Dream Vision | Art for Proper 25

Joel 2:28-29 Then afterward I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female slaves, in those days, I will pour out my spirit.

Dream Vision

DÜRER, Albrecht
(b. 1471, Nürnberg, d. 1528, Nürnberg)
Dream Vision
Watercolour on paper, 30 x 43 cm
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
Click image for more information.

Commentary by Hovak Najarian

Dream Vision, Watercolor, 1525, Albrecht Durer, 1471-1528

Dreams are not part of our physical world and often their images have no reference to anything we remember having seen or experienced. When a dream is vivid we tend to remember it and wonder if it had meaning. Yet, we tend to be skeptical of those who interpret dreams in other than general terms. It seems reasonable, however, that there are times when the content of a dream (e.g. recurring dreams) may be related to events in a life; especially if an event weighs heavily on a person’s mind. Those who look for meaning believe a great deluge and flood, as in the dream experienced by Albrecht Durer, is related to unexpressed fears and emotional turmoil. Whether or not Durer’s dream was rooted in fear is not known but there was a great deal of turmoil in Germany during the later part of his life.

Durer’s dream came at a time when he was much immersed in the work and teachings of Martin Luther. In 1525, Durer’s native, Nuremburg, became a Protestant city and this resulted in great anger from the Roman Church. Durer’s frightening dream took place that very same year. Upon awakening, he recalled the dream in writing and recorded it in a watercolor study called “Dream Vision.” His written account tells of an intense experience that left him trembling. Three years later, Durer died and Martin Luther wrote:

It is natural and right to weep for so excellent a man – still you should rather think him blessed, as one whom Christ has taken in the fullness of his wisdom and by a happy death from these most troublesome times, and perhaps from times even more troublesome which are to come, lest one who was worthy to look on nothing but excellence, should be forced to behold things most vile.

Dreams come in a variety of forms and, unlike the one experienced by Durer, many are pleasant. Often the term “dream” itself is used with positive associations and as a metaphor for a conscious desire; we may wish for a “dream” job, vacation, or home. On a conscious level, dreams also are visualizations of possibilities. Airplanes became a reality because humans observed birds and dreamed of flying. Because we dreamed, men walked on the moon.

The Book of Joel cites blessings that were to be bestowed on Israel. In addition to material blessings, God promised a special gift – the gift of the spirit, of dreams and visions; “And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions” (Joel 2:28). Revelation, enlightenment, and wondrous achievements have been the result of this gift.

Hovak Najarian © 2013

Parable of the Unjust Judge | Art for Proper 24

Luke 18:2 “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor had respect for people.”

Illustration of the Parable of the Unjust Judge

John Everett Millais
Illustration of the Parable of the Unjust Judge from the New Testament Gospel of Luke (Luke 18:1-9)
The Parables of Our Lord (1863) Click image for more information.

Commentary by Hovak Najarian

Parable of the Unjust Judge, wood engraving, 1863, John Everett Millais, 1829-1896

In France – from the latter part of the eighteenth to beyond mid-nineteenth century – Neoclassicism was the style of art perpetuated by the state sponsored French Academy and its influence was widespread. Romanticism rose in opposition to it and had far reaching influence as well. England, however, tended to be independent and had its prestigious Royal Academy of Art; it was not easily swayed by outside styles.

Instead of falling in line with accepted mid-nineteenth century academic styles, seven young English painters of similar interests – led by John Everett Millais, William Holman Hunt, and Dante Gabriel Rossetti – organized a secret society and called themselves the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. It was their belief that false ideals had artificiality entered art during the Renaissance. As the term, “Pre-Raphaelite” implies, they proposed starting anew by going back to a time before Raphael – to the Middle Ages. One of Millais’s paintings from this period, “Christ at the Home of His Parents,” caused a scandal because the Holy Family was not represented regally as it would have been in a classical Renaissance painting. Instead, Millais depicted a working class family with Christ (as a boy) in his father’s messy carpentry workshop. After his youthful efforts, Millais withdrew from the brotherhood and became an academic painter; his critics accused him of “selling out” for financial gain. In time, he was made a member of the Royal Academy of Art and later became its president.

Among Millais’ noted works was a series of drawings illustrating Christ’s parables. These drawings were reproduced as wood engravings by the acclaimed Dalziel brothers and published in 1864 as “Parables of our Lord.” Although some parables are difficult to translate into pictorial form, Millais’ “Parable of the Unjust Judge” is what we might imagine the scene to have been like. In this story, a poor widow desires justice but the judge hearing her case is not sympathetic or compassionate. Millais has placed the widow on the floor in front of the judge (seated with ankles crossed) on his cushioned, throne-like chair; an attendant stands by with a fan to contribute to his comfort. The widow is persistent as she leans forward over the judge’s legs and pleads with him while a guard with an arm on either side of the woman is trying to restrain her. The judge seems to regard her as a pest – he turns his face with a look of superior disdain and keeps her at bay with his right arm. His open left hand is in front of his face in a gesture that seems to be saying, “Enough already!” The man peering over the chair and the man standing at the judge’s immediate right are finding the widow’s appeal to be amusing. The scribe, however, seems sympathetic as he lifts his pen momentarily and looks up at the widow. The widow’s persistence paid off and her petition was granted.

Hovak Najarian © 2013


Father Damien and Mother Marianne | Art for Proper 23

‘As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him’Luke 17:12

Father Damien and Mother Marianne

Father Damien and Mother Marianne
Date: c. 1980?
Building: Star of the Sea Painted Church
Object/Function: Stained glass
City/Town: Kalaupapa, Moloka’i
State: HI
Country: United States
Click image for more information.

Commentary by Hovak Najarian
Click here for Hovak’s previous blog on stained glass.
Father Damien and Mother Marianne, stained glass, c.1980, Star of the Sea Painted Church, Hawaii, 1927-1928

Although leprosy (Hansen’s disease) has been known since ancient times, a successful treatment of it was not found until the twentieth century. For thousands of years the universal response to it was fear. People with leprosy were shunned and often resettled in colonies.

As a result of an increase in leprosy in Hawaii in the nineteenth century, a colony was established at Kalaupapa (a portion of an isolated peninsula on the island of Molokai). An afflicted person was taken there by ship and sometimes left callously in the water to swim ashore. Rather than have direct contact, at times food and supplies were said to have been dumped overboard to float to the shore via ocean currents. When lepers first arrived at Kalaupapa in 1866, there were no amenities and everyone was left on their own. It was not until Fr. Damien De Veuster, arrived seven years later that care was given and improvements to living conditions were made.

Fr. Damien, a Belgian, went to Hawaii as a missionary and was ordained in Honolulu. While serving on Oahu, many of his parishioners were dying from diseases brought to the islands by seamen and immigrants. When it was announced that a priest was needed at the leper colony, Fr. Damien volunteered. Upon his arrival, he set about immediately to establish a sense of community by building houses, roads, chapels, care facilities, and also establishing farms. Fr. Damien himself was struck by leprosy after serving at the colony for twelve years and Mother Marianne Cope volunteered to serve in his place. She attended to Fr. Damien during his last days and continued to serve the afflicted until her death from natural causes. At mid-twentieth century, new drugs were affective in treating leprosy and the law in Hawaii to isolate people with the disease was nullified in 1969.

The small colonial revival style Star of the Sea Painted Church was built in 1927-28 in Kalapana on the Big Island, Hawaii, by Fr. Evarist Gielen. He then painted murals on its ceiling to honor the work of Fr. Damien. The lower scenes were painted later (1941) by George Heidler. Still later (c.1980), stained glass portraits of both Father Damien and Mother Marianne were added. The portraits are unembellished and unpretentious; both figures seem self-assured and imbued with a sense of serenity. The Roman Catholic Church declared Fr. Damien and Mother Marianne to be saints in 2009 and 2012 respectively.

Star of the Sea Painted Church at its original location was in the path of lava flowing from an eruption of Mount Kilauea. In 1990 it was moved from Kalapana to a safe location at Puna, twenty-eight miles south of Hilo.

Hovak Najarian © 2013

Door of the Apostles | Art for Proper 22

‘The apostles said to the Lord’ Luke 17:5

Door of the Apostles

(b. ca. 1386, Firenze, d. 1466, Firenze)
Door of the Apostles 1440-43
Bronze, 235 x 109 cm
Old Sacristy, San Lorenzo, Florence
Click image for more information.

Commentary by Hovak Najarian

Doors of the Apostles, bronze, 1440-43, Donatello, c. 1386-1466

The Basilica di San Lorenzo (Basilica of St. Lawrence) was consecrated in AD 393 and played a major role in the history of Florence, Italy. It was the city’s cathedral for three hundred years and during the fifteenth century it was the parish church of the wealthy Medici family. Like many of Italy’s old churches, San Lorenzo underwent architectural modifications and additions throughout its years. In 1419, a proposal was made to make changes to the eleventh century Romanesque building. Giovanni de’Medici offered to pay the cost and Filippo Brunelleschi, one of the most influential artists of the early Renaissance, was selected to design the sacristy. His impressive plan won him a commission to redesign the entire church. He completed plans for it but because of delays only the sacristy (now called the “Old Sacristy”) was completed in his lifetime. Brunelleschi’s friend, Donatello, another of the most influential artists of this period was commissioned to design the sacristy’s bronze doors.

As a young man, Donatello gained valuable experience in modeling clay and casting bronze while he apprenticed with Lorenzo Ghiberti at the time the first set of doors were being made for the Baptistery of Florence Cathedral. Ghiberti’s format was to use relief panels to depict scenes from the Bible and his figures were depicted in landscape and architectural settings. For the “Doors of the Apostles” at San Lorenzo, Donatello also used figures in relief but elected to place only two apostles in each of the ten panels and to use no background. Information about Donatello’s intent is lacking but it is reasonable to assume the two apostles in each panel are talking about Christ’s teachings or events that have taken place in their time together. Some seem to be praying but the facial expressions, postures, and gestures of others indicate they are engaged in serious discussions or even in heated arguments. At the time the doors were made, the depiction of this human side of the apostles caused controversy.

Today, Donatello’s “Doors of the Apostles” are overshadowed by the fame of Ghiberti’s doors which are nearby and called “The Doors of Paradise.” The Old Sacristy doors at San Lorenzo do not have a broad range of subject matter and are not located at the Baptistery of the largest and best known cathedral in Florence; instead the doors are at a quiet place – a sacristy – where two members of the Medici family are buried.

Although the construction of the Basilica di San Lorenzo was mostly completed by the end of the fifteenth century, one prominent feature – the façade – remains in its rough unfinished condition even today. In the early fifteenth century, Pope Leo X commissioned Michelangelo to design the façade. Michelangelo designed it and even made a wooden model of it but it was not built. His design for the inside of the façade (looking back from the nave), however, was completed.

Hovak Najarian © 2013

Dives and Lazarus | Art for Proper 21

“If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.” Luke 16:31

Dives and Lazarus

BASSANO, Leandro
(b. 1557, Venezia, d. 1622, Venezia)
Dives and Lazarus
c. 1595
Oil on canvas, 100 x 123 cm
Private collectionClick image for more information.

Commentary by Hovak Najarian

Dives and Lazarus, oil on canvas, c.1595, Leandro Bassano, 1557-1622

Dives (Dye-veez) – Latin for “rich” or “rich man” – did not deny himself anything that would bring pleasure. Leandro Bassano depicts him at dinner in fine clothes, surrounded by the people who serve him. He is having a sumptuous meal as he did everyday, and while he is dining, musicians entertain him and a prostitute sits at his side. There is not room on the table for all of the food that is served. In front of Dives are full plates of food piled on top of full plates, and more food is on its way.

In Christ’s parable (Luke 16:19-31), Lazarus is a starving man who is covered with sores. He went to the rich man’s house to lie down by the gate with the hope that something to eat would be given to him. In his painting, Bassano, using artistic license, places Lazarus inside the house and directly at the dinner scene with Dives. Lazarus, on the floor beside the rich man, is looking up and reaching out with an open hand but is being ignored; the table is overflowing with food but not even a morsel is tossed to him. Two playful spaniels have arrived at Lazarus’ feet and are licking his sores while at the same time a servant is threatening to beat him with a stick. Dives had no pity on those in need and lived his life in a heartless and self-indulgent manner. There was no empathy for those who were less fortunate.

Upon death, Lazarus was taken to heaven and the uncaring Dives was sent to hell. When Dives looked across a deep chasm that divided them he saw Lazarus in heaven in Abraham’s bosom. He called to Abraham and pleaded that Lazarus be sent with water on a finger to place on his tongue but his plea was denied. Abraham said, “Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here and you are in anguish in this flame.” (Luke 16:25)

The artist Leandro Bassano was the youngest son of a family of artists. His father, Jacopo da Ponte, studied in nearby Venice and then returned to the city of Bassano and, like many other artists, became known by the name of the city where he lived and worked. His four sons worked closely with him and it is believed some of the work attributed to the father, Jacopo, were the work of his sons. Leandro’s work is closest in style to his father’s paintings.


The story of “Dives and Lazarus” became an old English folk song and the Christmas carol, “Oh Sing a Song of Bethlehem” is sung to its melody. Anglican and Episcopal hymns also have been set to this melody and Ralph Vaughn Williams’ composition for harp and string orchestra – “Five Variants of Dives and Lazarus” – is based on this folk song as well.

Hovak Najarian © 2013

Educating the Rich on the Globe | Art for Proper 20

“If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own?” Luke 16:11-12

Educating the Rich on the Globe

Tom Otterness
Educating the Rich on the Globe
Sculpture,freestanding Metal
New YorkClick image for more information.

Commentary by Hovak Najarian

Educating the Rich on the Globe, bronze, 1997, Tom Otterness, 1952-

The excitement of finding, seeing, or experiencing something new or different seems to be built into our makeup as humans. We like to see technological advancements (new cars, airplanes, computers, etc.) and to talk about them as well. The fashion industry is known for its annual changes of colors, materials, and styles. Almost all other commercial areas of our lives also are subject to change; if nothing else, slogans and packaging are changed. In the arts, the avant-garde continues to push boundaries and as in almost every aspect of our culture, the pace of change has accelerated continuously within the past one hundred fifty years.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Pop Art with its familiar images from our commercial world (e.g. soup cans, comic strips, and celebrities) re-engaged the public. Pop imagery arrived at a time when large sums of money were being invested in art; individuals with immense wealth, large corporations, and city governments were among the collectors. At a time when the definition of art expanded, and money was available, collectors seemed to be eager to identify with works that were new, thought to be clever, and on the leading edge. City councils found that placement of art on sidewalks, in medians, or in parks promoted a positive image and before long, the imagery of pop culture spilled over into commissions for “Art in Public Places.” Serious art and war memorials were for Washington, DC. Other cities were likely to select work that did not require an emotional involvement or a mental effort from people in passing cars or pedestrians. Humor rather than solemnity tended to be preferred and images were likely to be entertaining and non-controversial. Often this resulted in pseudo-sophisticated works that were hollow in content and only pretended to have deep meaning. Among sculptors who tapped into an opportunity to receive large financial rewards for public sculpture was Tom Otterness.

Otterness’ “Educating the Rich on the Globe” is made in a cartoon balloon-figure Pop Art style. The title would lead one to believe the sculpture deals with the subject of moral responsibility. Instead, it is simply a play on the words of its title – a deliberate misdirection and a strained attempt at humor. At its base, four small people are supporting a globe that is obscured partly by very large pennies. The coins are apparently the artist’s nod to the fictitious surname, “Pennybags.” Uncle Pennybags, the man that is sprawled on his back atop the globe is wearing his usual tuxedo, bow tie and top hat, and will be recognized immediately as the board game figure also known as Mr. Monopoly. He is being straddled by a child that is reading from a very large book. The Globe in the title refers literally to the globe in the sculpture and the Rich is referring to Monopoly’s mascot, “Rich Uncle Pennybags.” In total, “Educating the Rich on the Globe” depicts a child with a book pretending to be Educating a man called Rich who is literally on the Globe. This work begs for a deadpan response.

Hovak Najarian © 2013

Parable of the Lost Drachma| Art for Proper 19

Luke 15:8 “Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it?

Parable of the Lost Drachma

FETTI, Domenico
(b. ca. 1589, Roma, d. 1623, Venezia)
Parable of the Lost Drachma
c. 1618
Oil on wood, 75 x 44 cm
 Gemäldegalerie, Dresden
Click image for more information.

Commentary by Hovak Najarian

Parable of the Lost Drachma, oil on wood, c. 1618, Domenico Fetti, c. 1589-1623

During the Italian Renaissance of the fifteenth century, neither a painting’s subject nor its style reflected the physical surroundings and day to day lives of common people. Domestic scenes or work activities were not of interest to wealthy patrons or Church figures who commissioned art; there would be no reflective glory for them from such works. In the sixteenth century, however, artists expanded their range of subjects and explored new visual effects. One outcome was “naturalism.” An artist such as Caravaggio was known to cast a person he met at a tavern in the role of a biblical figure. They were not “cleaned up” for their role. In Northern Italy a trend toward naturalism also emerged and may be seen in Domenico Fetti’s “Parable of the Lost Drachma.”

After studying painting in Rome, Fetti, at the age of twenty-four moved to northern Italy to work at the court of Vincenzo Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua. The Duke was a noted collector of art and while in Mantua, Fetti’s work continued to develop. He was influenced by a variety of sources; among them were the naturalism of Caravaggio, the use of warm colors by nearby masters in Venice, and the works of Rubens. While he worked for the Duke, the subjects of his paintings often were parables that took place in domestic scenes. The “Parable of the Lost Drachma” illustrates the story of a poor woman who possessed only ten drachmae (Greek coins of small value used during the time of Christ). When one was lost she was desperate to find it. She lit a lamp, swept and searched the house thoroughly, and was delighted when the coin was found. In her excitement she called together friends and neighbors to share her good news.

Fetti’s painting depicts a small room furnished sparsely. The only light source is the woman’s small oil lamp and all shadows emanate from it. Indications of her poverty can be seen in the loose stone tiles on the floor and a portion of the upper wall that is in need of repair. The scene depicted by Fetti takes place during the process of the woman’s hunt for the small coin. She has looked under a chair in the corner and left it on its side. In the left foreground, a stool has been toppled, indicating she has looked under it as well. She searched under the loose floor stones and looked in her trunk; pieces of cloth were taken out and then left on the floor as she went elsewhere to look. In paintings of this parable by other artists, the woman often is shown sweeping with a broom but Fetti has chosen instead to show us her meager furnishing and the places she has searched.

After nine years in Mantua, Fetti moved to Venice to continue his career. He was an exceptional painter but he died at the age of thirty-four and we do not know what else he might have accomplished.

Hovak Najarian © 2013