Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Christmas Story

Title: The Christmas Story
Artist: Mary Wilshire
Medium: Four Color Process comic book cover
Size: 17 x 26 cm
Date: 1993
Location: From “The Life of Christ: The Christmas Story” New York: Marvel/Nelson.


Luke 2:4-7 So Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family line of David, to be registered together with Mary, who was legally promised in marriage to him and was pregnant. And it happened that while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son, and wrapped him swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

The birth of the baby is described simply. “swaddling cloths” were strips of cloth used to wrap a baby. That the Child was put in a manger may mean that the birth was in a stable. There is a tradition that Jesus was born in a cave, which could have been used as a stable. Mangers were often outdoors, so it is possible that Jesus was born in the open air. If ever there was an opportunity for God to enact his plan with a majestic flourish, it was at Jesus' birth. But God did not presume upon humanity when he stepped in to redeem it. There was no pretense in this arrival. Rather, God chose to identify in the humblest way with those made in his image.
 
This adaptation of the nativity story for the comic book medium was by writer Louise Simonson and American penciller Mary Wilshire (b. 1953). At a young age Mary was influenced by newspaper comics and Mad magazine artists such as Jack Davis, Stan Drake and Alex Kotzky. She began her career in underground comix, and got her first work at Marvel Comics around 1980 working on Crazy. She is most well known for her work in the early 80s as the penciller and cover artist on Marvel's Red Sonja. This is another example in the decades long history of comic books used to spread the gospel, from Classics Illustrated to Japanese manga!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Month of Miracles - Epilogue

Title: The Trinity
Artist: Lorenzo Lotto
Medium: Oil on canvas
Size: 170 x 115 cm
Date: 1523
Location: Sant'Alessandro della Croce, Bergamo


John 10:24-30 - The Jews then gathered around Him, and were saying to Him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”  Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father’s name, these testify of Me. But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me;  and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Month of Miracles Part 24 - Christ Healing the Ear of Malchus

Title: Christ Healing the Ear of Malchus
Artist: Unknown
Medium: Oil on Canvas
Size: 121.2 x 96.9 cm
Date: ca. 17th century
Location: The Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle.


Luke 22:47-53 - While he was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him, but Jesus asked him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, should we strike with our swords?” And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear. But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him.

The IVP New Testament Commentary Series notes how the disciples represent those in panic who try to take matters into their own hands. They fight to avoid the path of suffering God has laid out for his messenger and those who follow him. While one asks, "Lord, should we strike with our swords?" another one answers on his own, wielding the sword and cutting off the right ear of the high priest's servant. Sometimes disciples believe they must take matters into their own hands to defend Jesus. But here Jesus stops the attempt to defend him with violence. His path takes a different direction. The healed servant pictures the opportunity that exists to experience God's grace. Here is a man who rejects Jesus and participates in the arrest leading to Jesus' death. Yet the avowed enemy is not beyond Jesus' healing touch. A severed ear can always be restored, if one will listen to him.

In this picture, while a soldier lifts a rope noose to put it around Jesus' arms and chest, Jesus touches Malchus' right ear. The connection between the two is through a flow from Jesus’ right hand on his own chest, that follows the arc of light clockwise across his breast bone, down his left arm, and to Malchus' right ear. The flow of energy becomes visual, and Malchus appears more struck by that than the blow from the sword. Although the identity of the painter of this work is unknown, it has been identified as being from the Flemish school, and was created in the Netherlands during the 17th century.

Monday, October 29, 2012

A Month of Miracles Part 23 - Christ Healing Bartimaeus

Title: Christ Healing Bartimaeus
Artist: Carmel Cauchi
Medium: Oil on Board
Size: 181 x 121 cm
Date: 1994
Location: George Eliot Hospital Chapel, Nuneaton.


Mark 10:46-52 - Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus. “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. “Rabbi, I want to see.” The blind man said. “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.

Blind Bartimaeus's faith, persistence, and recognition of Jesus' significance provide a focus for this important story of discipleship. At the outset he is sitting by the roadside, but in the end he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road. This is a clear portrait of the healing power of the merciful King, but this story also functions as a parable of discipleship: To be healed from spiritual blindness is to grasp the true identity of Jesus and join him on the way to the Cross.

Carmel Cauchi (b.1927) is a Maltese born painter who now resides in England. He has more than 100 works of art currently hanging in public places throughout the UK, including a 40ft mural in Rugby and a 35ft mural in Feltham, Middlesex. Three of his paintings were officially unveiled by the Queen. Mr Cauchi moved to England 45 years ago after winning a Commonwealth scholarship to study art.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

A Month of Miracles Part 22 - Ten Lepers Healed

Title: Ten Lepers Healed
Artist: Brian Kershisnik
Medium: Oil on Canvas
Size: 50 x 40 cm
Date: ca. 2010
Location: tbd.


Luke 17:11-19 - Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed. One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

People with leprosy were required by law to keep away from healthy people (Lev. 13:46); these came as close as they dared and called out loudly. They ask not in particular to be cured of their leprosy, but, Have pity on us. Jesus did not tell them positively that they should be cured, but bade them go show themselves to the priests. This was a test of faith. They were healed as they went in obedience to Jesus’ word. One of them, and only one, when he saw that he was healed, instead of going forward to the priest, to be by him declared clean, and so discharged from his confinement, which was all that the rest aimed at, he turned back towards him who was the Author of his cure, whom he wished to have the glory of it, before he received the benefit of it. He appears to have been very hearty and affectionate in his thanksgivings: “With a loud voice” he glorified God!

Brian Kershisnik (born 1962) is an American painter. After a year of college at the University of Utah, he served for a time as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Denmark. He returned to the USA to study art at Brigham Young University, during which studies he received a grant to study in London for six months. After graduate studies in Austin, Texas, he and his family moved to Kanosh in central Utah where he paints. Currently, Kershisnik is represented by the Two Sisters Fine Art Gallery, who offer prints of his work for sale on their website http://www.twosistersfineartgallery.com/brian_kershisnik.html

Saturday, October 27, 2012

A Month of Miracles Part 21 - Healing the Man With Dropsy

Title: Healing of the Man With the Dropsy
Artist: Alexandre Bida
Medium: Etching
Size: 28 x 21 cm
Date: ca. 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.


Luke 14:1-6 - One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, he was being carefully watched. There in front of him was a man suffering from abnormal swelling of his body. Jesus asked the Pharisees and experts in the law, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?” But they remained silent. So taking hold of the man, he healed him and sent him on his way. Then he asked them, “If one of you has a child or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull it out?” And they had nothing to say.

As Jesus dines with the Pharisees, the religious leaders are watching him. The phrase Luke used here for ‘carefully watched’ means to watch surreptitiously – ominously - much as an undercover agent would today. It is apparent that the mood is somber, suspicion deep. At the meal is a man with dropsy, which means his limbs are swollen with excess body fluids, and Jesus asks whether it is lawful to heal on the Sabbath. Having had experience with this predicament, the leaders remain silent - and Jesus heals the man. After sending him away, Jesus notes again that they would quickly offer aid to a son or even an ox that had fallen in the ditch on the sabbath. The leaders' silence continues. Nothing has been learned; nothing has been confessed. Despite a constant barrage of divine activity, their position has not changed. The passage confirms how strong sin's stubbornness can be. It also shows how even after warnings about judgment and its consequences, God graciously still gives evidence of his presence.

Alexandre Bida (1813–1895) was born in Toulouse, France, and was a painter of the Romantic period. He specialized in Orientalism and studied under Eugene Delacroix, but soon developed his own style along with his desire for perfection. As a youth he traveled to work in Egypt, Greece, Turkey, Lebanon, and Palestine, and likely used this knowledge as illustrator of ‘Bida's Les Saints Evangeles’, published in 1873. Of Bida's work, although having closely observed the costumes and people encountered overseas, his decorative arrangements and symmetry of space exemplified the theatrical aspects of his art.

Friday, October 26, 2012

A Month of Miracles Part 20 - The Infirm Woman

Title: The Infirm Woman
Artist: Louis Glanzman
Medium: Mixed media
Size: 55 x 42 cm
Date: ca. 2002
Location: tbd.


Luke 13:10-17 - On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God. Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue leader said to the people, “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.” The Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie your ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?” When he said this, all his opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing.

This is the last time in Luke that Jesus appears in a synagogue. As he is teaching, a woman possessed by a spirit for eighteen years is in the audience. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. The mention of the spirit is important, because the woman's opponent is not merely mortality or the natural process of aging but a spiritual agent. The age of her condition indicates how serious it is. Again, Jesus takes the initiative—a significant act in a culture that tended to shun women. Again, He shows his authority.

Louis Glanzman was born in 1922, raised in the farmlands of Virginia, and is a self-educated artist. He began his career at the age of sixteen as a comic book illustrator. During the 50's he illustrated numerous children's books, including the popular 'Pippi Longstocking' series. Noted as one of America's most prolific illustrators and acclaimed portrait painters he is deeply proud of his many historical paintings. Recently, his 13 portrait series of the Women of the New Testament became the basis for a book of spiritual reflections entitled 'Soul Sisters.' More of his work can be seen at http://www.louisglanzman.com.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Month of Miracles Part 19 - Healing of the Lunatic Boy

Title: The Healing of the Lunatic Boy
Artist: John Reilly
Medium: Oil on canvas
Size: 66.5 x 106 cm
Date: 1958
Location: Oxford Brookes University


Matthew 17:14-18 - When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him. “Lord, have mercy on my son,” he said. “He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.” Jesus replied, “You unbelieving and perverse generation, how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.” Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed at that moment.

Here Reilly has given us an image of 'before' and 'after' with yellow almost the home key, we see the child in his right mind together with Jesus on the left brightly shining after the moment of healing. Its antithesis, on the right, the blue-grey, appears slightly violet because of the way our eyes react to very strong statements of color. There we see the darkened experience of the before, of the distressed boy and his parents. Vertical and horizontal lines divide the space into definite areas which act in counterpoint to the more fluent lines of the figures. It seems as if the figures are in danger of becoming caricature. But Reilly has concentrated on the humanity of all involved, and the bold color serves to reinforce the emotion of the scenes.

John Reilly (1928- ) is a contemporary English painter who has works in such notable galleries as the Methodist Church Collection, Isle of Wight Council Heritage, and The John Wesley’s House Museum of Methodism.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A Month of Miracles Part 18 - Jesus Heals a Man Born Blind

Title: Jesus Heals a Man Born Blind
Artist: Henri Lindegaard
Medium: Printed book illustration
Size: tbd.
Date: c. 1996
Location: From “The Bible Contrasts - Meditations with pen and line”, published May 2003, by Olivétan Editions.


John 9:1-12 – As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus said “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing. His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked: “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?” Some claimed that he was. Others said, “No, he only looks like him.” But he himself insisted, “I am the man.” They asked, “How then were your eyes opened?” He replied, “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.” They asked him, “Where is this man?” He said “I don’t know.”

People commonly assumed that disease and disorders on both the personal and national level were due to sin, but the case of a person born blind raises the question of whose sin caused this condition, that of his parents or of the person himself while in the womb. The disciples' question was a request that Jesus comment on this debate. Jesus shifts the focus, and instead of addressing the cause of the man's blindness he speaks of its purpose: so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. We should not be concerned with assigning blame. Trying to figure out the source of suffering in an individual's life is futile given our limited understanding.

Henri Lindegaard (1925-1996) was a pastor and painter, whose work in both areas was inseparable. There was never differentiation in his life between his vocation and work as a pastor, and his vocation and work as a painter. Born into a pastoral family, his Danish grandfather had settled in Spain. During the Civil War, the death of his father had forced the family to flee to the south of France, where the widowed Mrs. Lindegaard had to raise her two children with meager resources. A brief training in the Fine Arts allowed Henri to pay for his studies by giving drawing lessons. Known for his portraits in charcoal or oil, his watercolors and drawings, by the time of his sudden death, he left an almost complete series of illustrations of the Psalms of Ascents.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A Month of Miracles Part 17 - Healing the Blind Man of Bethsaida

Title: Christ Heals the Blind Man
Artist: Bartholomeus Breenbergh
Medium: Oil on Canvas
Size: tbd.
Date: 1635
Location: Liechtenstein State Art Collection, Vaduz.


Mark 8:22-26 - They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?” He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.” Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. Jesus sent him home, saying, “Don’t even go into the village.”

Normally the cures that Jesus worked were instantaneous, but it was not so in this case. Why? In this case it would seem the man’s faith was weak, and before curing his body, Jesus wanted his faith to grow. In this way Jesus acting in keeping with his usual pattern: not working miracles unless there was a right predisposition, yet encouraging a good disposition in the person and giving more grace as he responds to the grace already given.

Bartholomeus Breenbergh (November 1598 – October 1657) was a Dutch Golden Age painter of Italianate landscapes. Breenbergh spent most of the 1620s in Italy and thereafter worked in Amsterdam. He was a leading pioneer of the taste for Italianate landscapes in the Netherlands, his biblical and mythological characters set in well-balanced views of the Roman Campagna, often complete with classical ruins. But his work tends to be much fresher and bolder than his contemporaries. Late in his career Breenbergh turned to figure painting.

Monday, October 22, 2012

A Month of Miracles Part 16 - Jesus Cures the Man Who Was Deaf and Mute

Title: Jesus Christ Cures the Man Who Was Deaf and Mute
Artist: Unknown
Medium: Illuminated Manuscript
Size: tbd
Date: c. 15th century
Location: Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Austria.


Mark 7:31-37 - Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis. There some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged Jesus to place his hand on him. After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue. He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means “Be opened!”). At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly. Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it. People were overwhelmed with amazement. “He has done everything well,” they said. “He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

In this passage Mark deliberately echoes Old Testament language as he talks about Jesus. In v.32 Mark uses a very rare word to describe this man’s condition. You wouldn’t expect a word meaning ‘almost unable to speak’ to be very common, but in fact this is the only time it comes up in the whole New Testament. It is also rare in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament. Almost the only place it appears is in the prophecy of Isaiah, in a passage where he looks forward to the day when God will intervene in human history and bring about a restored humanity in a restored Creation (Isaiah 35:3-10).

The Codex Vindobonensis Palatinus is a 15th century Illuminated Manuscript held in the collection of the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Vienna, Austria.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

A Month of Miracles Part 15 - Encounter with the Canaanite Woman


Title: Untitled (Encounter with the Canaanite Woman)
Artist: William Hole
Medium: Printed book illustration
Size: 29 x 24 cm
Date: c.1905
Location: From “The Life of Jesus of Nazareth Portrayed in Colours.” London: Eyre & Spottiswoode.


Matthew 15:21-28 - Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.” Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said. He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”  She said, “Yes it is, Lord, even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.

The woman beseeching Jesus is a descendant of the ancient Canaanites, the bitter biblical enemies of Israel whose paganism had often led Israel into idolatry. When Jesus’ disciples ask him to send the woman away, He chooses not to, which may have encouraged her to persevere. To this insistent entreaty Jesus responds with almost equal firmness. Some Jewish teachers would have reached out to the woman, hoping to make her a proselyte; Jesus simply snubs her. It is possible that he is testing her, as teachers sometimes tested their disciples, but ultimately Matthew stresses again that God's compassion extends to all Gentiles.

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


Saturday, October 20, 2012

A Month of Miracles Part 14 - Healing the Sick

Title: Christ Healing a Patient
Artist: Mathieu Ignace van Bree
Medium: Oil on canvas
Size: tbd.
Date: tbd.
Location: Private Collection


Mark 6:53-56 - When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret and anchored there. As soon as they got out of the boat, people recognized Jesus. They ran throughout that whole region and carried the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went—into villages, towns or countryside—they placed the sick in the marketplaces. They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed.

In chapter 6 Mark is dealing with the twin themes of unbelief and hardness of heart. This summary passage serves as a foil to the rejection of Jesus by the people of Nazareth (6:5-6) and the disciples' inability to grasp the significance of Jesus as revealed in previous miracles (v. 52). In spite of those setbacks, Jesus is widely hailed by the people of Gennesaret as a wonderworker.

Mathieu Ignace van Bree was a Belgian painter, sculptor and architect (1773-1839), who was born at Antwerp. He painted numerous historical pictures, some of which are of large dimensions, and obtained a high reputation in Flanders. His conceptions are frequently poetical, and his compositions graceful. He brought forward some of the most eminent of the later Flemish painters, among whom are Wappers, De Keyser, F. de Braekeleer, and others of whom their country is justly proud

Friday, October 19, 2012

A Month of Miracles Part 13 - Healing the Paralytic at the Pool of Bethesda

Title: Christ Healing the Paralytic at the Pool of Bethesda
Artist: Bartolomé Esteban Murillo
Medium: Oil on Canvas
Size: 237 x 261 cm
Date: c. 1667
Location: The National Gallery, London.


John 5:1-15 - Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals.  Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie — the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” The invalid replied, “Sir, I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, and so the Jewish leaders said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.” But he replied, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’ ” So they asked him, “Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?” The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there. Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” The man went away and told the Jewish leaders that it was Jesus who had made him well.

Jesus took the initiative by seeking from the paralytic a desire for healing and then granting it, though the man misunderstood what Jesus could do for him and made excuses for his continuing illness; the pool of Bethesda was periodically visited by an angel, and whoever first stepped into the water after this visit would be cured of illness. That the cured man carried his mat is no incidental detail. It was, of course, solid evidence that he had been cured. But it is also important to what follows; for, as the text stresses, it was a visible violation of Jewish law. When accosted, the former invalid absolved himself by casting the blame onto the one who had healed him, but he was at that time still ignorant of Jesus' identity.

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (December 1617 – April 1682) was the leading painter in Seville in the later 17th century. He remained one of the most admired and popular of all European artists in the 18th and early 19th centuries. His early works were much influenced by the early works of Velázquez, executed before Velázquez left Seville in 1623, and by the paintings of Zurbarán. This painting was made for the church belonging to the hospital of the Caridad (Charity) in Seville. The Caridad was a charitable brotherhood dedicated to helping the poor and sick of the city. Murillo was himself a member of the brotherhood. Murillo painted six large pictures for the church representing six of the seven acts of charity.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

A Month of Miracles Part 12 - The Exorcism

Title: The Exorcism
Artist: Limbourg Brothers
Medium: Illuminated Manuscript
Size: tbd.
Date: ca 1412–1416
Location: Musée Condé, Chantilly.


Matthew 12:22-28 - Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see. All the people were astonished and said, “Could this be the Son of David?” But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.” Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand? And if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.”

The Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry, is often referred to as "le roi des manuscrits enluminés" or "the king of the illuminated manuscripts". A book of prayers to be said at canonical hours was commissioned by Jean, Duc de Berry and was painted by the Limbourg brothers. The Limbourgs have painted the scene in a chapel-like structure, whose slender pillars, blue vaults, and statuettes at either side of the roof. Christ blesses the possessed youth who struggles in his mother's arms, while the demon leaves the boy's head in the form of a small black-winged dragon. Outside and within the chapel groups of figures wearing oriental robes and headdresses express their amazement at the miracle. The sumptuous golden floral work on the blue background surrounds the image.

Limbourg Brothers (Dutch, fl. 1385–1416) refers to Paul de Limbourg and his two brothers, Jean and Herman. The three artists had originally worked under the supervision of Berry’s brother, Philippe de Hardi, on the Bible Moralisée and had come to Berry after Hardi’s death. As of 1411, the Limbourgs were permanent members of Berry’s household. It is also suspected that another book of hours, the Belle Heures, completed between 1408 and 1409, can also be attributed to the brothers. It is suggested that the Limbourg contribution to the Très Riches Heures was completed between 1412 and 1416. Documentation from 1416 was found indicating that Jean, followed by Paul and Herman, had died that year.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A Month of Miracles Part 11 - Exorcism of a Demon Possessed Man

Title: Untitled (Exorcism of a Demon Possessed Man)
Artist: David Leiberg
Medium: Digital
Size: 1135 x 1600 pixels
Date: 2010
Location: n/a


Matthew 9:32-38 - Now as they were going away, behold, they brought to him a demon-possessed man who was unable to speak. And after the demon had been expelled, the one who had been mute spoke, and the crowds were astonished, saying, “This has never been seen before in Israel!” But the Pharisees began to say, “By the ruler of demons he expels the demons!”

Jesus has demonstrated the ability to cure both natural ailments and demonically induced ailments, even though we may not always be able to discern the difference apart from divine guidance. But Jesus' religious contemporaries were so sure they were right, and that He was wrong, they preferred to explain His works as emanating from a source other than God. Jesus himself, however, countered this argument best when He said in Luke 11:18: “If Satan is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand?”

David Leiberg is a contemporary artist and illustrator who studied for his Masters of Fine Arts/Illustration at the Academy of Art University. Working in both digital and traditional media, more of his compelling work can be viewed at http://leibergart.com/

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A Month of Miracles Part 10 - Jesus Heals Two Blind Men

Title: The Healing of the Blind Men
Artist: Ilyās Bāsim Khūrī Bazzī Rāhib
Medium: Illuminated manuscript
Size: 11 x 16 cm   
Date: 1684
Location: Walters Art Museum, Baltimore.


Matthew 9:27-31 - As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, calling out, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!” When he had gone indoors, the blind men came to him, and he asked them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They replied, “Yes, Lord.” Then he touched their eyes and said, “According to your faith let it be done to you”; and their sight was restored. Jesus warned them sternly, “See that no one knows about this.” But they went out and spread the news about him all over that region.

The blind men's initial act of faith is approaching Jesus with a plea for mercy, recognizing that they are dependent on his kindness rather than on any merit of their own. Their initial faith also includes recognition of Jesus' identity. Here two blind beggars confess Jesus' messianic identity (Son of David) before Peter does! Yet despite their initial acts of faith, Jesus forces them to clarify that they acknowledge his ability to heal this otherwise irreversible disability. Jesus refuses to heal without faith; he is not a magician, but one who seeks to glorify his Father.

This illuminated and illustrated Arabic manuscript of the Gospels by Matthew (Mattá), Mark (Marquṣ), Luke (Lūqā), and John (Yūḥannā) was copied in Egypt by Ilyās Bāsim Khūrī Bazzī Rāhib, who was most likely a Coptic monk, in 1684. The text is written in naskh in black ink with rubrics in red. The decoration is comprised of illuminated headpieces, numerous floral paintings, and approximately fifty illustrations. It is bound together in brown goatskin with blind-tooled central oval medallion, pendants, and corner pieces contemporary with the manuscript.

Monday, October 15, 2012

A Month of Miracles Part 9 - Christ and the Woman with the Issue of Blood

Title: Christ and the Woman with the Issue of Blood
Artist: Paolo Veronese
Medium: Oil on Canvas
Size: tbd.
Date: c. 1565-70
Location: Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.


Luke 8:42-56 […] As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped. “Who touched me?” Jesus asked. When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.” But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.” Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”

This woman has been hemorrhaging for years, which means she has been in a perpetual state of uncleanliness according to Jewish law, shut out from religious life, a social outcast. In despair over her loneliness and condition, she hopes that an underground approach, a surreptitious touching of Jesus, will change her fate. This is why she came up behind him. Jesus turns to the crowd and asks, "Who touched me?" Amazed at the question, Peter points out that many are crowded around Jesus. It is as if a current celebrity or political leader turned to a herd of reporters upon exiting a building and asked, "Who just took my picture?" For the woman there is no sense in trying to hide from Jesus now. She comes forward to give her public testimony of how she has been healed. Despite the embarrassment of her past condition and the timidity of her approach to Jesus, she declares what Jesus has done for her. In response Jesus issues a simple commendation: "Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace." He makes her faith an example, timid as it was. The one with faith does not need to fear approaching Jesus and his authority. He is accessible and available.

Paolo Veronese (1528 –April 1588) was an Italian painter of the Renaissance in Venice. He adopted the name Paolo Cagliari or Paolo Caliari, and became known as "Veronese" from his birthplace in Verona. Veronese is known as a supreme colorist, and for his illusionistic decorations in both fresco and oil. His most famous works are elaborate narrative cycles, executed in a dramatic and colorful Mannerist style, full of majestic architectural settings and glittering pageantry. His large paintings of biblical feasts executed for the refectories of monasteries in Venice and Verona are especially notable

Sunday, October 14, 2012

A Month of Miracles Part 8 - Healing of Two Demon Possessed Men

Title: The Healing of Two Demon Possessed Men
Artist: Brian J. Turner
Medium: Acrylic on board      
Size: 10.2 x 7.6 cm 
Date: 2007
Location: Private collection


Matthew 8:28-34 - When He had come to the other side, to the region of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men met Him as they came out of the tombs. They were so violent that no one could pass that way. Suddenly they shouted, “What do You have to do with us, Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?” Now a long way off from them, a large herd of pigs was feeding. “If You drive us out, send us into the herd of pigs.” the demons begged Him. “Go!” He told them. So when they had come out, they entered the pigs. And suddenly the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea and perished in the water. Then the men who tended them fled. They went into the city and reported everything—especially what had happened to those who were demon-possessed. At that, the whole town went out to meet Jesus. When they saw Him, they begged Him to leave their region.

The demons have an apparently legitimate complaint; it is not yet “the time,” - the Day of Judgment. But Jesus is present and is already breaking the powers of darkness. Jesus permitting the demons to enter the pigs is, again, perhaps because the true Day of Judgment had not yet arrived.
 
Brian J. Turner is a contemporary English painter, whose stated ambition is to paint his way through the Bible. Turner completed a one year Foundation course in Fine Art at Hertfordshire College of Art & Design in 1974, before moving to Exeter to undertake his B.A.(Hons) Fine Art Degree, graduating in 1978. On his website his current project is planned to unfold over the next twenty years. Viewers who browse this site are invited to spend time with the paintings - variously narrative and abstract - as they appear online, and as one route to spiritual growth and understanding faith

Saturday, October 13, 2012

A Month of Miracles Part 7 - Man With the Withered Hand

Title: The Man with the Withered Hand
Artist: James Tissot
Medium: Opaque watercolor over graphite on gray wove paper
Size: 21.9 x 16 cm
Date: c. 1890
Location: Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, New York.


Mark 3:1-5 - Jesus entered again into a synagogue and a man with a withered hand was there. And they were watching him carefully to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath, so they could accuse him. And he said to the man who had the withered hand, “Get up and step forward.” And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?” But they remained silent. And after looking around at them in anger, grieved at the hardness of their heart, he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched out his hand and it was restored.

When Jesus heals a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath, he flouts rules against work and further upsets the devout. Although Jewish law permitted the saving of lives on the holy day, Jesus defies the rigid rules of the Sabbath by extending his help to a man afflicted, but not threatened with death.

James Jacques Joseph Tissot (October 1836 – August 1902) was a French painter. After the death of his longtime companion Kathleen Newton in 1882, Tissot spent some time in Palestine. He began work on drawings of the life of Christ, which debuted In Paris in 1896. With the same meticulous attention to detail that he had applied to painting society, he strove for historical authenticity in his precisely rendered watercolors of the life of Christ. They were subsequently published by the firm of Lemercier in Paris, who paid Tissot 1,100,000 francs.

Friday, October 12, 2012

A Month of Miracles Part 6 - Healing the Paralyzed Man

Title: They Lowered the Paralyzed Man
Artist: Sadao Watanabe
Medium: Color Stencil
Size: 68.6 x 58.4 cm
Date: 1973
Location: Various; self-published, edition of 70.



Mark 2: 1-12 - A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves: “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”

The man had come for physical healing, but Jesus speaks about the more profound illness of sin, of which physical illness generally was thought to be a consequence; and about the radical healing of forgiveness, of which this particular physical healing was a sign. Jesus claims for Himself the power to forgive sins, which in all the Bible can be attributed only to God (Ex. 34:7; Is. 1:18). The teachers of the law immediately accuse Jesus of “blaspheming”, a proper conclusion if He were a mere man.

Sadao Watanabe (1913 – 1996) was a Japanese printmaker famous for his biblical prints rendered in the mingei (folk art) tradition of Japan. He was born in Tokyo, and the young Watababe worked in dyers’ shops, sketching patterns and dyeing clothes. In 1937, he saw an exhibition of Serizawa Keisuke’s (1895–1984) work, and the event sowed the seeds of Watanabe’s artistic endeavor. Few years later, Watanabe attended a study group in which Serizawa taught his katazome technique of stencilling and dyeing, which originated in Okinawa. By 1958, Watanabe received first prize at the Modern Japanese Print Exhibition held in New York City for The Bronze Serpent showing Moses and the people of Israel.


Thursday, October 11, 2012

A Month of Miracles Part 5 - Christ and the Centurion

Title: Christ and the Centurion
Artist: Paolo Veronese
Medium: Oil on canvas
Size: 38 x 69.5 cm
Date: 16th century
Location: Victoria and Albert Museum, London.


Matthew 8:5-13 - When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.” Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?” The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that moment.

The Gentile mission was at most peripheral to Jesus' earthly ministry: he did not actively seek out Gentiles for ministry. Therefore, the emphatic Greek "I" in 8:7 would place the emphasis in Jesus' question as: "Shall I come and heal him?" Most Palestinian Jews, after all, considered entering Gentile homes questionable: an outsider who would entreat his favor must first acknowledge the privilege of Israel, whom other peoples had oppressed or disregarded. Such initial rejection was a not uncommon ploy for demanding greater commitment, and rather than protesting, the centurion acknowledges his questionable merit before Jesus, adopting the appropriate role of a suppliant totally dependent on a patron's benefaction.

Paolo Veronese (1528 – April 1588) was an Italian painter and draughtsman who, along with Titian and Tintoretto, was one of the greatest painters of the late Renaissance in Venice. He adopted the name Paolo Cagliari or Paolo Caliari, and became known as "Veronese" from his birthplace in Verona. He is known as a supreme colorist and for his illusionistic decorations in both fresco and oil. His large paintings of biblical feasts executed for the refectories of monasteries in Venice and Verona are especially celebrated

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A Month of Miracles Part 4 - Healing of the Leper

Title: Healing of the Leper
Artist: Unknown
Medium: Illuminated Manuscript
Size: 45 x 31 cm
Date: ca. 1035
Location: Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg.


Matthew 8:1-4 - When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy. Then Jesus said to him, “See that you don’t tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”

This leper was in a desperate and apparently lifelong situation. Biblical leprosy (distinct from modern Hansen's disease) was an assortment of serious skin problems that isolated the leper from the rest of society. In fact, Jewish law forbade touching lepers. By bowing down the leper not only shows physical signs of respect toward Jesus; he acknowledges that Jesus has the right to decide whether to grant the request. To acknowledge that God has the right to grant or refuse a request is the ultimate act of dependence on God's compassion, and takes deep trust and commitment. And thus it is no small matter for Jesus to touch the man.

The "Codex Aureus," the "Golden Book of Gospels Echternach" among the most important treasures of Middle Ages books. This Codex was constructed around 1040 in the Benedictine Abbey of Echternach near Trier, the principal scriptorium of the Salian. Latin transcriptions of the four Gospels are written on 136 sheets of size 445 x 310 mm vellum. This extraordinary Codex arguably stands as one of the most important manuscripts of Ottonian-Salian Arts

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

A Month of Miracles Part 3 - Jesus Heals at Sunset

Title: Christ Healing a Sick Child
Artist: Fritz von Uhde
Medium: Oil on Canvas
Size: 58.5 x 36.5 cm
Date: 1911
Location: tbd


Luke 4:40-41 - At sunset, the people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sickness, and laying his hands on each one, he healed them. Moreover, demons came out of many people, shouting, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of God;” But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew he was the Messiah.

The healings described earlier are not one-time coincidences. Jesus possesses the power to heal consistently. It is a ministry of mercy to those in need, fighting to overcome evil with compassion. Jesus' compassion is pictured by his laying on of hands. In his touch are power and presence. People flock to him because they sense that compassionate element in his work. By the way Jesus reaches out to them, they know he cares. Again it is the demons who discern that Jesus is the Son of God. People might see in Him no more than another man, even though he demonstrates the ability to heal what ails them. But the forces of evil recognized Him. “The Christ” means “the anointed One,” the Messiah.

Fritz von Uhde (born Friedrich Hermann Carl Uhde, May 1848 – February 1911) was a German painter of genre and religious subjects whose style lay between Realism and Impressionism. His work was often rejected by the official art criticism, and by the public, because his representations of ordinary scenes were considered vulgar or ugly. In about 1890, he became a professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. As well, with Max Slevogt and Lovis Corinth, Uhde was one of the leading figures in the Munich Secession, and later joined the Berlin Secession as well. Progressing in his naturalistic conception, Uhde gave rise to a complete change in German art, counting among his followers most of the younger generation.

Monday, October 8, 2012

A Month of Miracles Part 2 - Healing of the Mother-in-Law of Saint Peter

Title: The Healing of the Mother-in-Law of Saint Peter
Artist: Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn
Medium: Pen and brown ink, brown wash, heightened with white.
Size: 17.1 x 18.9 cm
Date: late 1650s
Location: Fondation Custodia, Collection Frits Lugt, Paris.
 
Mark 1:29–31 – As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they immediately told Jesus about her. So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them.
 
When making sketches to serve as models for his students, Rembrandt often focused on a story's protagonists — in this case, Christ and the convalescent woman — deliberately excluding any additional figures. Here he also refrains from making any reference to the setting, save for a few lively strokes to suggest the bed or blanket on which the woman reclines. Rembrandt's strategic placement of hatched lines and subtle smudging of ink create bold contrasts in light and shadow, which underscore the drama of the event.
 
Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (July 1606 – October 1669) was a Dutch painter and etcher, generally considered one of the greatest painters and printmakers in European art history. Throughout his artistic life Rembrandt van Rijn produced between 300 to 600 paintings, approximately 300 etchings, and about 1400 drawings. The jury is still out on the exact numbers because in many cases it is not clear which works were done by Rembrandt himself and which were painted by his apprentices.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

A Month of Miracles Part 1 - Christ Healing the Sick in the Temple

Title: Christ Healing the Sick in the Temple
Artist: Benjamin West
Medium: Oil on canvas
Size: 90.5 x 69.8 cm
Date: c.1780–1781
Location: The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.


Mark 1:21-28 - They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out, “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” “Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!” The impure spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek. The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him.” News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.

Jesus’ teaching is unlike that of the scribes because it is tied to His person and to His interpretation of Scripture. As soon as Christ began to preach, he began to work miracles for the confirmation of his doctrine, announcing the coming of the kingdom and the defeat of Satan. The victory Jesus Christ obtained over the unclean spirit astonished those that saw it; they were all amazed. It was evident, beyond contradiction, that the man was possessed; it was evident that he was forced out by the authority of Christ. The victory which Jesus Christ obtained over the unclean spirit was the Son of God manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.

Benjamin West, (October 1738 – March 1820) was an Anglo-American painter of historical scenes around and after the time of the American War of Independence. He was the second president of the Royal Academy in London, serving from 1792 to 1805 and 1806 to 1820. West is known for his large scale history paintings, which use expressive figures, colours and compositional schemes to help the spectator to identify with the scene represented. West called this "epic representation". In 1806 he produced The Death of Nelson, to commemorate Horatio Nelson's death at the Battle of Trafalgar.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Corpus Christi

Title: A Blessed Abbes Receiving the Host from the Hands of Christ
Artist: Giovanni Battista Gaulli

Medium: Oil on canvas
Size: 75 x 43 cm
Date: 1690s
Location: Musée du Louvre, Paris.



Luke 22:19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”

The Feast of Corpus Christi, or the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ (as it is often called today), goes back to the 13th century, but it celebrates something far older: the institution of the Sacrament of Holy Communion at the Last Supper. On September 8, 1264, Pope Urban IV issued the papal bull "Transiturus," which established the Feast of Corpus Christi as a universal feast of the Church, to be celebrated on the Thursday following Trinity Sunday.

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. As the High Baroque movement evolved into the more playful Rococo, and the popularity of this style dwindled, Baciccio too moved in this direction. Thus, in contrast to the grandeur of his composition of the illusionistic vault fresco in the church of the Gesù in Rome, we see him gradually adopting less intense colors, and more delicate compositions after 1685 - all hallmarks of the Rococo. Baciccio is best known for his grand, Gianlorenzo Bernini-influenced  vault fresco in the church of the Gesù.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Trinity Pietà

Title: Trinity Pietà
Artist: Master of Sankt Laurenz
Medium: Oil on oak panel
Size: 23 x 16 cm
Date: 1415-30
Location: Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Cologne.


Trinity Sunday, a moveable feast also known as Holy Trinity Sunday, is celebrated a week after Pentecost Sunday in honor of the most fundamental of Catholic beliefs - belief in the Holy Trinity. As expressed in the Athanasian creed (ascribed to Saint Athanasius, c. 296-373), “There is, therefore, one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Spirit, not three Holy Spirits; and in this Trinity there is nothing first or later, nothing greater or less, but all three Persons are coeternal and coequal with one another, so that in every respect, as has already been said above, both unity in Trinity, and Trinity in unity must be venerated.”

The Man of Sorrows in the arms of God the Father with the Holy Ghost between them both is often termed a Trinity Pietà. The depiction is more common in French and Burgundian court painting from the end of the fourteenth century onwards. In this example, the Man of Sorrows is flanked by four angels, with two of them holding the Flagellation column, the scourge, the stick with the sponge and the lance. The panel is attributed to the Master of Sankt Laurenz (St Lawrence), the pupil of the Cologne Master of St Veronica. It is also assumed that this small panel was the left wing of a diptych having, on the right, a Mater Dolorosa.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Pentecost

Title: Pentecost
Artist: Emil Nolde
Medium: Oil on canvas
Size: tbd.
Date: 1909
Location: Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin.


Acts of Apostles 2:1-4 When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all together in one place. And there was suddenly out of heaven a sound, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them dividing tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

Pentecost, the Feast of the Firstfruits, was a most appropriate time for the Spirit to come. The Feast was closely connected with Passover, just as the Spirit's coming would be connected with the saving events of the Lord's crucifixion and exaltation. The divine origin and supernatural character of the event is clear: the sound is from heaven and is like a violent wind, the tongues that appear seemed to be flames of fire. In the Old Testament such a loud sound often accompanied a theophany (Ex 19:16, 19; 20:18). A violent, rushing wind symbolizes the Holy Spirit (Ezek 37:9-14). The sound fills the whole house. What has arrived is an all-encompassing divine presence, and tongues like flames of fire also symbolize the Spirit of God, especially his power.

Emil Nolde (August 1867 – April 1956) was a German painter and printmaker. He was one of the first Expressionists and a member an influential group of German expressionist artists formed in Dresden. This painting, however, became the center of a row that split the Berlin Secession—one, of the most advanced exhibiting societies in Germany up until that time. Nolde’s primitivist treatment of this religious subject, rendered in glowing colors and bold, Expressionist brushwork, found little favor among the older members of the society. When Pentecost and the works of other younger artists were rejected, Nolde attacked the leadership and principles of the Secession in an open letter to its President, whereupon he was expelled from the association. Until 1912 he exhibited alongside other rejected artists in the Neue Sezession in Berlin.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Ascension

Title: The Ascension
Artist: John Singleton Copley
Medium: Oil on canvas
Size: 81 x 73 cm
Date: 1775
Location: The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.


Luke 24:50-56 - When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.

As we come to the end of Luke’s Gospel, it is important to recall that Luke is only half finished with his story. The sequel comes in Acts. The resurrection-ascension is the link between the two volumes. That Luke regards the ascension as crucial is clear from Peter's speech in Acts 2. Now that Jesus is raised and seated at God's right hand, the mediating Ruler at the Father's side can pour out the blessing of God's Spirit.

John Singleton Copley (1738 – 1815) was an American painter, a son of Irish immigrants. He is famous for his portrait paintings of important figures in colonial New England, depicting in particular middle-class subjects. Though he had a long and successful career, the Napoleonic Wars brought hard times, and maintaining his household and the education of a talented son were costly. By the time of his death, despite his fame and talent, he left his family to settle his debts.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter Sunday - Mary Magdalene at the Tomb

Title: Mary Magdalene at the Tomb
Artist: Antiveduto Gramatica
Medium: Oil on canvas
Size: 120 x 157 cm
Date: 1620-22
Location: The Hermitage, St. Petersburg.

John 20:11-13 - 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.”

Such heavenly messengers appear at many of the significant points in salvation history. Their presence witnesses that the powers of heaven have been at work here. Often in Scripture the person who encounters an angel is struck with terror. But if Mary felt such a reaction, John does not mention it. Indeed, there is no indication that she even recognizes them as angels, presumably due to the depth of her grief. The angels speak to her with great compassion. In the face of this grief the angels do not bombard her with good news but rather ask the question that can lead to the healing word.

Antiveduto Gramatica (c. 1571 – April 1626), was a was a proto-Baroque Italian painter, active near Rome. He was born in either Siena or Rome, and according to Giovanni Baglione the artist was given the name Antiveduto ("foreseen") because his father had a premonition that he would be soon be born during a journey between his native Siena and Rome. It was in Rome that Antiveduto was baptised, raised and based his career.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Sixth Sunday of Lent - Entombment

Title: Entombment
Artist: Fra Angelico
Medium: Tempera on wood
Size: 38 x 46 cm
Date: 1438-40
Location: Alte Pinakothek, Munich.

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 panel was part of the altarpiece of the main altar in the monastery church of San Marco, Florence, and was originally in the middle of its predella. Christ's body is supported by Nicodemus, and his hands are held and kissed by the stooping Virgin and St John. Christ has a weightless air about him, so that the three other figures appear to have to do little to support him. The winding cloth lies stretched out in a receding rectangle creating the foreground space, its folds and color echoing the white rock. Behind lies the dark rectangular void of the tomb. The sparsity and simplicity of the composition, the firmly closed-off space and the extensive use of white in this panel, are all also found in Angelico's frescoes at San Marco. The figures here, arranged parallel with each other, with the central perspective of the shroud leading to the tomb, shows a very different idea of spatial organization from that in Rogier van der Weyden's panel of the same subject.

Fra Angelico (c. 1395 – February 1455), was a Florentine painter as well as a Dominican friar, having entered a Dominican convent in Fiesole in 1418. He rose from obscure beginnings as a journeyman illuminator to the renown of an artist whose last major commissions were monumental fresco cycles in St Peter’s and the Vatican Palace, Rome. Within his lifetime or shortly thereafter he was also called Il Beato (the Blessed), in reference to his skills in painting religious subjects. In 1982 Pope John Paul II conferred beatification, in recognition of the holiness of his life, thereby making this title official.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Fifth Sunday of Lent - Christ on the Cross

Title: Christ on the Cross
Artist: Eugène Delacroix
Medium: Oil on canvas
Size: 80 x 64.2 cm
Date: 1846
Location: The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore.

John 19:31-37 - Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jewish leaders did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken,” and, as another scripture says, “They will look on the one they have pierced.

Sharply silhouetted against the darkened sky is the dying Christ. A couple of gesturing spectators appear at the left, and on the right are two mounted Roman soldiers with billowing banners. Other onlookers are visible in the mid-ground. Although not a practicing Christian, Delacroix painted a number of New Testament subjects. Evidently, he was attracted to the drama of Christ's Passion and was endeavoring to deal with issues of personal faith raised by Christ's human and divine nature. When this work was exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1847, the critics enthusiastically praised it, noting its affinities with Crucifixion scenes by the great Flemish master Peter Paul Rubens.

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

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Fourth Sunday of Lent - Crucifixion


Title: Crucifixion
Artist: Jörg Breu the Elder
Medium: Oil on wood
Size: 87 x 63 cm
Date: 1524
Location: Szépmûvészeti Múzeum, Budapest.


Luke 23:32-43 - Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.” The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.” There was a written notice above him, which read: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS. One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Luke’s gospel describes how Jesus and two criminals head to their fate. The Greek term describing the other offenders, kakourgos, is a generic one for "lawbreaker" (Prov 21:15). Mark 15:27 and Matthew 27:38 describe the men with the term lestes, which can mean "bandit" or "revolutionary." This is the word Jesus used to question his arrest in Luke 22:52. The other Synoptics mention these thieves, but they only note that they reviled Jesus. Apparently one of them has a change of heart, however, as he hears Jesus intercede for others and watches him tolerate the taunts. This criminal anticipates the restoration and resurrection, and asks to be included. His depth of perception stands in contrast to the blindness of those who taunt. This thief, despite a life full of sin, comes to Jesus and seeks forgiveness in his last mortal moments. He confesses his guilt and casts himself on Jesus' mercy and saving power. Luke could not have painted a clearer portrait of God's grace.

Jörg Breu the Elder was a German painter and designer of woodcuts whose subjects included portraits, altarpieces and battle scenes. He was one of the leading painters of his time in Augsburg, and was patronized by both the emperor Maximilian and by Duke William IV of Bavaria. His style was complex and detailed, sharing something of Altdorfer's passion and love of landscape, and showing strong influence from Dürer and a journey he made to Italy in about 1514.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Third Sunday of Lent - Christ Before Pilate


Title: Christ before Pilate
Artist: Jacopo Tintoretto
Medium: Oil on canvas
Size: 515 x 380 cm
Date: 1566-67
Location: Scuola Grande di San Rocco, Venice.

Matthew 27:12-26 - When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer. Then Pilate asked him, “Don’t you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?” But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge—to the great amazement of the governor. Now it was the governor’s custom at the festival to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd. At that time they had a well-known prisoner whose name was Jesus Barabbas. So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you: Jesus Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” For he knew it was out of self-interest that they had handed Jesus over to him. While Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat, his wife sent him this message: “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.” But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed. “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” asked the governor. “Barabbas,” they answered. “What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked. “Crucify him!” They all answered. “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!” When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!” All the people answered, “His blood is on us and on our children!” Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.

This part of Matthew's account has less to do with Jesus than with Pilate: it is not Jesus but the character of Pilate that is on trial. Though Pilate knows the unjust motivation of the charges and receives a divine warning, political expediency takes precedence over justice. Are we also guilty of the same crime whenever we side with views because they are popular in our society or political party even though we know that someone is suffering unjustly? The hearing is swift not only because Pilate is more concerned with his political position than with justice, but also because Jesus refuses to defend himself. By Roman law, a defendant who refused to make a defense was assumed guilty.

Tintoretto (September 1518 – May 1594) also known as Jacopo Robusti or Jacopo Comin, was an Italian painter and a notable exponent of the Venetian Renaissance school. Tintoretto decorated the walls of the Sala dell'Albergo by paintings showing important moments from the Passion of Christ and he finished them in the early months of 1567.The most admired has always been Christ before Pilate. In a very fine and measured luministic web the figure of Christ, wrapped in a white mantle, stands out like a shining blade against the crowd and the architectural scenery. He is centered by a bright ray of light and stands tall in front of Pilate who is portrayed in red robes and as if sunk in shadows. Taking up the idea of Carpaccio in his St Ursula cycle, Tintoretto portraits the old secretary at the foot of Pilate's throne. He leans against a stool covered with dark green cloth and with great diligent enthusiasm notes down every moment, every word spoken by the judge amid the murmurings of the pitiless crowd which obstinately clamors for the death of Christ.