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.