Year in Review

Thank you to all my wonderful readers, this little blog had almost 5,000 visitors this year! Here are your Top 10 favorite posts for 2015, with links to each one in their titles. Did your favorite make the list? Tell us in the comments, what was your favorite?

1. The Good Shepherd

Jesus as the Good Shepherd, mosaic, 5th c. Galla Placidia Mausoleum, Ravenna, Italy.

2. The Hands of the Father

The Return of the Prodigal Son, Rembrandt van Rijn, 1661-1669, 262 cm × 205 cm. Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg

3. The Transfiguration

Transfiguration mosaic in apse of St. Catherine's Monastery, ca. 565 AD.

4. Finding God Through Art

Golden Fire

5. St. Teresa of Avila

Ecstasy-Bernini

6. Stormy Weather

The Storm on the Sea of Galilee, Rembrandt van Rijn, 1633, oil on canvas, 160 x 128 cm. Whereabouts unknown since the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum robbery in 1990.

7. The Song of Miriam

Miriam by Anselm Feuerbach (1862); oil on canvas, 102cm x 81 cm. Alte Nationalgalerie, Berlin

 

8. Sheep or Goat?

last_judgement_michelangelo.jpg

9. Doubting Thomas

Christ and St. Thomas by Andrea del Verrocchio, Bronze sculpture, Orsanmichele, Florence, Italy

10. Woman with the Alabaster Jar

St Mary Magdalen and St Catherine of Alexandria, Simone Martini,1320-25 Fresco, 215 x 185 cm Cappella di San Martino, Lower Church, San Francesco, Assisi.

Advertisements

All Souls Day

Last Judgment, Stefan Lochner, 1435, Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, Cologne, Germany

 

Jesus said to the crowds:
“Everything that the Father gives me will come to me,
and I will not reject anyone who comes to me,
because I came down from heaven not to do my own will
but the will of the one who sent me.
And this is the will of the one who sent me,
that I should not lose anything of what he gave me,
but that I should raise it on the last day.
For this is the will of my Father,
that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him
may have eternal life,
and I shall raise him on the last day.”

John 6:37-40

The Last Judgment from the Beaune Altarpiece, Rogier Van Der Weyden

The Last Judgment from the Beaune Altarpiece, Rogier Van Der Weyden

From Catholic Online:

“All Souls Day is a holy day set aside for honoring the dead. The day is primarily celebrated in the Catholic Church, but it is also celebrated in the Eastern Orthodox Church and a few other denominations of Christianity. The Anglican church is the largest protestant church to celebrate the holy day. Most protestant denominations do not recognize the holiday and disagree with the theology behind it.

According to Catholic belief, the soul of a person who dies can go to one of three places. The first is heaven, where a person who dies in a state of perfect grace and communion with God goes. The second is hell, where those who die in a state of mortal sin are naturally condemned by their choice. The intermediate option is purgatory, which is thought to be where most people, free of mortal sin, but still in a state of lesser (venial) sin, must go.

Purgatory is necessary so that souls can be cleansed and perfected before they enter into heaven. There is scriptural basis for this belief. The primary reference is in 2 Maccabees, 12:26 and 12:32. “Turning to supplication, they prayed that the sinful deed might be fully blotted out… Thus made atonement for the dead that they might be free from sin.”

Additional references are found in Zechariah, Sirach, and the Gospel of Matthew. Jewish tradition also reinforces this belief as well as the tradition and teaching of the Church, which has been affirmed throughout history.

Consistent with these teachings and traditions, Catholics believe that through the prayers of the faithful on Earth, the dead are cleansed of their sins so they may enter into heaven.

The belief in purgatory has not been without controversy. Certainly, some flagrant abuses of the doctrine were used to raise money for the Church during the renaissance. Famously, Martin Luther argued with the monk, Johan Tetzel, over the sale of indulgences. Indulgences were sold as spiritual pardons to the poor and applied to the souls of the dead (or the living) to get people into heaven. The abuse of indulgences and the blatant, sometimes fraudulent practice of selling indulgences for money, led to Luther’s protest.

When Martin Luther translated the Bible into German, he omitted the seven books of the canon which refer to prayers for the dead. He then introduced the heretical belief that people are simply saved, or not, and argued that there is no need to pray for the dead to get them into heaven.

The Church reeled from Luther’s accusation, and reformed its practice of selling indulgences. However, it reemphasized the Biblical and traditional practice of praying for the departed and the importance of such prayers.

All Souls Day is celebrated in much of the western world on November 2. Other rites have their own celebrations. The Eastern Orthodox Church has several such days throughout the year, mostly on Saturdays. All Souls Day is not a holy day of obligation. It should not be confused with All Saints’ Day, which is a holy day of obligation.

Many cultures also mark the day differently. In North America, Americans may say extra prayers or light candles for the departed. In parts of Latin America, families visit the graves of their ancestors and sometimes leave food offerings for the departed.”

The Last Judgment, Michelangelo, Sistine Chapel, Vatican 1536–1541, Fresco, 1370 cm × 1200 cm, Sistine Chapel, Vatican City

The Last Judgment, Michelangelo, Sistine Chapel, Vatican
1536–1541, Fresco, 1370 cm × 1200 cm,
Sistine Chapel, Vatican City

Creation of Eve

Creation of Eve, Michelangelo Buonarroti, 1509-10, fresco, Sistine Chapel, Rome

Creation of Eve, Michelangelo Buonarroti, 1509-10, fresco, Sistine Chapel, Rome

The LORD God said: “It is not good for the man to be alone.
I will make a suitable partner for him.”
So the LORD God formed out of the ground
various wild animals and various birds of the air,
and he brought them to the man to see what he would call them;
whatever the man called each of them would be its name.
The man gave names to all the cattle,
all the birds of the air, and all wild animals;
but none proved to be the suitable partner for the man.

So the LORD God cast a deep sleep on the man,
and while he was asleep,
he took out one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh.
The LORD God then built up into a woman the rib
that he had taken from the man.
When he brought her to the man, the man said:
“This one, at last, is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
this one shall be called ‘woman, ‘
for out of ‘her man’ this one has been taken.”
That is why a man leaves his father and mother
and clings to his wife,
and the two of them become one flesh.

Genesis 2:18-24

Today’s reading describes the creation of Eve and remains the basis for the Christian theology of marriage. No matter where one stands on the literal truth or application of the Genesis tale, it has certainly been a fertile subject for artists. The most well known image of the creation of Eve is undoubtedly that by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel, shown above.

From Art Encyclopedia: “The iconography follows the tradition of showing God standing on the Earth alongside his creatures, but the artist nicely exploits the format of the small field by showing God’s head bumping up against the frame. The Sistine Chapel was dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Since Mary is regarded as the second Eve, who erased the original sin of that first woman, it is logical that the scene representing the Creation of Eve should be placed in the exact center of the ceiling.”

Birth of Eve, Wiligelmo, 1110, Cathedral of Modena, Italy

Birth of Eve, Wiligelmo, 1110, Cathedral of Modena, Italy

The relief sculpture above is from the west facade of the cathedral at Modena. It was sculpted by the Italian Wiligelmo, who brought life-sized sculptures to Italy in the Romanesque Period. The scenes are sculpted in high relief, with Roman arches and columns behind. We can see the stylistic quirks of the period, such as the unnatural body proportions and lack of naturalism. At left, we see Christ in a mandorla supported by two angels. To our right the next scene is the creation of Adam, followed by Eve’s creation from his side as he sleeps. Finally we see the pair with the tree of the temptation.

Creation of Adam and Eve from Gate of Paradise, Lorenzo Ghiberti, 1425-52, gilded bronze Baptistry, Florence

Creation of Adam and Eve from Gate of Paradise, Lorenzo Ghiberti, 1425-52, gilded bronze Baptistry, Florence.

From the 2007 exhibit of three of the panels from the Gates of Paradise at the Art Institute of Chicago:

“Created in the mid-15th century and installed in the eastern portal of the Baptistery, the Gates of Paradise have been praised by generations of artists and art historians for their compelling portrayal of scenes from the Old Testament. Over time, the seventeen-foot-tall, three-ton bronze doors became an icon of Renaissance art and a touchstone of civic and religious life in Florence. This exhibition showcases three panels from the left door of the Gates of Paradise, which depict the stories of Adam and Eve, Jacob and Esau, and David and Goliath. The exhibition also includes figures and heads of prophets from the doorframe, and it explores the evolving nature of art in Florence and Siena during Ghiberti’s career with works from the Art Institute’s permanent collection.

The Adam and Eve Panel documents Ghiberti’s earliest work on the doors and features a splendid depiction of nude figures in a landscape set off by angelic hosts. Ghiberti combined four major episodes from the story of Adam and Eve into this harmonious panel. The creation of Adam, illustrated in the foreground on the far left, shows Adam in a state of semiconsciousness, rising in response to God’s life-giving touch. In the center, as angels look on, God forms Eve from one of Adam’s ribs. The temptation of Adam and Eve by the serpent is shown in the background on the left, while the right side of the panel depicts the couple’s expulsion from Eden. Subtle shifts in the scale of the figures reinforce discrete episodes in the story of the Creation. Ghiberti modulated the scale and degree of projection of the angels to visually separate the four scenes.”

Creation of Eve, Giusto de' Menabuoi, 1376-78, fresco Chapel of S. Giovanni Battista, Padua

Creation of Eve, Giusto de’ Menabuoi, 1376-78, fresco Chapel of S. Giovanni Battista, Padua

Menabuoi was a 14th century Florentine painter mentioned by Vasari in his Lives of the Artists. His frescoes in the Chapel of S. Giovanni in northern Italy’s Padua were executed between 1376 and 1378.

Creation of Eve, Henry Fuseli, 1793, Oil on canvas, Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg

Creation of Eve, Henry Fuseli, 1793, Oil on canvas, Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg

Created for his gallery of images illustrating Milton’s Paradise Lost, Fuseli’s Creation of Eve shows her rising from Adam in the conventional manner, but with an ambiguous image of a man in the upper right. Is it God? This work apparently created some theological controversy. Much of Fuseli’s work is known for its surreal, supernatural content.

Angel of the Divine Presence Bringing Eve to Adam (The Creation of Eve: "And She Shall be Called Woman), William Blake, 1803, Watercolor, pen and black ink over graphite, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Angel of the Divine Presence Bringing Eve to Adam (The Creation of Eve: “And She Shall be Called Woman), William Blake, 1803, Watercolor, pen and black ink over graphite, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

From the Met website: Blake considered the Bible to be the supreme poetic work and here evocatively re-imagined the Old Testament theme of the creation of Eve. Instead of showing the first woman emerging from Adam’s side, Blake presents the couple meeting with ceremonial solemnity. A divine figure prepares to join their hands while a recumbent Adam looks up eagerly as his mate steps down from blue-tinged clouds. Objects in the landscape elaborate the meaning: the grape vines entwined around the tree symbolize marriage; the exotic red and blue plumed birds represent the newly created souls; and the giant oak leaf on which Adam reclines forecasts humankind’s suffering. A lion dozing near grazing lambs at lower right signals the peace of the pre-fallen world. Blake made this finished watercolor for his loyal patron Thomas Butts.

 

Genesis Windows, Marc Chagall, 1963, St Etienne Cathedral, Metz, France

Genesis Windows, Marc Chagall, 1963, St Etienne Cathedral, Metz, France

Readers of this blog know that Marc Chagall is one of my most beloved artists, so it’s fitting that this page conclude with Chagall’s image of Eve. He depicted the creation of Eve in one of his many stained glass projects, this time from the cathedral at Metz.  In the third window, Eve is the figure with rose coloring through torso and legs, rising from the supine figure of Adam. Here’s a detail:

EveChagallMetz

Chagall wrote: “To me, stained glass is the transparent wall between my heart and the world’s. Stained glass is uplifting, it requires gravity and passion. It must come alive through the light it receives. The Bible is light already, and stained glass should make this obvious through grace and simplicity.”   (more on the Cathedral and its stained glass here)