Pride | Art for Proper 17C

Pride from The Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things
Pride from The Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things
Hieronymus Bosch
around 1500
Oil on wood
120 cm × 150 cm (47 in × 59 in)
Museo del Prado, Madrid
Click image to see entire work.

Commentary by Hovak Najarian

Pride (Detail from: “The Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things”), oil on wood, c. 1500, Hieronymus Bosch, 1450-1516

The list of “Seven Deadly Sins” (pride, envy, wrath, sloth, greed, gluttony, and lust) is not biblical in source but instead was written by Evagrius Ponticus at a fourth century Egyptian monastery. It contained eight “sins” originally. “Vainglory” was one of the eight but its meaning overlapped with pride and it was dropped. Also, at one time, the list included “acedia.” meaning listlessness or torpor (a state of being found sometimes in people such as monks who lived a solitary life); it was changed to sloth. Although the term “deadly” seems grim and fatal, St. Gregory the Great noted the items on the list did not in themselves constitute sins. These were, however, behavioral characteristics or vices that could lead to sin. The “Seven Deadly Sins” also are called, “Capital Vices” and “Cardinal Sins.”

While the Renaissance was taking place in Italy, there were still Gothic elements remaining in Northern Europe. Classicism along with its gods and goddesses re-entered the art of Italy but painters in the North tended to be slower to leave themes that focused on morality. Hieronymus Bosch’s paintings included everyday people and often they were satirical and pessimistic; sin and punishment seemed to be his preoccupations. It has been speculated, “The Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things,” could have been painted by one of Bosch’s pupils but scholars continue to support the belief that it is from the hand of the master.

The full painting of the “Deadly Sins” is rectangular in shape with a large circle dominating the center. The circle has been divided into seven sections (in the manner of a Lazy Susan) and a “sin” is depicted in each of the sections. The very center of the large circle is believed to represent the eye of God. Within its “pupil,” Christ is emerging from his tomb. Below it (in Latin) is written “Beware, Beware, God Sees” In the four corners are smaller circles where the “Four Last Things” are depicted; “Death of the Sinner,” “Judgment,” “Hell,” and “Glory.”

The scene, “Pride” (Latin: Suberbia), depicts a woman dressed in the typical Dutch fashion of her time. Just after entering a room she is shocked and immobilized when a mirror is thrust before her by a fierce looking demon that emerged abruptly from the shadow of the heavy wooden cupboard. The shock has forced her to look at her life and to become aware of pride.

Although to us it may seem like the woman in the painting is wearing a lampshade on her head, it is in fact a standard gauze headdress in the style of her day. Its back side is flat and does not reveal the interesting and often creative manner in which women’s headdresses were folded and pinned in front.

Hovak Najarian © 2013

Icon of James the Just, Art for B Proper 17

James 1:27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

Icon of James the Just
Icon of James the Just
unknown artist

Click image for more information.

Commentary by Hovak Najarian

(Previous post September 2, 2012)

Surnames often are the result of physical characteristics, occupations, places of origin, and family connections. Names such as Johnson or Peterson require no explanation and we are familiar with “Mac” (son of) in Irish names and “von” (meaning from) in German names. Yet, “last names” as we know them today were not widely used until the modern era. In biblical days, American architect Philip Johnson (designer of the Crystal Cathedral), would have been known as Philip the son of John. In times when people were given a single name, an identifying designator often was necessary to differentiate one person from another. Among the disciples was Matthew the tax collector and Simon the Zealot. Two disciples were named James; James the son of Zebedee and James the son of Alphaeus. At times, a person was given several different identifying descriptions.

Although one of the brothers of Jesus also was named James, the exact nature of his kinship has been debated; it has been said he was a step brother, half brother, or cousin. He was not a participant apparently in Jesus’ ministry and it is likely he was not sure of Jesus’ divine nature. Upon seeing Jesus after the resurrection, however, James was convinced. As Bishop of Jerusalem he helped spread the Christian faith and became known as, “James of Jerusalem.” Because he spent so much time in prayer, it was said his knees were hard like those of a camel; thus he was known as “James the Righteous.” He is known more often as, “James the Just” because of the great respect for his wisdom.

Though highly respected in many quarters, James was not appreciated by the high priest of Jerusalem. His martyrdom took place when he was asked by Ananias to denounce Jesus from atop the temple. James went up but instead of cooperating, he began preaching the gospel. For this, he was shoved off and hurt critically but was still alive. As he prayed to ask forgiveness for those who tried to kill him he was stoned and then a man with a fuller’s club hit him on the head and he died. He was buried near the Temple.

Images of Mary, Jesus, and the apostles began appearing very early in church history and it was believed some were of miraculous origin. Icons were used particularly in worship by Orthodox Christians but during the eighth and ninth century a segment of the Church regarded them to be “graven images.” The Church defended the use of icons and pointed to the belief that Jesus himself pressed a cloth to his face and produced an image. In icons of James the Just, he is depicted in his linen bishop’s vestments wearing a long beard (it was reported he never wore wool and never cut his beard) and he is shown holding a book of his writings. Often he is depicted with a fuller’s club, the stick used as he was being killed. Neither the artist nor the date (possibly 12th century) of the image shown above is known. Except for a few notable exceptions, painters of icons worked anonymously.

Note

Icon: The term is from the Greek word eikon meaning likeness or image.
Fuller’s club: This stick is used to beat clothes when they are being washed.

St. Luke as Icon Painter: There is a tradition that Luke painted an icon of Mary as well as images of Peter and Paul. St. Thomas Christians of India lay claim to still having an icon of Mary that was painted by Luke and taken to India by Thomas himself. In illuminated manuscripts, St. Luke sometimes is shown at an easel but there is no evidence to support the tradition that he was an artist.
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© 2012 Hovak Najarian

Moses and the Burning Bush / Bust of St Peter| Art for A Proper 17

Exodus 3:2 There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed.

Moses and the Burning Bush
Moses and the Burning Bush
c. 250
Fresco
Dura-Europos
Syria
Click image for more information.

Matthew 16:22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.”

Bust of St Peter
CORDIER, Nicolas
Bust of St Peter
1608
Marble
San Sebastiano fuori le Mura, Rome
Click image for more information.
Click for artist bio.

B Proper 17, Art for September 2, 2012

Icon of James the Just
unknown artist
Click to open Wikipedia article on James the Just.

Click for Wikipedia article on The Epistle of James.

Related art commentary by Hovak Najarian.

James the Just, Icon (Artist and Date Unknown)

Commentary by Hovak Najarian

Related post B Proper 17, Art for September 2, 2012

Surnames often are the result of physical characteristics, occupations, places of origin, and family connections. Names such as Johnson or Peterson require no explanation and we are familiar with “Mac” (son of) in Irish names and “von” (meaning from) in German names. Yet, “last names” as we know them today were not widely used until the modern era. In biblical days, American architect Philip Johnson (designer of the Crystal Cathedral), would have been known as Philip the son of John. In times when people were given a single name, an identifying designator often was necessary to differentiate one person from another. Among the disciples was Matthew the tax collector and Simon the Zealot. Two disciples were named James; James the son of Zebedee and James the son of Alphaeus. At times, a person was given several different identifying descriptions.

Although one of the brothers of Jesus also was named James, the exact nature of his kinship has been debated; it has been said he was a step brother, half brother, or cousin. He was not a participant apparently in Jesus’ ministry and it is likely he was not sure of Jesus’ divine nature. Upon seeing Jesus after the resurrection, however, James was convinced. As Bishop of Jerusalem he helped spread the Christian faith and became known as, “James of Jerusalem.” Because he spent so much time in prayer, it was said his knees were hard like those of a camel; thus he was known as “James the Righteous.” He is known more often as, “James the Just” because of the great respect for his wisdom.

Though highly respected in many quarters, James was not appreciated by the high priest of Jerusalem. His martyrdom took place when he was asked by Ananias to denounce Jesus from atop the temple. James went up but instead of cooperating, he began preaching the gospel. For this, he was shoved off and hurt critically but was still alive. As he prayed to ask forgiveness for those who tried to kill him he was stoned and then a man with a fuller’s club hit him on the head and he died. He was buried near the Temple.

Images of Mary, Jesus, and the apostles began appearing very early in church history and it was believed some were of miraculous origin. Icons were used particularly in worship by Orthodox Christians but during the eighth and ninth century a segment of the Church regarded them to be “graven images.” The Church defended the use of icons and pointed to the belief that Jesus himself pressed a cloth to his face and produced an image. In icons of James the Just, he is depicted in his linen bishop’s vestments wearing a long beard (it was reported he never wore wool and never cut his beard) and he is shown holding a book of his writings. Often he is depicted with a fuller’s club, the stick used as he was being killed. Neither the artist nor the date (possibly 12th century) of the image shown above is known. Except for a few notable exceptions, painters of icons worked anonymously.

Note

Icon: The term is from the Greek word eikon meaning likeness or image.
Fuller’s club: This stick is used to beat clothes when they are being washed.

St. Luke as Icon Painter: There is a tradition that Luke painted an icon of Mary as well as images of Peter and Paul. St. Thomas Christians of India lay claim to still having an icon of Mary that was painted by Luke and taken to India by Thomas himself. In illuminated manuscripts, St. Luke sometimes is shown at an easel but there is no evidence to support the tradition that he was an artist.

______________

© 2012 Hovak Najarian