Door of the Apostles | Art for Proper 22

‘The apostles said to the Lord’ Luke 17:5

Door of the Apostles
DONATELLO
(b. ca. 1386, Firenze, d. 1466, Firenze)
Door of the Apostles 1440-43
Bronze, 235 x 109 cm
Old Sacristy, San Lorenzo, Florence
Click image for more information.

Commentary by Hovak Najarian

Doors of the Apostles, bronze, 1440-43, Donatello, c. 1386-1466

The Basilica di San Lorenzo (Basilica of St. Lawrence) was consecrated in AD 393 and played a major role in the history of Florence, Italy. It was the city’s cathedral for three hundred years and during the fifteenth century it was the parish church of the wealthy Medici family. Like many of Italy’s old churches, San Lorenzo underwent architectural modifications and additions throughout its years. In 1419, a proposal was made to make changes to the eleventh century Romanesque building. Giovanni de’Medici offered to pay the cost and Filippo Brunelleschi, one of the most influential artists of the early Renaissance, was selected to design the sacristy. His impressive plan won him a commission to redesign the entire church. He completed plans for it but because of delays only the sacristy (now called the “Old Sacristy”) was completed in his lifetime. Brunelleschi’s friend, Donatello, another of the most influential artists of this period was commissioned to design the sacristy’s bronze doors.

As a young man, Donatello gained valuable experience in modeling clay and casting bronze while he apprenticed with Lorenzo Ghiberti at the time the first set of doors were being made for the Baptistery of Florence Cathedral. Ghiberti’s format was to use relief panels to depict scenes from the Bible and his figures were depicted in landscape and architectural settings. For the “Doors of the Apostles” at San Lorenzo, Donatello also used figures in relief but elected to place only two apostles in each of the ten panels and to use no background. Information about Donatello’s intent is lacking but it is reasonable to assume the two apostles in each panel are talking about Christ’s teachings or events that have taken place in their time together. Some seem to be praying but the facial expressions, postures, and gestures of others indicate they are engaged in serious discussions or even in heated arguments. At the time the doors were made, the depiction of this human side of the apostles caused controversy.

Today, Donatello’s “Doors of the Apostles” are overshadowed by the fame of Ghiberti’s doors which are nearby and called “The Doors of Paradise.” The Old Sacristy doors at San Lorenzo do not have a broad range of subject matter and are not located at the Baptistery of the largest and best known cathedral in Florence; instead the doors are at a quiet place – a sacristy – where two members of the Medici family are buried.

Although the construction of the Basilica di San Lorenzo was mostly completed by the end of the fifteenth century, one prominent feature – the façade – remains in its rough unfinished condition even today. In the early fifteenth century, Pope Leo X commissioned Michelangelo to design the façade. Michelangelo designed it and even made a wooden model of it but it was not built. His design for the inside of the façade (looking back from the nave), however, was completed.

Hovak Najarian © 2013

Job and His Wife (with musicians), Art for B Proper 22

Job 2:10
Then his wife said to him, “Do you still persist in your integrity? Curse God, and die.” But he said to her, “You speak as any foolish woman would speak. Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

Job and His Wife
Job and His Wife
DÜRER, Albrecht
(b. 1471, Nürnberg, d. 1528, Nürnberg)
c. 1504
Oil on panel, 94 x 51 cm
Städelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt
Click image for more information.

Commentary by Hovak Najarian
(Previous post October 7, 2012)

Job was a very righteous man with great herds of livestock and incalculable wealth. Satan suggested, however, that Job’s piety may not be as strong as it seemed if all his worldly possessions were destroyed. Would he not curse God if he were to lose everything? Job was put to the test. His oxen, donkeys, and camels numbering in the thousands were stolen and fire destroyed his 7,000 sheep. A mighty wind from the desert caused his house to collapse and his ten children were killed, but Job remained steadfast. He did not curse God. He shaved his head, tore off his clothes and said “Naked I came out of my mother’s womb and naked shall I return; Lord has given, and Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” Next came physical suffering and ridicule from his wife. Friends came to console him but they thought the terrible occurrences were the result of sin. They urged him to confess. God intervened finally and returned Job to good health; his livestock was restored to even greater numbers and he had a new family.

This painting of Job’s suffering was commissioned by Frederick the Wise (Frederick III, Elector of Saxony); a Protestant and a strong supporter of Martin Luther. Memories of sweeping epidemics such as the Bubonic Plague were fearful to him as was a new threat, syphilis. He commissioned several artists to deal with the theme of suffering. Durer’s painting depicts the flames (upper left) that destroyed his servants and sheep, and in the foreground, Job is shown physically overcome and spiritually downcast. The weight of his head is being supported by his arm as he sits overwhelmed and without clothes. His wife (in a typical Nuremberg dress of the early sixteenth century) has no sympathy for him and pours a bucket of water on his neck. Her suggestion was that Job should curse God and die.

Scholars believe Albrecht Durer’s painting, Job and His Wife, was part of a larger panel; possibly a diptych or even a triptych. It also has been suggested this painting is the left side of a larger painting that was cut in half. It is agreed that another panel containing two musicians was part of the original. The fact that the background landscape of both paintings and a portion of Job’s wife’s dress line up with each other when placed side by side support the belief they were once together as one.

In the section that was separated from this scene, two musicians – a flute player and drummer – are standing nearby playing to Job. Music, it was believed, was soothing to sufferers of melancholia in particular and it was prescribed by healers. While studying in Venice, Durer was familiar with street minstrels in colorful clothes and he added them to this painting to provide comfort to Job.

Note

The Book of Job was selected by renowned authors to be listed among the world’s hundred greatest books.

Frederick the Wise was a collector of relics. In his castle church he had over 17,000 purported relics; included in his collection were five pieces of the true cross, parts of the holy cradle, swaddling clothes, a piece of Moses’ burning bush, and even milk from the Virgin Mary.

Ashburnham Pentateuch – Moses receiving the law / The Red Vineyard| Art for A Proper 22

Exodus 20:1 Then God spoke all these words: I am the LORD your God…

Moses receiving the law
Ashburnham Pentateuch – Moses receiving the law
c. 600
Bibliothèque nationale de France
Paris
FranceClick image for more information.

Matthew 21:33 Jesus said, “Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard…

The Red Vineyard
GOGH, Vincent van
The Red Vineyard
November 1888, Arles
Oil on canvas, 75 x 93 cm
Pushkin Museum, Moscow Click image for more information.
Click for artist bio.

B Proper 22 Art for October 7, 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.

Job and His Wife
c. 1504
Oil on panel, 94 x 51 cm
Städelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt
Click to open Web Gallery of Art commentary page. Click image for large view.

Related art commentary by Hovak Najarian.

Job and His Wife, c. 1504, Oil on Panel, Albrecht Durer, (1471-1528)

Commentary by Hovak Najarian

Related post B Proper 22 Art for October 7, 2012

Job was a very righteous man with great herds of livestock and incalculable wealth. Satan suggested, however, that Job’s piety may not be as strong as it seemed if all his worldly possessions were destroyed. Would he not curse God if he were to lose everything? Job was put to the test. His oxen, donkeys, and camels numbering in the thousands were stolen and fire destroyed his 7,000 sheep. A mighty wind from the desert caused his house to collapse and his ten children were killed, but Job remained steadfast. He did not curse God. He shaved his head, tore off his clothes and said “Naked I came out of my mother’s womb and naked shall I return; Lord has given, and Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” Next came physical suffering and ridicule from his wife. Friends came to console him but they thought the terrible occurrences were the result of sin. They urged him to confess. God intervened finally and returned Job to good health; his livestock was restored to even greater numbers and he had a new family.

This painting of Job’s suffering was commissioned by Frederick the Wise (Frederick III, Elector of Saxony); a Protestant and a strong supporter of Martin Luther. Memories of sweeping epidemics such as the Bubonic Plague were fearful to him as was a new threat, syphilis. He commissioned several artists to deal with the theme of suffering. Durer’s painting depicts the flames (upper left) that destroyed his servants and sheep, and in the foreground, Job is shown physically overcome and spiritually downcast. The weight of his head is being supported by his arm as he sits overwhelmed and without clothes. His wife (in a typical Nuremberg dress of the early sixteenth century) has no sympathy for him and pours a bucket of water on his neck. Her suggestion was that Job should curse God and die.

Scholars believe Albrecht Durer’s painting, Job and His Wife, was part of a larger panel; possibly a diptych or even a triptych. It also has been suggested this painting is the left side of a larger painting that was cut in half. It is agreed that another panel containing two musicians was part of the original. The fact that the background landscape of both paintings and a portion of Job’s wife’s dress line up with each other when placed side by side support the belief they were once together as one.

In the section that was separated from this scene, two musicians – a flute player and drummer – are standing nearby playing to Job. Music, it was believed, was soothing to sufferers of melancholia in particular and it was prescribed by healers. While studying in Venice, Durer was familiar with street minstrels in colorful clothes and he added them to this painting to provide comfort to Job.

Note

The Book of Job was selected by renowned authors to be listed among the world’s hundred greatest books.

Frederick the Wise was a collector of relics. In his castle church he had over 17,000 purported relics; included in his collection were five pieces of the true cross, parts of the holy cradle, swaddling clothes, a piece of Moses’ burning bush, and even milk from the Virgin Mary.

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© 2012 Hovak Najarian