The Triumph of Faith | Art for Proper 15C

The four evangelists, filled with faith, begin their journey into the world to preach the gospel.

The Triumph of Faith
VELLERT, Dirck Jacobsz.
(b. ca. 1480, Amsterdam, d. 1547, Antwerpen)
The Triumph of Faith
1517
Grisaille on lightly tinted glass, diameter 22 cm
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
Click image for more information.

Commentary by Hovak Najarian

The Triumph of Faith, grisaille on tinted glass, 1517, Dirck Jacobsz Vellert, c.1480-1547

Dirck Jacobsz Vellert, a major artist of the “Northern Renaissance,” worked in Antwerp but his designs for stained glass were not limited to regional projects; during his career he received widespread recognition. Today, however, many of his pieces are lost and his fame has diminished. “The Triumph of Faith,” was one of Vellert’s six panels based on the poem, Trionfi (Triumphs), by the fourteenth century humanist Francisco Petrarch.

A grisaille (gree-zai) – from “gris,” the French term for “gray” – often resembles a marble bas relief. This type of monochromatic work is painted usually only in gray and white values. Vellert’s grisaille, however, is not a painting; instead it is created in a technique similar to enameling on glass. Vellert began with a tinted glass panel and painted it with oxides. He placed it in a furnace repeatedly to fuse the image as it was being created.

In “The Triumph of Faith,” a crowd is on hand as the four evangelists, filled with faith, begin their journey into the world to preach the gospel. As a backdrop for this allegorical event, God is depicted in the upper middle ground wearing a crown and sitting on a throne-like chariot; the body of Christ is like a limp pieta in his lap. Two youthful angels (one is mostly hidden by God’s right leg), are on the throne with trumpets at their lips and they seem to be offering a send-off fanfare as the evangelists are departing. Matthew, symbolized by a human likeness, is pointing the way. The other three evangelists in symbolic animal form (Mark, a Lion; Luke, an Ox; John, an Eagle), are with him as they go into the world to spread the word of God.

Early Christian artists began using symbols for the four evangelists in the early fifth century. The lion and ox are pictured usually with wings – the eagle did not need wings added – but in “The Triumph of Faith,” Vellert has given wings to only the human symbol for Matthew; not to the lion and ox. The thought behind the symbols for the evangelists are as follows:

Matthew: The Book of Matthew begins with Christ’s human ancestry and in this gospel the human side of Christ’s life is given. Thus, Matthew’s symbol is a human likeness with wings.

Mark: The Gospel of Mark tells the story of the resurrection. Once it was believed a lion was lifeless when it was born; it would be awakened to life by its sire’s tongue and roar. Thus the lion became the symbol for Mark.

Luke: The Gospel of Luke tells of the passion of Christ. An ox was used in sacrificial offerings and by association it became the symbol for Luke.

John: An eagle flies into the heavens. John soared into the heavens in spirit and thus the eagle became his symbol.

Hovak Najarian © 2013

Solomon | Art for B Proper 15

1 Kings 3:10-12a It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, I now do according to your word.

Solomon
Duccio di Buoninsegna
(b. ca. 1255, Siena, d. 1319, Siena)
Solomon
1308-11
Tempera on wood, 42,5 x 16 cm
Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, Siena

Click image for more information.

Commentary by Hovak Najarian
Previous post August 19, 2012

Duccio’s altarpiece, Maesta (Majesty) painted for the Cathedral of Siena in the early fourteenth century, was composed of a large panel of the Madonna and child surrounded by a host of saints and angels. In its original form, this main panel was part of an assemblage that included many smaller paintings. Above the central painting were eight crowning panels depicting scenes pertaining to Mary’s death. Below the central panel was a row of thirteen small paintings that made up a predella (Italian: kneeling stool); this served as a base or plinth. The Maesta was the first known altarpiece with a predella and this addition became a form used by subsequent artists. On the reverse side of the main panel there were originally forty-three smaller paintings representing events in Christ’s life.

The scenes in Duccio’s predella illustrate The Annunciation and events in Christ’s infancy and youth but they are not in chronological order. Each scene is approximately square in shape and each except the last one is followed immediately by a panel that is the same height but half as wide containing an image of an Old Testament prophet holding a scroll. The prophet’s words on the scroll are interpreted as foretelling the New Testament event that is pictured in the preceding scene. The scenes and accompanying prophets of the Maesta predella, from left to right, are as follows:

Annunciation: The Prophet Isaiah (7:14)
Birth of Christ: The Prophet Ezekiel (44:2)
Adoration of the Magi: The Prophet Solomon (shown above).

In the scene of the “Adoration,” three Magi, along with two horses and four men, have arrived to see the Messiah. Two camel heads can be seen in the background, thus indicating they are from the East, and a star is above the grotto where Mary sits with the infant Jesus in her lap. Two of the Magi, wearing crowns and holding gifts, are standing while the third one with his crown on his arm is kneeling as he kisses the foot of the child, Jesus. [Artists often borrow an image if it fits their need (Picasso said “What I see, I steal”). For the basis of his kneeling Magus, Duccio used the image of the kneeling king in Nicola Pisano’s sculpture of the baptistery pulpit at the Cathedral of Pisa]

The panel to the immediate right of the Adoration of the Magi is the lone figure of Solomon, standing with a scroll on which is written a passage from the Book of Psalms; “The kings of Tarshish and the islands shall bring presents: the kings of the Arabs and of Sheba shall offer gifts” (Psalm 72:10).

Presentation in the Temple: The Prophet Malachi (3:1)
Massacre of the Innocents: The Prophet Jeremiah (31:15)
Flight into Egypt: The Prophet Hosea (11:1)
Christ Disputing with the Scribes (not accompanied by a prophet)

The figures of the prophets are small but, as seen in “Solomon,” they stand solemnly and with dignity. It is believed the statues on the facade of the Cathedral of Siena were used as models for each of the prophets.

During the eight hundred years since the Maesta was painted, both time and human actions have taken a toll. In 1711, it was decided to take apart the altarpiece and divide the sections between the two altars of the cathedral. During this process, severe damage was caused. After it was taken apart, several sections were taken to museums and others were misplaced and are missing. A major restoration was done from 1953-1958 at which time it was discovered that part of the damage to Mary and Jesus was caused by nails being driven into their faces in order to hang rosaries.

______________

© 2012 Hovak Najarian

Christ and the Canaanite Woman | Art for A Proper 15

Matthew 15:25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.”

Christ and the Canaanite Woman
JUAN DE FLANDES
Christ and the Canaanite Woman
c. 1500
Oil on panel, 20 x 15 cm
Palacio Real, MadridClick image for more information.
Click fo artist bio.

B Proper 15, Art for August 19, 2012

DUCCIO di Buoninsegna
(b. ca. 1255, Siena, d. 1319, Siena)
Click to open Web Gallery of Art Artist Biography and to explore other works by this artist.

Solomon
1308-11
Tempera on wood, 42,5 x 16 cm
Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, Siena
Click to open Web Gallery of Art commentary page. Click image for large view.

Related art commentary by Hovak Najarian.

Solomon, 1308-1311, Egg Tempera, Duccio di Buoninsegna (c. 1255-1319)

Commentary by Hovak Najarian

Related post B Proper 15, Art for August 19, 2012

Duccio’s altarpiece, Maesta (Majesty) painted for the Cathedral of Siena in the early fourteenth century, was composed of a large panel of the Madonna and child surrounded by a host of saints and angels. In its original form, this main panel was part of an assemblage that included many smaller paintings. Above the central painting were eight crowning panels depicting scenes pertaining to Mary’s death. Below the central panel was a row of thirteen small paintings that made up a predella (Italian: kneeling stool); this served as a base or plinth. The Maesta was the first known altarpiece with a predella and this addition became a form used by subsequent artists. On the reverse side of the main panel there were originally forty-three smaller paintings representing events in Christ’s life.

The scenes in Duccio’s predella illustrate The Annunciation and events in Christ’s infancy and youth but they are not in chronological order. Each scene is approximately square in shape and each except the last one is followed immediately by a panel that is the same height but half as wide containing an image of an Old Testament prophet holding a scroll. The prophet’s words on the scroll are interpreted as foretelling the New Testament event that is pictured in the preceding scene. The scenes and accompanying prophets of the Maesta predella, from left to right, are as follows:

Annunciation: The Prophet Isaiah (7:14)
Birth of Christ: The Prophet Ezekiel (44:2)
Adoration of the Magi: The Prophet Solomon (shown above).

In the scene of the “Adoration,” three Magi, along with two horses and four men, have arrived to see the Messiah. Two camel heads can be seen in the background, thus indicating they are from the East, and a star is above the grotto where Mary sits with the infant Jesus in her lap. Two of the Magi, wearing crowns and holding gifts, are standing while the third one with his crown on his arm is kneeling as he kisses the foot of the child, Jesus. [Artists often borrow an image if it fits their need (Picasso said “What I see, I steal”). For the basis of his kneeling Magus, Duccio used the image of the kneeling king in Nicola Pisano’s sculpture of the baptistery pulpit at the Cathedral of Pisa]

The panel to the immediate right of the Adoration of the Magi is the lone figure of Solomon, standing with a scroll on which is written a passage from the Book of Psalms; “The kings of Tarshish and the islands shall bring presents: the kings of the Arabs and of Sheba shall offer gifts” (Psalm 72:10).

Presentation in the Temple: The Prophet Malachi (3:1)
Massacre of the Innocents: The Prophet Jeremiah (31:15)
Flight into Egypt: The Prophet Hosea (11:1)
Christ Disputing with the Scribes (not accompanied by a prophet)

The figures of the prophets are small but, as seen in “Solomon,” they stand solemnly and with dignity. It is believed the statues on the facade of the Cathedral of Siena were used as models for each of the prophets.

During the eight hundred years since the Maesta was painted, both time and human actions have taken a toll. In 1711, it was decided to take apart the altarpiece and divide the sections between the two altars of the cathedral. During this process, severe damage was caused. After it was taken apart, several sections were taken to museums and others were misplaced and are missing. A major restoration was done from 1953-1958 at which time it was discovered that part of the damage to Mary and Jesus was caused by nails being driven into their faces in order to hang rosaries.

[For a brief background of Duccio and the Maesta Altarpiece see Art Commentary for Proper B Easter 3 for April 22, 2012.]

______________

© 2012 Hovak Najarian