Allegory of Faith | Art for Proper 14C

Praying Saviour
DELL, Peter the Elder
(b. ca. 1490, Würzburg, d. 1552, Würzburg)
Allegory of Faith
1534
Limewood, 51 x 72 cm
Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg
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Commentary by Hovak Najarian

Allegory of Faith, limewood, 1534, Peter Dell the Elder, 1490-1552

The traditional materials used for sculpture are stone, wood, clay, and bronze. Of these four, stone and wood are sculpted by a subtractive process. When a marble block or a section of tree trunk is carved, chips are removed until a desired form – the sculpture – remains. Because carving wood or stone is time-consuming and sometimes physically demanding, sculptors today often prefer to work in materials that offer less resistance. In the time of Peter Dell the Elder, however, both wood and marble were still very much in use. Dell worked occasionally in stone and bronze but the area for which he is best known is the long standing German tradition of wood carving. After Dell’s death, his son, Peter Dell the Younger, continued the work of his father’s shop in Wurzburg.

Dell’s “Allegory of Faith” is a type of sculpture called bas relief. It is a carved surface that is shallow in depth and like a painting, is to be viewed from one side only. Instead of being created with colors and values as is a painting, however, the subject matter is defined with shapes, textures and depth levels. For this relief, Dell used an even-grained, easily carved, light-colored wood called limewood (neither the name nor the tree is related to citrus). Its pale brown patina is the result of the natural aging process.

Like other art work of this period, Dell’s relief is intended to teach and inspire. The scene of this allegory depicts a young woman representing the human soul journeying through life. She is in a small ship and is being attacked by those who would distract her and set her off course. Death at the upper left side is on a horse; the devil at the upper right-middle is on a lion; and Frau Welt (an allegorical figure in German literature) is on a sea serpent. [From the twelfth century onward in German lore, the world has been represented as a seductress known as Frau Welt (Mrs. World). With her beauty and guile she tempts a person with promises of wealth, happiness, and fulfillment. Instead, if you follow her ways – the ways of the world – your journey is likely to result in sorrow, disease and decay.] Frau Welt is in the water at the right. Each of these adversaries is out to shake the faith of the young woman traveling through life and each has a bow with three arrows aimed toward her. The woman is steadfast, however, and her eyes are focused on the face of God above as she moves away from a city that is aflame. Christ is on the shore pointing the way. To assure that the symbols in this allegory are recognized, Dell has identified some of them; the ship is labeled, “Flesh and Blood.” “The Christian Life” is written on the ship’s rudder; this will keep her journey on course. While traveling the sea of life, her sail and rigging are, “Love and Patience.” She is guided by the “Word of God.” St. Paul, the Defender of the Faith, is standing at the lower left side of this scene holding a sword in his hand. When St. Paul was martyred he was beheaded with a sword and this (the sword) became one of his identifying symbols.

Hovak Najarian © 2013

David mourns Absalom | Art for B Proper 14

2 Samuel 18:33 The king was deeply moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept; and as he went, he said, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!”

David mourns Absalom
David mourns Absalom
Marc Chagall
1931-39
Etching

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Commentary by Hovak Najarian
Previous post July 29, 2012

Marc Chagall was born into a close-knit Jewish family that moved to Vitebsk, Russia in his youth. His interest in art was encouraged and when he was a young man he left home to live in Paris, the center of the art world at that time. In Paris, he was influenced by Cubism but did not continue in that direction. Instead, his paintings evolved into a personal art that has been called, Fantasy, Expressionism, Surrealism, or even Naïve Art; none of these categories fit entirely. In 1914, when World War I began, Chagall went back to Russia but while there, the Bolshevik Revolution (1917) changed his world again. He returned to Paris after the war. Later, the rise of Nazism in Germany in the 1930s was of great concern and he tried to express his thoughts through paintings; subjects included scenes of the crucifixion. That a devout Jew would paint a crucifixion was unusual but he said, for him, the figure on the cross also symbolized the suffering of the Jewish people. Chagall’s David Mourns Absalom, was made during this time period.

In Chagall’s work there is usually a child-like freedom of expression and rules of proportion or the law of gravity are not inhibiting factors. People may be placed upside down or floating freely through the air, and there is charm in scenes such as a man (possibly his uncle) on a rooftop playing the violin. In contrast to his usual work, Chagall’s David Mourns Absalom is not a celebration. When David was told Absalom had been killed, his grief was overwhelming. He said, “Oh my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would God I had died for thee, Oh Absalom, my son, my son!” (II Samuel 18:33). Even with David’s worldly glory – represented by his crown and the fortress-like walls and tower in the background – he could not change what happened. David with a hand on his forehead is sitting on the ground carrying his grief alone while people passing on the road below are preoccupied with their own concerns. The reason for Chagall’s placement of the sun in the background is not clear; as a setting sun it may reflect David’s despair. As a rising sun, it may indicate hope for the future.

Inasmuch as acid is used to etch a plate, a heliogravure (the process used to print Chagall’s drawing) may be called an “etching” but it differs from a print made by an artist working directly on a prepared plate with a scriber. Nicephore Niecpe of France developed this process in the early nineteenth century while trying to make a photograph. It has been known since the time of the early Greeks that light carries images. If we place ourselves in a light free room (a camera obscura – meaning “dark room”) with a small hole in one wall, light enters the room through the hole and the outside scene is projected (upside down) onto the opposite wall; Niepce and others were seeking a way to make a permanent copy of the projected image but early photographs faded rather quickly. In answer to this, Niepce invented a method that could print an image in ink. In this process, an image was transferred onto an emulsion covered copper plate. After several steps, the plate was etched, inked, and printed. Although early photographs would fade, an image of it could be printed permanently on paper in ink. Drawings could be reproduced by this method as well.

Note

Heliogravure translates to “sun engraving.” Sunlight is used to harden the light sensitive emulsion while preparing the plate but a heliogravure is not an “engraving” in the traditional sense. Recessed areas are not removed with a burin. They are eaten away with acid and therefore it is an “etching.”

Nicephore Niecpe is credited with making the first photograph (in 1826).

If a person is not familiar with Chagall’s work and saw only David Mourns Absalom, they might think it was refrigerator-door-art drawn by a grandchild. It is likely that this drawing was a preliminary sketch done hastily with charcoal as Chagall was exploring ideas.

Images from Chagall’s paintings of village scenes and houses were used for sets of the musical, “Fiddler on the Roof,” (based on the Tevye stories of Sholem Aleichem). Chagall designed sets for Stravinsky’s ballet, “The Firebird,” and he also painted murals. Two of his murals were for opera houses; the Metropolitan in New York City and the Paris Opera.

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© 2012 Hovak Najarian

Joseph’s Bloody Coat Brought to Jacob / St Peter is Walking on the Water| Art for A Proper 14

Genesis 37:3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his children, because he was the son of his old age; and he had made him a long robe with sleeves.

Joseph's Bloody Coat Brought to Jacob
VELÁZQUEZ, Diego Rodriguez de Silva y
Joseph’s Bloody Coat Brought to Jacob
1630
Oil on canvas, 223 x 250 cm
Monasterio de San Lorenzo, El Escorial
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Click fo artist bio.

Matthew 14:29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus.

St Peter is Walking on the Water

BORRASSA, Lluis
St Peter is Walking on the Water
1411-13
Tempera on wood, 102 x 65 cm
Sant Pere, Terrasa
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B Proper 14, Art for August 12, 2012

CHAGALL, Marc
Click to explore other works by this artist.

David mourns Absalom
Artist: CHAGALL, Marc
Date: 1931-39
Technique: Etching
Click to open Biblical Art commentary page. Click ‘IMAGE’ link for large view.

Related art commentary by Hovak Najarian.

David Mourns Absalom, 1931-1939, Heliogravure, Marc Chagall (1887-1985)

Commentary by Hovak Najarian

Related post B Proper 14, Art for August 12, 2012

Marc Chagall was born into a close-knit Jewish family that moved to Vitebsk, Russia in his youth. His interest in art was encouraged and when he was a young man he left home to live in Paris, the center of the art world at that time. In Paris, he was influenced by Cubism but did not continue in that direction. Instead, his paintings evolved into a personal art that has been called, Fantasy, Expressionism, Surrealism, or even Naïve Art; none of these categories fit entirely. In 1914, when World War I began, Chagall went back to Russia but while there, the Bolshevik Revolution (1917) changed his world again. He returned to Paris after the war. Later, the rise of Nazism in Germany in the 1930s was of great concern and he tried to express his thoughts through paintings; subjects included scenes of the crucifixion. That a devout Jew would paint a crucifixion was unusual but he said, for him, the figure on the cross also symbolized the suffering of the Jewish people. Chagall’s David Mourns Absalom, was made during this time period.

In Chagall’s work there is usually a child-like freedom of expression and rules of proportion or the law of gravity are not inhibiting factors. People may be placed upside down or floating freely through the air, and there is charm in scenes such as a man (possibly his uncle) on a rooftop playing the violin. In contrast to his usual work, Chagall’s David Mourns Absalom is not a celebration. When David was told Absalom had been killed, his grief was overwhelming. He said, “Oh my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would God I had died for thee, Oh Absalom, my son, my son!” (II Samuel 18:33). Even with David’s worldly glory – represented by his crown and the fortress-like walls and tower in the background – he could not change what happened. David with a hand on his forehead is sitting on the ground carrying his grief alone while people passing on the road below are preoccupied with their own concerns. The reason for Chagall’s placement of the sun in the background is not clear; as a setting sun it may reflect David’s despair. As a rising sun, it may indicate hope for the future.

Inasmuch as acid is used to etch a plate, a heliogravure (the process used to print Chagall’s drawing) may be called an “etching” but it differs from a print made by an artist working directly on a prepared plate with a scriber. Nicephore Niecpe of France developed this process in the early nineteenth century while trying to make a photograph. It has been known since the time of the early Greeks that light carries images. If we place ourselves in a light free room (a camera obscura – meaning “dark room”) with a small hole in one wall, light enters the room through the hole and the outside scene is projected (upside down) onto the opposite wall; Niepce and others were seeking a way to make a permanent copy of the projected image but early photographs faded rather quickly. In answer to this, Niepce invented a method that could print an image in ink. In this process, an image was transferred onto an emulsion covered copper plate. After several steps, the plate was etched, inked, and printed. Although early photographs would fade, an image of it could be printed permanently on paper in ink. Drawings could be reproduced by this method as well.

Note

Heliogravure translates to “sun engraving.” Sunlight is used to harden the light sensitive emulsion while preparing the plate but a heliogravure is not an “engraving” in the traditional sense. Recessed areas are not removed with a burin. They are eaten away with acid and therefore it is an “etching.”

Nicephore Niecpe is credited with making the first photograph (in 1826).

If a person is not familiar with Chagall’s work and saw only David Mourns Absalom, they might think it was refrigerator-door-art drawn by a grandchild. It is likely that this drawing was a preliminary sketch done hastily with charcoal as Chagall was exploring ideas.

Images from Chagall’s paintings of village scenes and houses were used for sets of the musical, “Fiddler on the Roof,” (based on the Tevye stories of Sholem Aleichem). Chagall designed sets for Stravinsky’s ballet, “The Firebird,” and he also painted murals. Two of his murals were for opera houses; the Metropolitan in New York City and the Paris Opera.

______________

© 2012 Hovak Najarian