Sunday, July 31, 2011

19 IMAGES FROM THE 19th CENTURY: PART 13 - The Deposition

Title: The Deposition
Artist: Arnold Böcklin
Medium: Tempera and colored varnish on panel
Size: 160 x 250 cm
Date: c. 1874
Location: Nationalgalerie, Berlin.


John 19:38-40 And after these things Joseph of Arimathaea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly through fear of the Jews, demanded of Pilate that he might take the body of Jesus: and Pilate allowed it. He came therefore and took away the body of Jesus. And Nicodemus also, who at first came to Jesus by night, came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds. They took therefore the body of Jesus and bound it up in linen with the spices, as it is the custom with the Jews to prepare for burial.

This painting demonstrates Böcklin's flair for archaization, one already employed by the Nazarenes, is seen in the Quattrocento coloring of this Deposition. A color palate consisting primarily of musty blues and greens, a deathly pallor covers the whole scene, as though the shade of Christ’s body is emanating and tinting the whole of the world. Part camp theatricality, part convinced and convincing Christianity, part prophecy, this canvas proved to be an Avant-Garde and unpopular work when first exhibited at the Vienna Exposition.

Arnold Böcklin (October 1827 –January 1901) was a Swiss symbolist painter. He was on of the major Swiss painter of the 19th century, and he exerted a great influence on the German-speaking countries through the expression of a heightened Romanticism and poeticism. He was trained in Germany, Flanders, and Paris, and spent seven years in Rome (1850-57), where he transformed his early naturalistic landscapes, more or less in the manner of Corot, into symbolic subjects with figures epitomizing the mood of the landscape. He was in Munich in 1871-74, in 1885 in Hottingen (Switzerland). However, like other German artists of the period, he spent much of rest of his life in Italy, where he died in Fiesole near Florence.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

19 IMAGES FROM THE 19th CENTURY: PART 12 - Virgin of the Deliverance

Title: Virgin of the Deliverance
Artist: Ernest Hebert
Medium: Oil on panel
Size: 40.3 x 28.3 cm
Date: c. 1872
Location: The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore.


In art, the term “The Madonna” is applied specifically to an artwork in which Mary, with or without the infant Jesus, is the focus and central figure of the picture. Mary and the infant may be surrounded by adoring angels or worshiping saints, however paintings which have a narrative content are usually given a title that reflects the scene. Half-length paintings of the Madonna and Child are also common in Italian Renaissance painting, particularly in Venice.

This painting is a variant based on a large-scale altarpiece that Hébert painted in time for the Salon of 1872 and that was finally installed in the church of his native town, La Tronche, the following year. Unlike the original altarpiece, which has a patterned background, this version is stylized to recall the conventions of Byzantine icons. The gold ground, raised haloes and Greek letters-mu, rho, theta, and upsilon: the abbreviation of "Maria Theotokos" (Mary God-bearer), often found in Byzantine mosaics-lend the painting a schematic flatness that contrasts dramatically with the otherwise convincingly three-dimensional figures.

Ernest Hebert (November 1817 - December 1908), sometimes known as Antoine Auguste Ernest Hebert, was a French painter and academic. Though he took drawing lessons from the age of ten from the French painter Benjamin Rolland, his father wished him to become a lawyer, and in 1834 he moved to Paris to study law. While there he also studied drawing and painting, and in 1839, the year he passed his law exams, he also won the Prix de Rome for his painting 'The Cup of Joseph Found in the Sack of Benjamin.' During his lifetime Hebert became one of the most highly regarded and decorated painters of his generation, winning medals at several "Expositions Universelles" (World's Fairs), and the Grande Croix of the Legion of Honor in 1903.

Friday, July 29, 2011

19 IMAGES FROM THE 19th CENTURY: PART 11 - Christ in Limbo

Title: Christ in Limbo
Artist: Paul Cézanne
Medium: Oil on canvas
Size: 170 x 97 cm
Date: c. 1867
Location: Musée d'Orsay, Paris.


Christ’s Descent into Hell, or Descent into Limbo, is a legend not depicted in any of the canonical Gospels. One of the first written references can be found in the Apocryphal text, the Gospel of Nicodemus. Before his bodily Resurrection, Jesus descended into Hell and led the just, the patriarchs, the prophets of the Old Testament and Adam and Eve, into the light. Later, a clarity was introduced that they had not been in Hell at all, but in the bordering region, Limbo (from the Latin word limbus, a hem); it was taught that because they lived and died before the Christ's self-sacrifice for peoples redemption, they were put in the lower place until such time when Jesus could liberate them. the Catechism of the Catholic Church states: "...Jesus, like all men, experienced death and in his soul joined the others in the realm of the dead. But he descended there as Savior, proclaiming the Good News to the spirits imprisoned there.”

During the 1860s, Cézanne turned his hand to murals to decorate the family home, Jas de Bouffan, near Aix-en-Provence. As indicated in documents from the period, this fragment, Christ in Limbo, was part of a much larger composition. Another work in the Musée d'Orsay, La Madeleine, was also part of it, although scholars attest there is no aesthetic reason to link the two. In Cézanne’s painting of Christ's descent into Limbo, the dwelling place between death and resurrection, the artist depicts the place with a careful use of color against a black background. The reds and peaches, combined with the loose brushstrokes. create a vigorous impasto intercepting light and portray a scene glimpsed through shimmering waves of heat. The souls of the Just in the Old Testament who await Redemption kneel before the Redeemer. In fact, the characters in the bottom left hand corner are probably Adam and Eve.

Paul Cézanne (January 1839 – October 1906) was a French artist and Post-Impressionist painter whose work laid the foundations of the transition from the 19th century conception of artistic endeavor to a new and radically different world of art in the 20th century. Cézanne can be said to form the bridge between late 19th century Impressionism and the early 20th century's new line of artistic enquiry, Cubism. The line attributed to both Matisse and Picasso that Cézanne "is the father of us all" cannot be easily dismissed. Cézanne's work demonstrates a mastery of design, color, tone, composition and draftsmanship. His often sensitive and exploratory brushstrokes are highly characteristic and clearly recognizable. During his Dark Period in Paris, 1861–1870, Cézanne was given to depression, and his works of this period are characterized by dark colors and the heavy use of black. They differ sharply from his earlier watercolors and sketches at the École Spéciale de dessin at Aix-en-Provence in 1859, and the violence of expression is in contrast to his subsequent works.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

19 IMAGES FROM THE 19th CENTURY: PART 10 - Jesus Mocked by the Soldiers

Title: Jesus Mocked by the Soldiers
Artist: Edouard Manet
Medium: Oil on board
Size: 190.82 x 148.27 cm
Date: 1865
Location: The Art Institute of Chicago.


Mark 15:16-18 The soldiers took Jesus into the governor's palace (called the Praetorium) and called all the other soldiers together. They put a purple robe on Jesus and used thorny branches to make a crown for his head. They began to call out to him, "Hail, King of the Jews!"

Manet depicts the moment when Christ’s captors mock the “king of the Jews” by crowning him with thorns and covering him with a purple robe. Unlike more traditional academic religious painting that portrays Jesus as a divine, other-worldly being, the figure here is not idealized. Jesus is depicted as human and vulnerable, awkwardly posed and un-heroic in demeanor. In fact, it is the soldiers themselves who reveal Christ’s divinity to the viewer. Far from being the torturers whose violent gestures populate art history, these are men who seem almost stunned in the presence of Christ. The torturer with the rod kneels in homage more than he readies himself for his cruel task; the fur-clad figure at the right holds Christ's cloak as if it were a royal robe. Because of its decidedly rebellious presentation of the subject, Jesus Mocked by the Soldiers was received at the 1865 Salon with an outburst of negative criticism.

Édouard Manet (January 1832 – April 1883) was a French painter. As one of the first 19th-century artists to approach modern-life subjects, he was a pivotal figure in the transition from Realism to Impressionism. His early masterworks, The Luncheon on the Grass (Le déjeuner sur l'herbe) and Olympia, engendered great controversy and served as rallying points for the young painters who would create Impressionism. Today, these are considered watershed paintings that mark the genesis of modern art. Although his own work influenced and anticipated the Impressionist style, he resisted involvement in Impressionist exhibitions, partly because he did not wish to be seen as the representative of a group identity, and partly because he preferred to exhibit at the Salon.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

19 IMAGES FROM THE 19th CENTURY: PART 9 - The Wise and Foolish Virgins

Title: The Wise and Foolish Virgins
Artist: Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones
Medium: Pen and ink and grey wash, with scratching out.
Size: 45.8 x 60.5 cm
Date: 1859
Location: Private collection.


Matthew 25:1-13 “... the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’ They replied, ‘No, there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’ But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’ But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’ Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.”

Burne-Jones's early pen-and-ink drawings are among his rarest and most fascinating productions. Only some ten finished examples were executed. The Wise and Foolish Virgins, both large in scale and on paper, are qualities consistent with a more expansive, confident approach and a new interest in dramatic intensity and atmospheric effect. The influence of his mentor Rossetti is still quite evident, but by this time Burne-Jones has begun to find his own artistic voice. In fact the drawing has a good claim to be the masterpiece among his early works in this medium.

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 had intended to become a church minister, but under the influence of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, co-founder the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, he decided to leave college to pursue a career in art. In February 1857, Rossetti wrote “Jones's designs are marvels of finish and imaginative detail, unequaled by anything unless perhaps Albert Dürer's finest works.” Burne-Jones was closely involved in the rejuvenation of the tradition of stained glass art in England.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

19 IMAGES FROM THE 19th CENTURY: PART 8 - The Disciples at Emmaus

Title: The Disciples at Emmaus
Artist: Eugène Delacroix
Medium: Oil on canvas
Size: 55.2 x 47 cm
Date: 1853
Location: Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, New York.


Luke 24:28-35 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.

Delacroix has located this miraculous apparition in a darkened interior, which becomes dramatically illuminated by Christ’s golden halo. Jesus stands with a powerful backward stance, echoing the diagonal line of the staircase, breaking the bread with his large hands. The casual posture of the disciple on the right conveys the relaxation of a meal shared among friends, whereas the disciple on the left registers the wonder of the moment. The surprised disciple’s face is turned toward Jesus, Delacroix preferring the use of a bodily gesture—an up-flung left hand—rather than facial expression to convey amazement. In addition to shrewd compositional strategies and theatrical lighting, the artist’s characteristically loose paint handling of his later compositions adds a further note of dramatic energy to the work.

Ferdinand Victor Eugene Delacroix (April 1798 – August 1863) was a French painter 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.

Monday, July 25, 2011

19 IMAGES FROM THE 19th CENTURY: PART 7 Christ's Entry into Jerusalem

Title: Christ's Entry into Jerusalem
Artist: Jean-Hippolyte Flandrin
Medium: Fresco
Size: tbd
Date: 1846
Location: Church of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Paris.


Matthew 21:1-9 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: “Say to Daughter Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’” The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!”.

The wall panels throughout the nave and choir of Saint-Germain-des-Prés are work of Jean-Hippolyte Flandrin, from 1842-1849. It is apparent from contemporary criticism that Flandrin's mural scheme attracted much attention for its abstracted forms, and flattened frieze like compositions running the length of the choir. Christ's Entry into Jerusalem, in the Sanctuary on the left of the high altar, is a fine example in this outstanding series of frescos. Christ, majestic though he rides a humble donkey, is surrounded by an adoring throng. Men and women bow down before him, the excitement so great that to the right a man even lifts a child to glimpse “the Son of David.” The compression of depth that Flandrin achieved creates an even further sense of being part of a packed throng.

Jean-Hippolyte Flandrin (March 1809 – March 1864) was a 19th-century French painter. He was the second of three sons, all of whom were painters in some aspect. Hippolyte and Paul, his younger brother, spent some time at Lyon, saving to leave for Paris in 1829 and study under Louis Hersent. Eventually, they settled in the studio of Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, who became not only their instructor but their friend for life. At first, Hippolyte reportedly struggled as a poor artist. However, in 1832, he won the Prix de Rome for his painting Recognition of Theseus by his Father. This prestigious art scholarship meant that he was no longer limited by his poverty. Though Flandrin painted a great number of portraits, he is much more known today for his monumental decorative paintings, such as those at St Germain des Prés in Paris.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

19 IMAGES FROM THE 19th CENTURY: PART 6 - Angels Ministering to Christ in the Wilderness

Title: Angels Ministering to Christ in the Wilderness
Artist: Thomas Cole
Medium: Oil on canvas
Size: tbd
Date: 1843
Location: Worcester Art Museum, Worcester, Ma.


Matthew 4:10-11 Jesus said to him, Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.' Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and ministered to him.

In this painting Cole provides us with two sources of primary light – the distant horizon and the celestial spot light that shines down directly on an exhausted yet satisfied Christ. The angles, supplicant in their service, provide food and drink. In contrast to the barren stretches of landscape behind him, Jesus is very cozy in the intimate group in the foreground. Despite the esteem with which Cole's allegorical works were regarded, some patrons preferred his identifiably American scenes. Cole was disappointed at this preference, and paintings like Angels Ministering to Christ in the Wilderness seem to be an attempt to satisfy both his desire for scenes invested with moral or literary meaning, and his patrons desire for pastoral and natural imagery.

Thomas Cole (February 1801 – February, 1848) was an English-born American artist. He is regarded as the founder of the Hudson River School, an American art movement that flourished in the mid-19th century. Cole's Hudson River School, as well as his own work, was known for its realistic and detailed portrayal of American landscape and wilderness, which feature themes of romanticism and naturalism. He was born in Bolton, Lancashire, England, and in 1818 his family emigrated to the United States, settling in Steubenville, Ohio. Cole learned the rudiments of his profession from a wandering portrait painter named Stein. However, he had little success painting portraits, and his interest shifted to landscape. Cole's unexpected death in 1848 at the young age of forty-seven was deeply mourned in New York art and literary circles. Both his art and his legacy provided the foundation for the native landscape school that dominated American painting until the late 1860s.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

19 IMAGES FROM THE 19th CENTURY: PART 5 - Christus Consolator

Title: Christus Consolator
Artist: Ary Scheffer
Medium: Oil on canvas
Size: 184 x 248 cm
Date: 1836-37
Location: Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam.


Luke 4:18: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, I have come to heal those who are brokenhearted and to announce to the prisoners their deliverance; to liberate those who are crushed by their chains.”

At the center of the composition is the figure of Christ, surrounded by the afflicted and oppressed. A kneeling woman mourns her dead child, while in the background we see an exile with his walking stick, a castaway with a piece of the wreckage in his hand, and a suicide with a dagger. Placed near these groups are Torquato Tasso (crowned with laurel), a brilliant 16th-century poet imprisoned as a madman, and figures representing the three ages of women. To the right of Christ are the oppressed of both the past and present, among them a Polish independence fighter, a Greek Souliote warrior, a Roman slave, and a black slave. With his left hand Christ releases from his shackles a dying man, the personification of Poland with the shattered weapons of its failed insurrection against Russia by his side, his exposed, wounded body draped in the Polish flag. The repentant Mary Magdalene kneels beside Christ. It is an encyclopedic interpretation of human history that transports the viewer from modern-day Poland, Greece, and America to both the ancient and medieval eras. The composition reflects the renewed interest in France during the 1830s for a more liberal activism within the Catholic Church. On a personal level, it also reveals the artist’s appreciation for various European art movements, especially, the markedly religious Nazarene circle in Germany.

The Dutch-born and French-trained artist Ary Scheffer (February 1795 - June 1858) was one of the pre-eminent Romantic painters active in Paris during the first half of the 19th century. Although his earliest works concentrated on illustrating Romantic literature or overtly sentimental genre subjects, after 1830 he became increasingly occupied with Old and New Testament themes. Christus Consolator created a sensation when exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1837, where it was purchased by the French monarch’s son, the Duc d’Orléans, as a wedding present for his Lutheran fiancée, the Princess Mecklenburg-Schwerin. Scheffer’s religious subjects were the source of his international reputation during his lifetime, and, one might argue, the epitome of his genius. Christus Consolator was, after Holman Hunt’s contemporaneous Light of the World, the most popular religious image throughout the Western world during the middle decades of the 19th century.

Friday, July 22, 2011

19 IMAGES FROM THE 19th CENTURY: PART 4 - Death on a Pale Horse

Title: Death on a Pale Horse
Artist: J. M. W. Turner
Medium: Oil on canvas
Size: 59.7 x75.6 cm
Date: c. 1825-30
Location: Tate Gallery, London.


Revelation 6:7-9 When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.

Although possibly incomplete, the subject can be identified as Death, the last of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse who announce the Day of Judgment in the Book of Revelation. The choice may have been in response to the death of Turner’s father in 1829, suggested by the unusual treatment which is both tender and menacing. Death appears, not as a triumphant, upright figure astride his horse, but as a phantom emerging from a turbulent mist: his skeletal form, arms outstretched, and draped submissively over the horse’s pale back. Such disturbing visions were considered to embody the very concept of the Sublime.

Joseph Mallord William Turner (April 1775 – December 1851) was an English Romantic landscape painter, water colorist and print maker. Turner was considered a controversial figure in his day, but is now regarded as the artist who elevated landscape painting to an eminence rivaling history painting. Although renowned for his oil paintings, Turner is also one of the greatest masters of British watercolor landscape painting. As he grew older, Turner became more eccentric. He had few close friends except for his father, who lived with him for 30 years, eventually working as his studio assistant. His father's death in 1829 had a profound effect on him, and thereafter he was subject to bouts of depression.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

19 IMAGES FROM THE 19th CENTURY: PART 3 - Lamentation

Title: Lamentation
Artist: Paul Delaroche
Medium: Oil on canvas
Size: 49.5 x 32.7 cm
Date: 1820
Location: Dahesh Museum of Art, Greenwich, CT.


John 19:25-30 Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home. Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

This is one of Delaroche's earliest known works and exemplifies the religious imagery that found favor in the opening years of the Bourbon Restoration (1814–1830), when the Catholic church regained much of the power it had lost during the French Revolution. In 1820 the Duchess of Orléans, wife of the Duke of Orléans (the future King Louis-Philippe), commissioned the young Delaroche, still an unknown student in the atelier of Baron Gros, to paint a Lamentation for the family chapel at the Palais Royal in Paris. That same year he also executed this smaller version, perhaps a presentation model submitted for final approval. However, the two compositions differ substantially, and this could also have been an independent work painted for the member of the ducal household to whom it is dedicated. Delaroche created a traditional but deeply moving depiction of the mourning Virgin, whose intense suffering is symbolized by the swords that pierce her heart.

Hippolyte Delaroche (July 1797 – November 1856), commonly known as Paul Delaroche, was a French painter born in Paris. Delaroche was born into a wealthy family and was trained by Antoine-Jean, Baron Gros, who then painted life-size histories and had many students. By 1822, with the arrival of Romanticism in Paris challenging the dominance of Neo-classicism, Delaroche was to steer a course between the two currents, unwilling to opt for full-blooded Romanticism for fear of jeopardizing his public standing. Delaroche's paintings, with their straightforward technique and dramatic compositions, became very popular. He applied essentially the same treatment to the characters of distant historical times, the founders of Christianity, and various figures of his own day such as "Napoleon at Fontainebleau."

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

19 IMAGES FROM THE 19th CENTURY: PART 2 - Jesus Handing St Peter the Keys to Paradise

Title: Jesus Handing St Peter the Keys to Paradise
Artist: Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres
Medium: Oil on canvas
Size: 280 x 217 cm
Date: 1820
Location: Musée Ingres, Montauban.


Matthew 16:15-19 “But what about you?” Jesus asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will have been loosed in heaven.”

The success of Jesus Handing St Peter the Keys to Paradise lead Ingres to stiffen many of his compositions, giving the historical scenes as well as portraits sometimes a too pronounced solemn character. In this image, however, the stiffness achieves the wonderful effect of making the painting seem like a living Icon. The photo-realism of the robes contrasts the stylized halos; the realistic expressions contrast the formality of their posture, and so on. Even as a guardian of tradition, Ingres cannot help but nod towards the future.

Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres (August 1780 – January 1867) was a French Neoclassical painter. Although he considered himself to be a painter of history in the tradition of Nicolas Poussin and Jacques-Louis David, by the end of his life it was Ingres's portraits, both painted and drawn, that were recognized as his greatest legacy. A man profoundly respectful of the past, he assumed the role of a guardian of academic orthodoxy against the ascendant Romantic style. Ingres influence on later generations of artists has been considerable. His most significant heir was Degas, who studied under Louis Lamothe, a minor disciple of Ingres. In the 20th century, Picasso and Matisse were among those who acknowledged a debt to the great classicist; Matisse described him as the first painter "to use pure colors, outlining them without distorting them."

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

19 IMAGES FROM THE 19th CENTURY: PART 1 - The Conversion of Saul

Title: The Conversion of Saul
Artist: William Blake
Medium: Watercolor and pen drawing over pencil
Size: 40.9 x 35.8 cm
Date: c. 1800
Location: The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, San Marino.


Acts of the Apostles 9:3-9 As Saul was coming near the city of Damascus, suddenly a light from the sky flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him “Saul, Saul! Why do you persecute me?” “Who are you, Lord?” he asked. “I am Jesus, whom you persecute,” the voice said. “But get up and go into the city, where you will be told what you must do.” The men who were traveling with Saul had stopped, not saying a word; they heard the voice but could not see anyone.

Rather than falling to the earth as the bible describes Saul, Blake pictures him astride a great horse that has gone to ground. Saul looks up to the vision above in rapt awe and extends his arms in a cruciform gesture that foreshadows his acceptance of Christ’s crucifixion as a cornerstone of his new faith. One face on the left is turned upward to be illuminated by divine light, but the remainder of the helmeted soldiers accompanying Saul bow their heads and cover their eyes, hearing a voice but seeing no man. The single visual witness stresses the corporeality of Christ’s presence and suggests that the vision given to Saul can transfigure all but those who willfully turn from the light.

William Blake (November 1757 – August 1827) was an English poet, painter, and print maker. One of Blake’s main influences was the society in which he lived. He lived during revolutionary times and witnessed the downfall of London during Britain’s war with republican France. His disgust with society grew as he matured and 'The Songs of Innocence and Experience' depict this transition. He held radical religious ideas for the time; he did not believe in a religion of nature or reason, but thought man’s nature was imaginative and mystical. Blake’s preoccupation with good and evil as well as his strong philosophical and religious beliefs remained throughout his life and he never stopped depicting them in his poetry and engravings. He died at the age of sixty-nine in 1827. It seems his art had been too adventurous and unconventional for early nineteenth century, and he did not become widely known until 1863 with Alexander Gilchrist’s biography.

Friday, July 8, 2011


Title: St. Panteleimon the Healer
Artist: Nicholas Roerich
Medium: Tempera on canvas
Size: 44.5 x 78.5 cm
Date: 1931
Location: Nicholas Roerich Museum, New York.


Saint Panteleimon, or Saint Pantaleon, counted in the West among the late-medieval Fourteen Holy Helpers and in the East as one of the Holy Unmercenary Healers, was a martyr of Nicomedia in Bithynia during the Diocletian persecution of 303 AD. Pantaleon was the son of a rich pagan, Eustorgius of Nicomedia, and had been instructed in Christianity by his Christian mother, Saint Eubula; however, after her death he fell away from the Christian church, while he studied medicine with a renowned physician Euphrosinos. He was won back to Christianity by Saint Hermolaus, who convinced him that Christ was the better physician: "But, my friend, of what use are all thy acquirements in this art, since thou art ignorant of the science of salvation?” By miraculously healing a blind man by invoking the name of Jesus over him, Panteleimon converted his father, upon whose death he came into possession of a large fortune, but freed his slaves and, distributing his wealth among the poor, developed a great reputation in Nicomedia. Envious colleagues denounced him to the emperor during the Diocletian persecution. The emperor wished to save him and sought to persuade him to apostasy. Panteleimon, however, openly confessed his faith, and as proof that Christ is the true God, he healed a paralytic. Notwithstanding this, he was condemned to death by the emperor, who regarded the miracle as an exhibition of magic.

In the Eastern tradition, this saint is canonically depicted as a beardless young man with a full head of curly hair. It is interesting, then, that a Russian painter should diverge so profoundly, and give us a wizened old Panteleimon, appearing to gather flowers and herbs from the flourishing mountain meadows. Medicinal ingredients, perhaps, for his work as a healer. And then, in keeping with Roerichs deep spiritual connection with the mountains, one wonders if the Saint is not taking from the earth, but rather giving back to her.

Nicholas Konstantinovich Roerich (October 1874 - December 1947), was first-born son of lawyer and notary, Konstantin Roerich and his wife Maria. He was raised in the comfortable environment of an upper middle-class Russian family with its advantages of contact with the writers, artists, and scientists who often came to visit the Roerichs. His father did not want him to pursue painting as a career, but rather to study law. He made a compromise, and after finishing his studies in 1893, Roerich simultaneously entered the Saint-Petersburg University (he graduated in 1898) and the Emperor’s Academy of Arts. From 1895, he studied in the studio of the famous Russian landscape painter Arkhip Kuindzhi. This training undoubtedly came to fruition later in life when, in 1928, he settled his family in the Kullu Valley at an elevation of 6,500 feet in the Himalayan foothills, with a magnificent view of the valley and the surrounding mountains. Here they established their home and the headquarters of the Urusvati Himalayan Research Institute.

Thursday, July 7, 2011


Title: The Evangelist Luke
Artist: Unknown
Medium: Illuminated Manuscript
Size: 30.3 x 25.8 cm
Date: c. 860
Location: The Morgan Library & Museum, New York.


St Luke the Evangelist was an Early Christian writer who the Church Fathers such as Jerome and Eusebius said was the author of the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. Modern scholarship reinforces the view that the author of these two books is one and the same. One of the most extensive writers of the New Testament, his Gospel is considerably longer than St. Matthew's, his two books are about as long as St. Paul's fourteen Epistles. Luke was a Greco-Syrian physician who lived in the Greek city of Antioch in Ancient Syria. His earliest notice is in Paul's Epistle to Philemon, verse 24. He is also mentioned in Colossians 4:14 and 2 Timothy 4:11, two works commonly ascribed to Paul. Luke died at age 84 in Boeotia, according to a "fairly early and widespread tradition". According to Nikiphoros-Kallistos Xanthopoulos and others, Luke's Tomb was located in Thebes (Greece), from whence his relics were transferred to Constantinople in the year 357.

This, the only Reims Gospel Book written in gold, is an exquisite example of a Carolingian manuscript. As is usual in illustrated Gospel Books, a "portrait" of an Evangelist precedes each of the four Gospels. Such author portraits were derived from antique models; here Luke wears a Roman toga and holds a basket containing scrolls, the standard book form in antiquity.

The most distinctive and influential center of Carolingian illumination was Reims, which flourished during the reigns of Charlemagne and his successors. St. Remi was then under the brilliant leadership of Archbishop Hincmar (845–82), counselor of Emperor Charles the Bald (r. 840–77), grandson of Charlemagne. The volume was rebound in the 18th century and arms of the Abbaye de St-Remy stamped on back. It was kept at the monastery at least until 1790, when the Revolutionary authorities removed 248 manuscripts. It eventually ended up for sale in Paris in 1828.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


Title: St Margaret
Artist: Ernest Hebert
Medium: Oil on canvas
Size: 66.2 x 34.1 cm
Date: c. 1877
Location: Musée National Ernest Hébert, Paris.


St Margaret the Virgin, also known as Margaret of Antioch, was the daughter of a pagan priest named Aedesius. Her mother dying soon after her birth, Margaret was nursed by a nearby Christian. Having embraced Christianity and consecrated her virginity to God, she was disowned by her father and adopted by her nurse. Later, Olybrius, Governor of the Roman Diocese of the East, offered her marriage at the price of her renunciation of Christianity. Upon her refusal, she was cruelly tortured, during which various miraculous incidents occurred. One of these involved being swallowed by Satan in the shape of a dragon, from which she escaped alive when the cross she carried irritated the dragon's innards. Finally the Governor ordered her beheaded.

Hebert became renowned for his painting, 'La Malaria', in the 1850 Salon, and perhaps thought of as a principally a classic painter. He deserves, however, to figure among the Symbolists as well. His religious and mythological pieces, such as Ophelias, were wistful and avoided female figures in a lyrical and passionate atmosphere. Accordingly, his St Margaret shows us a triumphant Virgin. Looking Heavenward she holds the dragon pinned and helpless with her radiant cross. Though she may have the visage of one of Raphael’s Madonnas, the vibrant colors and attention to fine detail make this painting distinctly Hebert’s.

Ernest Hebert (November 1817 - December 1908), sometimes known as Antoine Auguste Ernest Hebert, was a French painter and academic. Hebert was yet another of the artists working in the orbit of Paul Delaroche whose name fell into relative obscurity in the last century. He was, in fact, like Delaroche, one of the most highly regarded and decorated painters of his generation, winning medals at several "Expositions Universelles" (World's Fairs). He received the Grande Croix of the Legion of Honor in 1903.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


Title: Salome
Artist: Lucas Cranach the Elder
Medium: Oil on poplar panel
Size: 87 x 58 cm
Date: c. 1530
Location: Szépmûvészeti Múzeum, Budapest.


John the Baptist (c. 6 BC – c. 36 AD) was an itinerant preacher and a major religious figure who led a movement of baptism at the Jordan River. Most biblical historians agree that John baptized Jesus at "Bethany beyond the Jordan," by wading into the water with Jesus from the eastern bank. Christians believe that John the Baptist had a specific role ordained by God as forerunner or precursor of Jesus, who was the foretold Messiah. In addition to the Canonical gospels, John the Baptist is also mentioned by Jewish historian Josephus, whose accounts of John appear compatible with the account in the New Testament. In the Gospel accounts of John's death, Herod has John imprisoned for denouncing his marriage. John condemned Herod for marrying Herodias, the former wife of his brother Philip, in violation of Old Testament Law. Later at a banquet her daughter dances before Herod, who, in appreciation of her dance, offers her a favor in return. Herodias tells her daughter to ask for the head of John the Baptist, which is subsequently delivered to her on a plate.

This is one of the characteristic portraits which were painted in large number by the artist and his workshop. It has been surmised that most of the sitters of these portraits were noble ladies of the court in Saxony. This image has taken the events depicted in the New Testament, and transported the scene to 16th century Europe. In fact, if one were to only view the top two-thirds of this painting, it would seem like many genteel portraits of court ladies that were done in the same period. It is not until the head of the Baptist is viewed on the platter, with the gory neck wound, mouth agape, and eyes fading, that the horror of what has transpired hits home.

Lucas Cranach the Elder (October 1472 – October 1553), was a German Renaissance painter and printmaker. He was court painter to the Electors of Saxony for most of his career, and is known for his portraits, both of German princes and those of the leaders of the Protestant Reformation. He painted many religious subjects, first in the Catholic tradition, and later trying to find new ways of conveying Lutheran religious concerns in art. After Luther's initial hostility to large public religious images had softened, Cranach painted a number of "Lutheran altarpieces" of the Last Supper and other subjects, in which Christ was shown in a traditional manner, including a halo, but the apostles, without halos, were portraits of leading reformers. He also produced a number of violent anti-Catholic propaganda prints, in a cruder style, directed against the Papacy and the Catholic clergy.

Monday, July 4, 2011


Title: The Liberation of St Peter
Artist: Gerrit van Honthorst
Medium: Oil on canvas
Size: 129 x 179 cm
Date: 1616-18
Location: Staatliche Museen, Berlin.


Simon Peter (possibly died AD 67), was an early Christian leader, who is featured prominently in the New Testament Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. Peter was the son of John or of Jonah and was from the village of Bethsaida in the province of Galilee. His brother Andrew was also an apostle. Simon Peter is venerated in multiple churches and is regarded as the first Pope by the Roman Catholic Church. Acts of the Apostles 12:3–19 tells how Peter was put into prison by King Herod, but the night before his trial an angel appeared to him, and told him to leave. Peter's chains fell off, and he followed the angel out of prison. Scholars have noted the direct divine intervention in this narrative, and it is contrasted to the story of James, who was executed by Herod. That James should die while Peter should escape is a mystery of divine providence. It has been suggested that this incident is portrayed as being a type of resurrection for Peter. One of the major themes of the Book of Acts is that "Christ’s servants follow in His footsteps," and events of the chapter "recapitulate the resurrection of Jesus."

A sense of Baroque drama is found in Van Honthorst's Liberation of St Peter. The artist was beloved for his nocturnes, so much so that the Italians called him "Gherardo della Notte". In this painting, the Utrecht artist made the entrance of Peter's liberating angel into the light source, so illuminating the dark prison by a celestial blaze that pours in through the suddenly opened door. The angel’s outstretched hand and flowing garments capture a sense of urgency and movement, but Peter is still surprised, unable to fully comprehend what he sees, thinking “he was seeing a vision”.

Gerrit van Honthorst, also known as Gerard van Honthorst (November 1592 - April 1656), was a Dutch painter and a leading member of the Utrecht school influenced by the Italian painter Caravaggio. He was born in Utrecht as the son of a textile painter. His younger brother Willem also became a painter. Van Honthorst was apprenticed to Abraham Bloemaert, the most celebrated master in Utrecht, and went to Italy around 1610-1615, when Caravaggio's influence there was at its height. During his career, Van Honthorst's overwhelming success brought him tremendous wealth and he lived in the lap of luxury. Rembrandt's use of Caravaggesque devices in his early works derives in large part from his knowledge of Honthorst's paintings.

Sunday, July 3, 2011


Title: St Sebastian
Artist: Michel Henricot
Medium: Oil on canvas
Size: 30 x 30 cm
Date: 2006
Location: Private Collection.


Saint Sebastian (died c. 288) was a Christian saint and martyr, who is said to have been killed during the Roman emperor Diocletian's persecution of Christians. Diocletian commanded Sebastian be led to the field and there to be bound to a stake to be shot at as punishment for his proselytizing, "And the archers shot at him till he was as full of arrows as an urchin," leaving him there for dead. Miraculously, the arrows did not kill him. Irene of Rome, the widow of martyred Christian Castulus, went to retrieve his body to bury it, and found he was still alive. She brought him back to her house and nursed him back to health. Having regained his strength, he harangued Diocletian as he passed by, and the emperor then had him beaten to death. He is venerated in the Roman Catholic, and Orthodox Churches.

This portrait of St Sebastian is unique in that it has moved away from the standard portrait of a young, beautiful, white, shirtless, and baby-faced icon. In Henricot’s work it is the suffering that is foremost, the torso pierced by long arrows that are graphically embedded in flesh. It is not another portrait of a beautiful Saint to admire, but a reminder of the physical suffering that Sebastian endured in order to spread the word of Christ among a hostile environment; it is a stark portrayal of the agony that will be meted out to those who oppose the status quo, to those who will stand up in the face of injustice and find the courage to “harangue the emperor”. Henricot’s portrait reminds us that emulating the life of Christ is not all accolades and honors, but true, painful suffering.

Michel Henricot (1940) is one of the most prominent contemporary French visionary painters. He had his first individual show in 1961, in Galerie Marignan, Paris, and has since had numerous exhibitions in France and abroad, e.g., Germany, Italy, and the United States. Among his influences, Henricot is fascinated with the work of Gustave Moreau, Max Klinger, Max Ernst, Egyptian art, and Renaissance Italian painting. More of his work can be seen at the JKK Fine Arts website:

Saturday, July 2, 2011


Title: Santa Cecilia
Artist: Bernardo Daddi
Medium: Tempera on wood panel
Size: 89.5 x 49.5 cm
Date: c. 1348
Location: Museo Diocesano, Collezione Crespi, Milan.


St Cecilia, so often glorified in the fine arts and in poetry, is one of the most venerated martyrs of Christian antiquity. Legend has it that Cecilia, a virgin of a senatorial family and a Christian from her infancy, was given in marriage by her parents to a noble pagan youth Valerianus. When, after the celebration of the marriage, the couple had retired to the wedding-chamber, Cecilia told Valerianus that she was betrothed to an angel who jealously guarded her body; therefore Valerianus must take care not to violate her virginity. Valerianus wished to see the angel, whereupon Cecilia sent him to the third milestone on the Via Appia where he should meet Bishop (Pope) Urbanus. Valerianus obeyed, was baptized by the pope, and returned a Christian to Cecilia. An angel then appeared to the two and crowned them with roses and lilies. When Tiburtius, the brother of Valerianus, came to them, he too was won over to Christianity. As zealous children of the Faith both brothers distributed rich alms and buried the bodies of the confessors who had died for Christ. The prefect, Turcius Almachius, condemned them to death; an officer of the prefect, Maximus, appointed to execute this sentence, was himself converted and suffered martyrdom with the two brothers.

This portrait of St Cecilia is typical of Daddi’s style, imbued with emotional tenderness and grace, in contrast to his contemporaries more massive and somber mode of expression. Daddi had close stylistic affinities to painters of the “miniaturist tendency”, and his intimate, lyrical style was best suited to works on a small scale. The saint’s naturalistic looking expression, the detail in the crown of roses and lilies, and the intricacy of her halo are all indicative of a mature work by this Florentine master.

Bernardo Daddi (c. 1280 – 1348) was a Florentine painter, the outstanding painter in Florence in the period after the death of Giotto (who was possibly his teacher). Daddi ran a busy workshop specializing in small devotional panels and portable altarpieces. His signed and dated works include a polyptych of The Crucifixion with Eight Saints (Courtauld Institute, London, 1348) and the works attributed to him include frescos of the Martyrdoms of SS. Lawrence and Stephen in Santa Croce. His style is a sweetened version of Giotto's, tempering the latter's gravity with Sienese grace and lightness. He favored smiling Madonnas, teasing children, and an abundance of flowers and trailing draperies. His lyrical manner was extremely popular and his influence endured into the second half of the century. Like many other artists of his time, Daddi died during the black death of 1348.

Friday, July 1, 2011


Title: St Mark
Artist: Angnolo Bronzion
Medium: Oil on wood
Size: tbd
Date: c. 1525
Location: Cappella Capponi, Santa Felicità, Florence.


Saint Mark the Evangelist is the traditional name of the author of the Gospel of Mark. Tradition identifies him with the John Mark mentioned as a companion of Saint Paul in the Acts of the Apostles. John Mark accompanied Paul and Barnabas, who was Mark’s cousin, on Paul's first missionary journey. After a sharp dispute, Barnabas separated from Paul, taking Mark with him to Cyprus. In AD 43, about 10 years after the ascension of Christ, Saint Mark traveled to Alexandria and founded the Church of Alexandria, which today is claimed by the Coptic Orthodox Church. Aspects of the Coptic liturgy can be traced back to Saint Mark himself. He became the first bishop of Alexandria and he is honored as the founder of Christianity in Africa. Some are said to have resented his efforts to turn them away from the worship of their traditional Egyptian gods, and in AD 68 they placed a rope around his neck and dragged him through the streets until he was dead.

Four tondos with the Evangelists still adorn the pendentives that once supported the old cupola of the Cappella Capponi in the church of Santa Felicità in Florence. Except for the painting of St John, the precise authorship of the other three portraits has posed considerable problems for scholars. As Vasari only attributes two of the tondi to Bronzino, without specifying which, scholars are still divided over which and how many of them were painted by Bronzino. Probably Bronzino's is St Mark with its palette of yellow and red tones contrasting with the green of the mantle wrapped around the figure, which looks as if it is peering through a window, an idea drawn from the Gospel. The figures of the Evangelists, with their distinctly Michelangiolesque flavor, have a vigor deriving from the way their heads are twisted and pushed forward. They are wrapped in ample robes, whose bold colors stand out against the dark backgrounds. This play of strong contrasts, which exalts the delicate outlines of the colored surfaces, is in keeping with the refined style of the entire decoration of the chapel.

Agnolo di Cosimo (November 1503 – November 1572), usually known as Il Bronzino, or Agnolo Bronzino, was an Italian Mannerist painter from Florence. His sobriquet, Bronzino, in all probability refers to his auburn hair, or possibly derived from his having a dark complexion. The son of a butcher, according to his contemporary Vasari, Bronzino was a pupil first of Raffaellino del Garbo, and then of Pontormo, to whom he was apprenticed at 14. Pontormo exercised a dominant influence on Bronzino's developing style, and the two were to remain collaborators for most of the former's life. Towards the end of his life, Bronzino took a prominent part in the activities of the Florentine Accademia delle Arti del Disegno, of which he was a founding member in 1563.The painter Alessandro Allori was his favourite pupil, and Bronzino was living in the Allori family house at the time of his death in Florence in 1572 (Alessandro was also the father of Cristofano Allori). Bronzino spent the majority of his career in Florence.