Incredulity of St. Thomas| Art for Easter 2C

John 20:26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them.

Incredulity of St Thomas
Incredulity of St Thomas
1572
Oil on panel
Santa Croce, Florence
VASARI, Giorgio
(b. 1511, Arezzo, d. 1574, Firenze)
Click image for more information.

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Commentary by Hovak Najarian

Incredulity of St. Thomas, Oil on Panel, 1572, Giorgio Vasari, 1511-1574

The High Renaissance took place in the last quarter of the fifteenth century and continued into the early part of the sixteenth century. By the time Giorgio Vasari was nine years old, however, many of the noted artists were no longer living. The exceptions were Titian and Michelangelo (who lived to be almost ninety years old). Renaissance advancements in art were now left to be sorted out by the next generation. Vasari regarded himself as part of the Renaissance; believing it continued until the death of Michelangelo (1564) and that he and his generation were part of it. In a broader sense he was correct but art historians today use the term “Mannerist” when referring to sixteenth century artists. Unlike artists of the prior century, it was not necessary for Mannerists to be pioneers in finding solutions to technical problems of art. Instead, they often used their abundant skills to emphasize style, dramatic effect, and virtuosity.

When Vasari was young, his precociousness was noted and he was selected to be schooled with members of the prominent Medici family; as an adult this contact was invaluable to his career. When Cosimo I de’ Medici funded changes at the Church of Santa Croce, Florence, he chose Vasari to be the architect and painter. Vasari painted scenes from Christ’s Passion – as well as events that followed – for the private chapels of the Church; the “Incredulity of Thomas” was painted for the Guidacci Chapel. Thomas, having said he would not believe Christ was resurrected until he himself saw the wounds on his hands and side, is shown with Jesus at a gathering with disciples. Vasari leads our attention immediately to center stage where Christ stands bare-chested with arms wide apart as though to say, “Go ahead, see for yourself.” Thomas examines the wound on Christ’s side as people rush out from a background door to also look. Angels have arrived and are floating above, and cherubs are on either side of the arch. The dramatic lighting and hand gestures of Christ and those in attendance add to the theatricality to this scene.

Note

Giorgio Vasari was immensely famous during his lifetime but now he is cited more often for his writings on the lives of artists. The necessity to rely on secondhand sources at times resulted in a few points of misinformation but on a whole, his work provides invaluable insights into the art and artists of his time.

When reference is made to the “High Renaissance” and the time period is elusive, it may help to know Christopher Columbus was a contemporary of Michelangelo, Raphael, and Leonardo. While they were making art, he was sailing. “In fourteen hundred ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.”

Hovak Najarian © 2013

Apostle Peter Preaching | Art for A Easter 2

Acts 2:14a But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say.

Apostle Peter Preaching
LORENZO VENEZIANO
(active 1356-1372 in Venice)
Apostle Peter Preaching
c. 1370
Poplar panel, 24 x 33 cm
Staatliche Museen, Berlin
Click image for more information.

Incredulity of St Thomas | Art for Easter 2

Incredulity of St Thomas
Incredulity of St Thomas
1572
Oil on panel
Santa Croce, Florence
VASARI, Giorgio
(b. 1511, Arezzo, d. 1574, Firenze)
Click image for more information.

______________
Commentary by Hovak Najarian

Incredulity of St. Thomas, Oil on Panel, 1572, Giorgio Vasari, 1511-1574

The High Renaissance took place in the last quarter of the fifteenth century and continued into the early part of the sixteenth century. By the time Giorgio Vasari was nine years old, however, many of the noted artists were no longer living. The exceptions were Titian and Michelangelo (who lived to be almost ninety years old). Renaissance advancements in art were now left to be sorted out by the next generation. Vasari regarded himself as part of the Renaissance; believing it continued until the death of Michelangelo (1564) and that he and his generation were part of it. In a broader sense he was correct but art historians today use the term “Mannerist” when referring to sixteenth century artists. Unlike artists of the prior century, it was not necessary for Mannerists to be pioneers in finding solutions to technical problems of art. Instead, they often used their abundant skills to emphasize style, dramatic effect, and virtuosity.

When Vasari was young, his precociousness was noted and he was selected to be schooled with members of the prominent Medici family; as an adult this contact was invaluable to his career. When Cosimo I de’ Medici funded changes at the Church of Santa Croce, Florence, he chose Vasari to be the architect and painter. Vasari painted scenes from Christ’s Passion – as well as events that followed – for the private chapels of the Church; the “Incredulity of Thomas” was painted for the Guidacci Chapel. Thomas, having said he would not believe Christ was resurrected until he himself saw the wounds on his hands and side, is shown with Jesus at a gathering with disciples. Vasari leads our attention immediately to center stage where Christ stands bare-chested with arms wide apart as though to say, “Go ahead, see for yourself.” Thomas examines the wound on Christ’s side as people rush out from a background door to also look. Angels have arrived and are floating above, and cherubs are on either side of the arch. The dramatic lighting and hand gestures of Christ and those in attendance add to the theatricality to this scene.

Note

Giorgio Vasari was immensely famous during his lifetime but now he is cited more often for his writings on the lives of artists. The necessity to rely on secondhand sources at times resulted in a few points of misinformation but on a whole, his work provides invaluable insights into the art and artists of his time.

When reference is made to the “High Renaissance” and the time period is elusive, it may help to know Christopher Columbus was a contemporary of Michelangelo, Raphael, and Leonardo. While they were making art, he was sailing. “In fourteen hundred ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.”

Hovak Najarian © 2013

B Easter 2, Art for April 15, 2012

DÜRER, Albrecht
(b. 1471, Nürnberg, d. 1528, Nürnberg)
Click to open Web Gallery of Art Artist Biography and to explore other works by this artist.

Small Small Passion: 33. The Incredulity of St Thomas
1511
Woodcut
British Museum, London
Click to open Web Gallery of Art index page. Click selection 33 for large view.

Woodcut series: The Small Passion (1511)
by Albrecht DÜRERClick to open Web Gallery of Art presentation of the entire Small Passion series of woodcuts.

Related art commentary by Hovak Najarian.
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The Incredulity of St. Thomas, Woodcut, (1508-1510), Albrecht Durer (1471-1528)

Commentary by Hovak Najarian
Related post “Easter, April 8,2012′

After Jesus’ resurrection he made himself known to Mary Magdalene and then to two disciples while they dined in Emmaus. He also talked to disciples at a time when Thomas was not with them. When the disciples told Thomas that Christ had risen, he was skeptical. He said, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.” Jesus was again with the disciples eight days later. Thomas was with them and was invited by Jesus to touch his wounds. When he did, his doubts were erased and he exclaimed, “My Lord and my God!”

Durer treats this subject like a relief sculpture and gives the composition visual balance through bilateral symmetry. Each side is almost a mirror image of the other with Christ in the center flanked by two apostles. Thomas, on the left, leans slightly and receives our attention as we follow his arm to where he is touching Christ’s side. The three figures in the foreground close off pictorial depth while all other figures are relegated to the background; they are neither participating actively nor do they have a clear view of Christ being touched. Instead, Durer depicts this scene as though it is being presented to an audience – the audience being you, the viewer – as it would be if you were standing directly in front of Christ and Thomas.

In The Incredulity of Thomas, the influence of Italian Renaissance painting and sculpture is evident. During Durer’s extended visit to Italy shortly before working on the Small Passion, he immersed himself in the art of the Italian masters who, in turn, learned from the art of the ancient Greeks and Romans. In this woodcut, the garments worn by the apostles are flowing and the folds hang naturally like the garments found in Roman sculpture or in a painting such as Raphael’s The School of Athens. Christ, on the other hand, is almost garmentless as he stands in the center in a contrapposto (Italian for counterpose) position. This pose is one in which a standing person seems relaxed with the body’s weight on one leg. It was used widely by the Greeks and Romans and the pose was very popular again during the Renaissance as well as during the Mannerist period that followed. In form, the unclothed Jesus is standing very much in the manner of a Greek statue such as a Hermes or Apollo.

As Thomas is touching the wounded side, Christ guides Thomas’ arm with his right hand while his left arm is pointing heavenward. The upward pointing fingers are in the well known symbolic position found throughout Christian art. His thumb and first two fingers are extended and the other two fingers are closed. The extended fingers represent the trinity and the closed fingers symbolize the two-fold nature of Christ; God and man. Christ’s halo is depicted the same as in Durer’s Christ’s Entry into Jerusalem; it is again shown as an intense light. It is not contained as a disc or circle but instead radiates out to fill much of the upper quarter of the composition.

Although the Incredulity of Thomas is a small woodcut, Durer’s figures carry visual weight and a sense of solidity. Through the eyes of a German artist with an understanding of Italian Renaissance painting and sculpture, Albrecht Durer gives us his interpretation of how this event occurred.

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© 2012 Hovak Najarian