The Heavenly Jerusalem | Art for Easter 5C

The Heavenly Jerusalem
The Heavenly Jerusalem
c. 1090
Fresco
San Pietro al Monte, Civate
ROMANESQUE PAINTER, Italian
(active 1090s in Lombardy)
Click image for more information.

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Commentary by Hovak Najarian

The Heavenly Jerusalem, Fresco, c. 1090-1100, Unknown Artist

In the Book of Revelation, John’s description of the Heavenly Jerusalem includes the following passages:

[The holy city Jerusalem] had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed. On the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. (Rev. 21: 12-13)

[John was shown] the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city, also, on either side of the river, the tree of life…(Rev. 22: 1-2)

John’s description of the “Heavenly Jerusalem” is illustrated in a primitive yet straightforward manner in a fresco painted by an unknown artist on the eastern vault of the Church of San Pietro al Monte (Saint Peter in the Mountain), Civate, Italy. The artist, following John’s words (cited above) depicts the four walls that surround the New Jerusalem. There are three arched gates on each of the four walls; they represent the twelve tribes of Israel and each contains an angel. The names of the tribes are written within the arch of the gates but because of faded color and damage to the fresco, only a few of the names are discernable.

In the center of the fresco, framed by the four walls is God, the focal point of attention. In accordance with his importance, God is depicted much larger in scale than anything else in the painting. He is sitting on a throne with a Lamb at his feet and a staff in his right hand. His left hand is holding an open book with the words “Qui sitit veniat” (Let him who thirsts come). Between God’s feet is the river of life flowing from the throne. It spreads out to become four rivers; thus indicating the Gospel is preached to every corner on earth. A tree of life is placed on either side of God.

In Italy during the eleventh and twelfth century, the Byzantine influence remained a factor in art. Several centuries more would pass before changes brought on by the Renaissance would take place.
Note

San Pietro al Monte is on a mountain about an hour’s climb upward from Civate, Italy. It is not certain why it was built in such an isolated place or the exact date it was constructed. The following is one of the legends: Lombardy King Desiderius built San Pietro as a result of a dream in which he was told if a church were to be built there, his son’s sight would be restored. After it was built, the king asked the pope for relics for the church. He was given the right arm of Peter and links from the chain that bound him.

Hovak Najarian © 2013

Baptism of the Eunuch | Art for Easter 5 B

Acts 8:38

… and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?”

Baptism of the Eunuch
The Baptism of the Eunuch of the Ethiopean Queen by Philip
1751-1800
Egg tempera on wood, with gilt frame, 39 x 36 cm
Ikonen-Museum, Recklinghausen

Click image for more information.

Commentary by Hovak Najarian

Duration of time is a factor in many of the arts. In motion pictures and in the theater there is a passage of time as the audience is engaged from beginning to end. A period of time occurs also as the plot of a novel unfolds or as we listen to music. A painting differs from the above arts in that time is not an inherent part of how we experience it; we may choose to examine a painting at length but it is possible to see it in its entirety in a single moment.

When an artist wants to depict events that have taken place in time, they do so usually with a series. Each work depicts a particular event and stands on its own but taken collectively they encompass a period of time; as in Albrecht Durer’s Small Passion. A sequence, in which two or more events are shown in a single painting, however, is less common in the art of the Western World and is found more often in murals and relief sculpture. Michelangelo used a narrative sequence in several panels in the ceiling frescos of the Sistine Chapel; most notably, The Fall and Expulsion from the Garden of Eden. This device also was used by an unknown Russian artist in the icon, The Baptism of the Ethiopian Eunuch by Philip. Unlike the subject of a still-life or landscape (unless there is intentional symbolic content), the above paintings illustrate an event or story and it is necessary for a viewer to have prior knowledge of what is being depicted in order to understand the relationship of the images.

In the “Baptism of the Eunuch,” a carriage in which a high-ranking Ethiopian eunuch and Philip are seated is shown in the upper right side. Before Philip met him, the eunuch had been to Jerusalem to pray and had been reading the book of Isaiah but did not understand a particular passage. When Philip came to him and explained it, the eunuch expressed a desire to be baptized. They traveled together and when they reached a body of water, the baptism took place. In the sequence of events, the conversation between the two men and the carriage ride preceded the baptism but in this painting it is part of the background narrative and is included as a secondary subject. The baptism is the primary point of focus. The scene of the baptism is placed prominently in the foreground and Philip’s size dwarfs the eunuch. The artist may have been following the tradition of depicting a person’s size in accordance with their importance but it is also possible that the painter was somewhat unskilled and simply doing the best he could. In comparison to Philip, the eunuch is almost childlike in size and anatomically awkward. His light skin suggests the artist was not familiar with Ethiopians.

After the split in the Russian Orthodox Church during the seventeenth century, some icon painters became less traditional and by the eighteenth century European realism was a definite influence. “Baptism of the Eunuch,” is not in the style of Russian icons that developed out of Byzantine art. Yet, neither is there an indication the painter was aware of works by major European artists of the Renaissance, Baroque, or Rococo periods. The work has a folk art quality that lacks sophistication when compared to artists such as Rembrandt who also painted this subject. Regardless of this, there is a sense of sincerity and dedication in this artist’s work. Icons were not painted for personal glory but, instead, to enhance worship in a church or a private home.

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© 2012 Hovak Najarian

The Stoning of St Stephen | Art for A Easter 5

7:58-59 Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”

The Stoning of St Stephen
ANGELICO, Fra
(b. ca. 1400, Vicchio nell Mugello, d. 1455, Roma)
The Stoning of St Stephen
1447-49
Fresco, 326 x 236 cm
Cappella Niccolina, Palazzi Pontifici, Vatican
Click image for more information.

 

B Easter 5, Art for May 6, 2012

UNKNOWN ICON PAINTER, Russian
(2nd half of 18th century in Palekh)

The Baptism of the Eunuch of the Ethiopean Queen by Philip
1751-1800
Egg tempera on wood, with gilt frame, 39 x 36 cm
Ikonen-Museum, Recklinghausen
Click to open Web Gallery of Art commentary page. Click image for large view.

Related art commentary by Hovak Najarian.
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The Baptism of the Eunuch of the Ethiopian Queen by Philip, Egg Tempera, (ca. AD 1751-1800), Artist Unknown

Commentary by Hovak Najarian

Related post “B Easter 5, Art for May 6, 2012

Duration of time is a factor in many of the arts. In motion pictures and in the theater there is a passage of time as the audience is engaged from beginning to end. A period of time occurs also as the plot of a novel unfolds or as we listen to music. A painting differs from the above arts in that time is not an inherent part of how we experience it; we may choose to examine a painting at length but it is possible to see it in its entirety in a single moment.

When an artist wants to depict events that have taken place in time, they do so usually with a series. Each work depicts a particular event and stands on its own but taken collectively they encompass a period of time; as in Albrecht Durer’s Small Passion. A sequence, in which two or more events are shown in a single painting, however, is less common in the art of the Western World and is found more often in murals and relief sculpture. Michelangelo used a narrative sequence in several panels in the ceiling frescos of the Sistine Chapel; most notably, The Fall and Expulsion from the Garden of Eden. This device also was used by an unknown Russian artist in the icon, The Baptism of the Ethiopian Eunuch by Philip. Unlike the subject of a still-life or landscape (unless there is intentional symbolic content), the above paintings illustrate an event or story and it is necessary for a viewer to have prior knowledge of what is being depicted in order to understand the relationship of the images.

In the “Baptism of the Eunuch,” a carriage in which a high-ranking Ethiopian eunuch and Philip are seated is shown in the upper right side. Before Philip met him, the eunuch had been to Jerusalem to pray and had been reading the book of Isaiah but did not understand a particular passage. When Philip came to him and explained it, the eunuch expressed a desire to be baptized. They traveled together and when they reached a body of water, the baptism took place. In the sequence of events, the conversation between the two men and the carriage ride preceded the baptism but in this painting it is part of the background narrative and is included as a secondary subject. The baptism is the primary point of focus. The scene of the baptism is placed prominently in the foreground and Philip’s size dwarfs the eunuch. The artist may have been following the tradition of depicting a person’s size in accordance with their importance but it is also possible that the painter was somewhat unskilled and simply doing the best he could. In comparison to Philip, the eunuch is almost childlike in size and anatomically awkward. His light skin suggests the artist was not familiar with Ethiopians.

After the split in the Russian Orthodox Church during the seventeenth century, some icon painters became less traditional and by the eighteenth century European realism was a definite influence. “Baptism of the Eunuch,” is not in the style of Russian icons that developed out of Byzantine art. Yet, neither is there an indication the painter was aware of works by major European artists of the Renaissance, Baroque, or Rococo periods. The work has a folk art quality that lacks sophistication when compared to artists such as Rembrandt who also painted this subject. Regardless of this, there is a sense of sincerity and dedication in this artist’s work. Icons were not painted for personal glory but, instead, to enhance worship in a church or a private home.

______________

© 2012 Hovak Najarian