Sunday, January 5, 2014

The Twelve Days of Christmas - Day 12

Title: The Last Supper
Artist: Stanley Spencer
Medium: Oil on canvas
Size: 91.5 x 122 cm
Date: 1920
Location: Stanley Spencer Gallery, Cookham.

On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me, twelve drummers drumming...

The twelve drummers represent the twelve articles of the Apostles Creed. Throughout the Middle Ages it was generally believed that the Apostles, on the day of Pentecost, while still under the direct inspiration of the Holy Ghost, composed our present Creed between them, each of the Apostles contributing one of the twelve articles. This legend dates back to the sixth century, and is foreshadowed still earlier in a sermon attributed to St. Ambrose, which takes notice that the Creed was "pieced together by twelve separate workmen". About the same date (c. 400) Rufinus gives a detailed account of the composition of the Creed, which account he professes to have received from earlier ages.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

The Twelve Days of Christmas - Day 11

Title: Appearence While the Apostles are at Table
Artist: Duccio di Buoninsegna
Medium: Tempera on wood
Size: 39.5 x 51.5 cm
Date: 1311
Location: Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, Siena.

On the eleventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me, eleven pipers piping...

The eleven pipers are representative of the eleven faithful disciples. Duccio di Buoninsegna's The Appearance While the Apostles are at Table alludes to the story in Luke 24, where Jesus appears before the disciples and, to dispel all their doubts, eats with them. The detail of the fish painted on the plates repeats the gospel text to the letter: 'While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence.'

Friday, January 3, 2014

The Twelve Days of Christmas - Day 10

Title: Moses on Mount Sinai
Artist: Jean-Léon Gérôme
Medium: Oil on canvas
Size: tbd.
Date: 1900
Location: Private Collection.

On the tenth day of Christmas my true love gave to me, Ten Lords a-leaping...

The leaping lords are representative of the Ten Commandments. Also known as the Decalogue, Ten Commandments are a set of biblical principles relating to ethics and worship, which play a fundamental role in Judaism and Christianity. They include instructions to worship only God and to keep the Sabbath, and prohibitions against idolatry, blasphemy, murder, theft, dishonesty, and adultery.
French Academic paint Jean-Léon Gérôme paints a stunning image capturing the power of Exodus 16-18: 'And it came to pass on the third day, when it was morning, that there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of a horn exceeding loud; and all the people that were in the camp trembled. And Moses brought forth the people out of the camp to meet God; and they stood at the nether part of the mount. Now mount Sinai was altogether on smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire; and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly.'

Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Twelve Days of Christmas - Day 9

Title: The Assumption of the Virgin
Artist: Francesco Botticini
Medium: Tempera on wood panel
Size: 228.6 x 377.2 cm
Date: 1476
Location: National Gallery, London. 

On the ninth day of Christmas my true love gave to me, Nine Ladies Dancing...

The dancing ladies are thought to represent either the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit, or, as depicted in this large painting by Florentine painter Francesco Botticini , the nine choirs of angels. The most influential Christian angelic hierarchy was that put forward by Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite in the 4th or 5th century and Thomas Aquinas drew on passages from the New Testament, specifically Ephesians 1:21 and Colossians 1:16, to develop a schema of three Hierarchies, Spheres or Triads of angels, with each Hierarchy containing three Orders or Choirs. Although both authors drew on the New Testament, the Biblical canon is relatively silent on the subject. Thus these hierarchies are highly speculative.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The Twelve Days of Christmas - Day 8

Title: The  Sermon on the Mount
Artist: Károly Ferenczy
Medium: Oil on canvas
Size: 135 x 203 cm
Date: 1896
Location: National Gallery, Budapest.

On the eighth day of Christmas my true love gave to me, eight maids a-milking...

The eight maids can be identified with the eight beatitudes, or blessings, taught by Jesus as recorded in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:3-10. Together, the Beatitudes present a new set of Christian ideals that focus on spirit love and humility and echo the highest ideals of the teachings of Jesus on mercy, spirituality, and compassion. He said: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."