eastern France who claimed Divine guidance, she led the French army to several important victories during the Hundred Years’ War and paved the way for the coronation of Charles VII. She later testified that she experienced her first vision around 1424 at the age of 12 years, when she was out alone in a field and saw visions of figures she identified as Saint Michael, Saint Catherine, and Saint Margaret, who told her to drive out the English and bring the Dauphin to Rheims for his coronation. She said she cried when they left, as they were so beautiful. A remarkable military leader, often ignoring the commands of her fellow military leaders and war councils, she lead soldiers and peasants alike against the English to victory. Though she was continuously belittled and disregarded by men of her own rank she was renowned by the men who served under her for her behavior both on and off the battle field. She was captured by the Burgundians, sold to the English, tried by an ecclesiastical court, and burned at the stake on May 30th, 1431, when she was nineteen years old.

Joan is presented to us in an image the encompasses her conflicting aspects. A pubescent girl, her cheeks are rosy and childlike, almost a cherub, but in her eyes are full of wisdom. Though her hand rests on a sword, prepared at any moment to battle, she is surrounded by an army that look like toys from another era. But the flames that surround her remind us that she was not just a little girl playing with toys, but a warrior, who followed the impetus of her visions, and who died an agonizing martyrs death.

Noah Massey is a contemporary American painter and graphic artist. As part of an artist’s statement, Noah writes: “I am interested in the dual nature of existence. What I have read concerning Catholic Saints has stressed their ability to separate and overcome the destruction of their bodies. These stories of martyrdom, torture and temptation demonstrate, in the extreme, the equality of all mankind in suffering. My paintings are not the whole story of the saint they represent. The works are instead my interpretation of overcoming and reunification. Some of the saints, in the midst of their bodily destruction, find salvation in humor, stoicism, defiance, generosity, and preparation. Utilizing contemporary graffiti styles and items of modern fashion the paintings draw a comparison between modern existence and that of the beatified who lived from the 2nd to 11th centuries. The paintings create a psychological space that is abundant with pain but free of panic, the place where decisions of fate and faith are made. It is my desire to create paintings that seduce the viewer into believing that impossible challenges and trials can be overcome, even by the weakest of us.” More information can be found on Noah’s website at

Monday, June 27, 2011


Title: The Conversion of Saint Paul
Artist: Karel Dujardin
Medium: Oil on canvas
Size: 186.7 x 134.6 cm
Date: 1662
Location: National Gallery, London.


Paul the Apostle, also called the Apostle Paul, Saul of Tarsus, and Saint Paul (c. AD 5 – c. AD 67), was one of the most influential early Christian missionaries, with his writings forming a considerable portion of the New Testament. His influence on Christian thinking has been of utmost significance due to his role as a prominent apostle of Christianity during the spreading of the Gospel through early Christian communities across the Roman Empire. Before his conversion, Paul, then known as Saul, was a zealous Pharisee who intensely persecuted the followers of Jesus. The Conversion of Paul the Apostle, as depicted in the Christian Bible, refers to the event in the life of Paul of Tarsus which led him to cease persecuting early Christians and to himself become a follower of Jesus. As described in the Acts of the Apostles 9:3-9 “As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ ‘Who are you, Lord?’ Saul asked. ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied. ‘Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.’ The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.”

The painting is unusual, though by no means unique, as a Dutch painting of the later 17th century representing a dramatic religious theme. Paul is at the lower right. In the sky at the upper left cherubs hold a torch and an olive branch. The composition is based on a print by Antonio Tempesta, whose work was widely circulated in the Netherlands and influenced a number of Dutch artists, among them Rembrandt and Ferdinand Bol. The size of the painting and the fact that its subject is relatively rare in Dutch art of the time suggest that it was specially commissioned. The patron may have been a member of the family of the first recorded owner, Jan François d'Orvielle. There is another work by the artist of similar dimensions showing 'Saint Paul healing the Sick at Lystra' (now Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum), which is said to have formerly borne the date 1663.

Karel Dujardin (September 1622 – November 1678) was a Dutch painter and etcher, born in Amsterdam in 1622. Although active as a portrait and history painter, he is best known for his Italianate landscapes with figures and animals featured prominently. The animal paintings of Paulus Potter influenced him, as well as the landscapes of his master, Nicolaes Berchem. Dujardin was the son of a little-known painter, Guilliam du Gardin. According to his biographer Houbraken, he trained with Berchem; he later visited Rome. In the early 1650s he is recorded in Amsterdam and in 1656 in The Hague. By 1659 he had apparently returned to Amsterdam. He visited Italy again in 1675, and he died in Venice three years later.

Sunday, June 26, 2011


Title: Apostle James the Greater
Artist: Antonio Veneziano
Medium: Tempera on poplar panel
Size: 51 x 33 cm
Date: c. 1384
Location: Staatliche Museen, Berlin.


The Apostle St James the Greater was the son of Zebedee and Salome, and the brother of John the Evangelist. Originally they were fishermen, and fished with their father in the Lake of Genesareth. In the Gospels the two brothers are often called after their father "the sons of Zebedee", and received from Christ the honorable title of Boanerges, "sons of thunder" (Mark 3:17). James the son of Zebedee is styled "the Greater" to distinguish him from the Apostle James "the Less", the son of Alphaeus. The fact that the name of James almost occurs always before that of his brother seems to imply that James was the elder of the two. According to Acts 12:1-2, on the occasion of the Passover of A.D. 44, Herod Agrippa perpetrated cruelties upon the Church, whose rapid growth incensed the Jews: "He killed James, the brother of John, with the sword."

When Venetian artists began to break away from the grip of Byzantium, Antonio Veneziano was among the first to lead the way. He was popular in Siena, Florence, and Pisa, all gave him important commissions. This panel, part of a polyptych and representing St James the Great, shows the artist at his best. The tension of the strongly defined sculptural volume of the figure plays against the flat, linear surface is characteristic of Veneziano’s panels. The saint’s face, too, has flair associated with the artist. The long straight nose with the hint of a bulb at the tip; the sharply defined eye sockets and the hard outline of the eyes; the strongly modeled face; the heavy chin; the lips pressed together dimpled at the corners. All signs of an artist transcending restrictive traditions.

Antonio Veneziano (Antonio the Venetian, c. 1310 – 1384) was an Italian painter who was reported to have been a student of Taddeo Gaddi. He was born apparently in Venice, although it is also supposed that he was born in Florence and acquired the name Veneziano due to a long residence there where he executed several works in the Ducal palace. He was active in Siena, Florence and Pisa, documented between 1369 and 1419, having produced a series of paintings, including frescoes in two chapels, for Siena Cathedral (all untraced). His style was less dry and formal than the generality of many of his contemporaries, and he is said to have carried fresco-painting to a higher degree of perfection than it had attained previous to the period at which he lived.

Saturday, June 25, 2011


Title: St John the Evangelist
Artist: El Greco
Medium: Oil on Canvas
Size: 90 x 77 cm
Date: 1595-1604
Location: Museo del Prado, Madrid.


The Apostle St John the Evangelist was the son of Zebedee and Salome, and the brother of James the Greater. Originally they were fishermen, and fished with their father in the Lake of Genesareth. In the Gospels the two brothers are often called after their father "the sons of Zebedee", and received from Christ the honorable title of Boanerges, "sons of thunder" (Mark 3:17). John is the presumed author of the fourth gospel and, by tradition, the Beloved Disciple of that book, as well as the author of the Apocalypse, although scholarship does question at least some of these connections. One of the first to be called to follow Christ, he also witnesses with Peter and James the raising of Jairus's daughter (Mark 5:37), the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1), and the Agony in Gethsemane (Matthew 26:37). Only he and Peter were sent into the city to make the preparation for the Last Supper (Luke 22:8).

There is an analogous version of this painting in the Cathedral of Toledo, which is part of a series of the twelve Apostles called Apostolados. It is assumed by some scholars that this painting also belonged to a similar series. The saint’s attributes are a book or scroll, in allusion to his writings, an eagle which may hold a pen or inkhorn in its beak, or, as in this example, a chalice from which a snake emerges. This imagery commemorates the testimony that once, while at Ephesus, John was given a cup of poisoned wine to drink. Before drinking, he blessed the cup and the poison departed the cup in the form of a serpent.

Domenikos Theotokopoulos, known as El Greco (1541 – April 1614) was a painter, sculptor, and architect of the Spanish Renaissance. Today considered one of the greatest artists of the Spanish school, El Greco was born in Crete, a Greek island then under Venetian control. Little is known of his youth, though El Greco's early works demonstrate that he worked within the conservative tradition of Byzantine icon painting before exposure to Venetian High Renaissance art broadened his stylistic approach. His workshop turned out a great many replicas of his paintings, but his work was so personal that his influence was slight, his only followers of note being his son Jorge Manuel Theotokopoulos and Luis Tristan. The strangeness of his art has inspired various theories, for example that he was mad or suffered from astigmatism, but his rapturous paintings make complete sense as an expression of the religious fervor of his adopted country. Interest in his art revived at the end of the 19th century and with the development of Expressionism in the 20th century he came into his own.

Friday, June 24, 2011


Title: St Catherine of Alexandria
Artist: Raphael
Medium: Oil on wood
Size: 71.1 x 54.6 cm
Date: 1508
Location: National Gallery, London.


Saint Catherine of Alexandria, also known as Saint Catherine of the Wheel and The Great Martyr Saint Catherine, is said to have been a noted scholar in the early 4th century. The Orthodox Church venerates her as a "great martyr", and in the Catholic Church she is traditionally revered as one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers. Catherine was born in Alexandria and raised a pagan, but converted to Christianity in her late teens. It is said that she visited the Roman Emperor Maximinus Daia, and attempted to convince him of the moral error in persecuting Christians. She succeeded in converting his wife, the Empress, and many pagan philosophers whom the Emperor sent to dispute with her (all of whom were subsequently martyred). Upon the failure of the Emperor to win Catherine over, he ordered her to be put in prison; and when the people who visited her converted, she was condemned to death on the breaking wheel, an instrument of torture. According to legend, the wheel itself broke when she touched it, so she was beheaded.

Painted just before Raphael's move to Rome, St Catherine of Alexandria is portrayed in a marvelous, twisted pose. Her left arm is leaning on a wheel - an allusion to the breaking wheel of her martyrdom - and her right hand is pressed to her breast while she gazes up at a sky flooded with light. The composition is as rich in harmonious movement as the coloration is full and varied. The delicate modeling of the saint, the slight torsion of her body as she leans on the wheel (whose spikes have been reduced to rounded knobs in order to tone down the element of cruelty) fully express the balanced character of Raphael's art.

Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino (April 1483 – April 1520), better known simply as Raphael, was an Italian painter and architect of the High Renaissance. 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, and in 1508 he was summoned to Rome by Pope Julius II, and he was to remain in the city serving successive popes for a dozen years until his death. Raphael died on the 6th of April 1520 (on his 37th birthday) and was buried the next day in the Pantheon. His funeral was very well attended attracting large crowds. Vasari says that Raphael's early death 'plunged into grief the entire papal court', and for centuries he was considered as the greatest painter who expressed the basic doctrines of the Christian Church through figures that have a physical beauty worthy of the antique.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


Title: Saint Francis (Der heilige Franziskus)
Artist: Karl Schmidt-Rottluff
Medium: Woodcut print
Size: 71 x 55.1 cm
Date: 1919
Location: Various; Publisher Verlag Karl Lang, Darmstadt. Printer Fritz Voigt, Berlin. Edition: 50.


Saint Francis of Assisi (born Giovanni Francesco di Bernardone; c. 1181 – October 1226) was an Italian Catholic friar and preacher. Francis was the son of a wealthy cloth merchant in Assisi, and he lived the high-spirited life typical of a wealthy young man. When about twenty, Francis went out with the townsmen to fight in one of the petty skirmishes so frequent at that time between the rival cities. While going off to war in 1204, he had a vision that directed him back to Assisi, where he lost his taste for his worldly life. On a pilgrimage to Rome, Francis begged with the beggars at St. Peter's. The experience moved him to live in poverty, and when Francis returned home, he began preaching on the streets, and soon amassed a following; his order was endorsed by the Pope in 1210. In 1224, while he was praying on the mountain of Verna during a forty-day fast in preparation for Michaelmas, Francis is said to have had a vision, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, a result of which he received the stigmata. Brother Leo, who had been with Francis at the time, left a clear and simple account of the event, the first definite account of the phenomenon of stigmata: "Suddenly he saw a vision of a seraph, a six-winged angel on a cross. This angel gave him the gift of the five wounds of Christ."

In this portrait of St Francis, Schmidt-Rottluff puts to good use the much harder and more angular style his woodcuts adopted from 1912 through 1920. The agony of the stigmata and the wizened suffering on St Francis’ face are graphically portrayed, his suffering not just spiritual, but physical, like Christ before him. And although the portrait almost becomes a caricature with its use of exprerssionism, it still seems to capture the description of Francis given by one of his first disciples, Thomas of Celano: “...frail in form, Francis had a long yet cheerful face and soft but strong voice, small brilliant black eyes, dark brown hair, and a sparse beard. His person was in no way imposing, yet there was about the saint a delicacy, grace, and distinction which made him most attractive.”

Karl Schmidt-Rottluff (December 1884 –August 1976) was a German painter and printmaker. One of the main exponents of Expressionism, he was a founder of Die Brücke and one of its leading members. The gradual dissolution of Die Brücke, as its members moved one by one to Berlin in 1911, led to the group’s demise a few years later. From 1915 to the end of World War I, Schmidt-Rottluff served as a soldier on the eastern front, and these experiences were reflected indirectly in his art. He increasingly turned to introspective themes, as in 9 Holzschnitte (1918), a series of woodcuts based on the life of Christ published by Kurt Wolff Verlag in Munich. At the end of the war he became a member of the Arbeitsrat für kunst in Berlin, which saw itself as an anti-academic movement of German artists at a time of revolution.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Title: The Martyrdom of St Lawrence
Artist: Palma Giovane
Medium: Oil on canvas
Size: 283 x 490 cm
Date: 1581-82
Location: San Giacomo dall'Orio, Venice.


Lawrence of Rome (c. 225 – 258) (Latin: Laurentius, meaning "laurelled") was one of the seven deacons of ancient Rome who were martyred during the persecution of Valerian in 258. At the beginning of the month of August, 258, the emperor issued an edict, commanding that all bishops, priests, and deacons should immediately be put to death. On 6 August Pope Sixtus II was apprehended in one of the catacombs, and executed forthwith. After the death of Sixtus, the prefect of Rome demanded that Lawrence turn over the riches of the Church. Legend has it that Lawrence asked for three days to gather together the wealth, and then swiftly distributed as much Church property to the poor as possible. On the third day, when ordered to give up the treasures of the Church, he presented the poor, the crippled, the blind and the suffering, and said that these were the true treasures of the Church. He was subsequently martyred. Since the fourth century St. Lawrence has been one of the most honored martyrs of the Roman Church.

This depiction of The Martyrdom of St Lawrence is a rather unusual horizontal design, which has been criticized as being unsuccessful with predictable intermingling of Venetian and Roman mannerism. But the depth of field has been masterfully captured in distinct planes, creating a very naturalistic sense of depth, as does the light from the flames beneath the Saint’s gridiron. Tradition also holds that Lawrence joked about their cooking him enough to eat while he was burning on the gridiron (hence his patronage of cooks and chefs), stating something along the lines of "turn me over ... I'm done on this side."

Jacopo di Antonio Negretti (c.1548 - October 1628), best known as Jacopo Palma il Giovane or simply Palma Giovane ("Young Palma") was a Venetian painter, and great-nephew of Palma Vecchio. He is said to have been a pupil of Titian, but this tradition has been doubted (it is probably based on the fact that he completed the Pietà which Titian left incomplete at his death). In the late 1560s and early 1570s he worked in central Italy, mainly Rome, but thereafter he spent the rest of his life in Venice. Adding naturalism to his Mannerist style by the 1580s, he varied the ingeniously synthesized amalgam according to subject matter and patrons' own eclectic and conservative tastes, with "virtuoso skill and a facile intelligence." After the death of Tintoretto in 1594, he became the leading painter in the Venice.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


Title: St Matthew and the Angel
Artist: Giovanni Girolamo Savoldo
Medium: Oil on canvas
Size: 93 x 125 cm
Date: c. 1534
Location: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.


St. Matthew, the son of Alpheus (Mark 2:14) was a Galilean, and a tax-gatherer at Capharnaum. He collected custom duties for Herod Antipas, and, although a Jew, was despised by the Pharisees, who hated all publicans. When summoned by Jesus, Matthew followed Him and tendered Him a feast in his house, where tax-gatherers and sinners sat at table with Christ and His disciples. This drew a protest from the Pharisees whom Jesus rebuked in these consoling words: "I came not to call the just, but sinners". No further allusion is made to Matthew in the Gospels, except in the list of the Apostles. As a disciple and Apostle he therefore would have followed Christ, accompanying Him up to the time of His Passion and, and was one of the witnesses of His Resurrection and Ascension. Of Matthew's subsequent career we have only inaccurate or legendary data. St. Irenæus tells us that Matthew preached the Gospel among the Hebrews, St. Clement of Alexandria claiming that he did this for fifteen years before going into Gentile nations.

In the St Matthew and the Angel, an angel appears in the darkness to inspire the seated evangelist. Strangely distorting light and shadows play across their drapery and faces, the result of illumination from a small oil lamp placed like a footlight on the table below and in front of them. In the dark recesses at the right two men attend to a seated figure. Flames and sparks from the fireplace throw the three figures into relief, catching St Matthew's hands and face with their light, but consigning the rest of his body to near total darkness. At the far left four small figures wander along a moonlit street. Matthew's peasant's hands, rumpled clothes, contorted neck, and slightly scruffy beard all contribute to the immediacy of the scene, so convincingly real as to be unsettling.

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. The exact date of Savoldo's death is not known: in 1548 he was cited as still living in Venice, though vecchione ("Very old").

Monday, June 20, 2011


Title: Mary Magdalen Raised by Angels
Artist: Giovanni Lanfranco
Medium: Oil on canvas
Size: 109 x 78 cm
Date: c. 1616
Location: Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte, Naples.


Mary Magdalene was one of Jesus' most celebrated disciples. In the New Testament she is mentioned among the women who accompanied and ministered to Christ (Luke 8:2-3), where it is also said that seven devils had been cast out of her (Mark 16:9). She is next named as standing at the foot of the cross (Mark 15:40; Matthew 27:56; John 19:25; Luke 23:49). She saw Christ laid in the tomb, and she was the first recorded witness of the Resurrection. She is referred to in early Christian writings as "the apostle to the apostles", and in apocryphal texts she is portrayed as a visionary and leader of the early movement. Several Gnostic gospels, such as the Gospel of Mary, written in the early 2nd century, see Mary as the special disciple of Jesus who has a deeper understanding of his teachings and is asked to impart this to the other disciples.

Giovanni Lanfranco, as a pupil of Annibale Carracci, was asked to provide decorations for a palazzetto behind Palazzo Farnese. In keeping with the character of the building, a casino in a garden, they represented mythological episodes. A few years later, Cardinal Odoardo Farnese added a small room to the Palazzetto Farnese as a Christian retreat, and Lanfranco was responsible for its entire decoration. This work consisted of four large frescoes, and nine ceiling panels, only two of which survived. One of the surviving works, Mary Magdalen Raised by Angels, takes it’s cue from the French tradition where it is said Magdalene retired to a hill, La Sainte-Baume, and at the time of her death was carried by angels into the oratory of St. Maximinus, where she received the viaticum.

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. Lanfranco explored new styles, bridged traditions, painted in both mannerist and baroque styles, using a tenebrist and a vivid colorist palette. He died in Rome in 1647, where his last work was apse of San Carlo ai Catinari.

Sunday, June 19, 2011


Title: St Joseph and the Infant Christ
Artist: Giovanni Battista Gaulli
Medium: Oil on canvas
Size: 127 x 97.2 cm
Date: c. 1670-85
Location: Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena.


St. Joseph, also known as Joseph of the House of David, Joseph the Betrothed, or Joseph the Worker is the husband of the Virgin Mary, the foster father of Jesus, and head of the Holy Family. Joseph is venerated as a saint in the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, and Lutheran churches. The gospels describe Joseph as a "tekton" (τεκτων); traditionally the word has been taken to mean "carpenter", though the Greek term is much less specific. It cannot be translated narrowly; it evokes an artisan with wood in general, or an artisan in iron or stone. Very little other information on Joseph is given in the Gospels, but the little there is describes well enough who he was: "a righteous man" (Matthew 1:18). St. Joseph, as patron Saint of fathers, serves as an example about the importance of commitment to marriage, the family, and the importance of living an unstained moral life.

This intimate painting, with St. Joseph cradling the Christ child while bathed in a gentle light from above, provides a characteristic example of Baciccio's style of easel painting, which is vigorously Baroque in design and conception. The dynamic folds of drapery which envelop the figures are profoundly sculptural, and Baciccio's native Genoese traditions are evident in the dark background, the use of highly saturated, warm colors and the broad, painterly handling.

Giovanni Battista Gaulli (May, 1639 – April, 1709), also known as Baciccio, Il Baciccio or Baciccia (all Genoese nicknames for Giovanni Battista), was a painter of the Italian High Baroque verging onto that of the Rococo. Gaulli was born in Genoa, his Genoa a cosmopolitan Italian artistic center open to both commercial and artistic enterprises from north European countries, including countries with non-Catholic populations such as England and the Dutch provinces. He soon, however, moved to Rome. In 1662, he was accepted into the Roman artists' guild, the Accademia di San Luca (Academy of Saint Luke), where he was to later hold several offices. At his height, Gaulli was one of Rome's most esteemed portrait painters, though he is best known for his grand, Gianlorenzo Bernini-influenced illusionistic vault fresco in the church of the Gesù in Rome.