Resurrection of the Flesh | Art for Proper 27

Luke 20: 33 “In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had married her.”

Resurrection of the Flesh
(b. ca. 1450, Cortona, d. 1523, Cortona)
Resurrection of the Flesh
Fresco, width 700 cm
Chapel of San Brizio, Duomo, Orvieto
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Commentary by Hovak Najarian

Resurrection of the Flesh, fresco, 1499-1502, Luca Signorelli, 1441-1523

Art created in Italy during the turn of the century from the 1490s to the 1520s elicits a sense of awe in us even today. During those years, Michelangelo painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, Leonardo painted the “Last Supper,” Raphael painted “The School of Athens,” and Luca Signorelli painted his fresco cycle in Orvieto Cathedral. Artists of the High Renaissance achieved their remarkable results because problems that dogged earlier artists for many centuries had been resolved.

The problem of creating pictorial space was resolved in the early fifteenth century but creating a convincing likeness of a human figure from any point of view was another major challenge. Figures in early paintings were depicted usually in a front or side view with little or no sense of movement; they often were ill-proportioned, stiff in appearance, and in sculpture-like poses. Signorelli’s mastery of anatomy, perspective, and foreshortening gave him the skills and freedom to paint the human form in every conceivable position. He seemed to delight in doing so.

At the Cappella Nova (the “New Chapel” – now called the Chapel of San Brizio) in the Cathedral at Orvieto, Signorelli was commissioned first to complete ceiling frescos that were begun by Fra Angelico. Signorelli’s work impressed his patrons (also, his fee was less than that of other artists and he worked faster) and this led to a commission to paint seven side walls. Among the frescos of the side walls are scenes depicting the end of time. The painting, “Resurrection of the Flesh,” illustrates the text found in the First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians: “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment…. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.” (1 Cor. 15:51-52, RSV)

In this painting, two larger than life angels are in the sky. They have sounded their trumpets (with Crusader flags attached) and the dead are emerging from the earth; many have risen in full flesh. Others are only partially above the surface and are in the process of lifting themselves out. Some are still in skeleton form; here and there only a skull has popped up. In the central foreground, two men are assisting full-fleshed figures that are emerging and on the far right a man is having a conversation with a group of standing skeletons. Signorelli’s skills matched his fertile imagination and his ability to depict freely the human figure impressed and influenced many of his contemporaries; Michelangelo was among his admirers.

[Signorelli did not seem to have an interest in the accuracy of a skeleton’s form. His rendering of the pelvis is quite inaccurate.]

Hovak Najarian © 2013

The Widow’s Mite | Art for Proper 27B

Mark 12:42 A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny.

The Widow's Mite
The Widow’s Mite, The Macklin Bible, 1794
Artaud, W. (William), 1763-1823 ; Delattre, Jean Marie, 1745 or 6-1840
Jean and Alexander Heard Library Nashville TN.
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Commentary by Hovak Najarian

The Widow’s Mite, 1794, Engraving, Jean Marie Delattre, 1745-1840, after an oil painting by William Artaud, 1763-1823

Today, a variety of photo-mechanical methods can be used to make reproductions of paintings but none were available during the eighteenth century. Unless a painting was public art or displayed in a church, it was likely to be in a private home and the number of people seeing it was limited. Artists such as Albrecht Durer and Rembrandt van Rijn remedied this in part by producing original prints (etchings, engravings, and woodcuts) in multiples. Fine art also was made available to a wider audience by employing skilled engravers to make detailed copies of paintings; the engravings then could be printed in large numbers. Engravings did not reproduce a painting’s colors, however, and the effect was similar to using the halftone process for printing photos in a newspaper. Like a halftone, engravings were printed usually in black ink and were primarily in a range of gray tones.

Thomas Macklin, an eighteenth century London art connoisseur, founded a business selling fine quality etchings and engravings but his most ambitious project was the publication of an illustrated Bible. It was published in seven volumes and illustrated with engravings of paintings commissioned from the finest English artists of his day. “Widow’s Mite,” by Jean Marie Delattre, is an engraving of a painting made by William Artaud for the Macklin Bible.

The setting for the “Widow’s Mite” is at a time when Christ was teaching at the temple in Jerusalem (Mark 12: 38-44). He told listeners to beware of scribes whose actions promoted their self image of being important; this could be seen even in the length of their pretentious prayers. He mentioned also the various ways scribes misuse their position; among them was taking advantage of poor widows. A little later, as Christ sat across from the treasury where the wealthy came to donate great sums of money, a poor widow came and contributed only two mites. The illustration of this scene in the Macklin Bible draws our attention to the figure of Christ who is seated near center and radiant in white. The widow has a child in tow and Christ is gesturing toward her while facing his disciples and pointing out that although the widow’s contribution was minute, it was a greater sacrifice than donations from the wealthy because the rich gave out of their abundance.


The Macklin Bible, published in 1800, has been described as the largest and most impressive Bible ever printed. The seven volumes are each slightly over nineteen inches in length and fifteen inches in width. Each volume is almost three inches thick and all of them together weigh 130 lbs.

The small coin referred to in the Bible as a “mite” was actually a lepton. There was not a coin called mite in use during the time of Christ. A mite was a coin issued in Southern Netherlands in the early fifteenth century and Tyndale, in his translation of the Bible in 1525, used the term as the amount of the widow’s donation. It was used again in the King James translation of 1611. Like the lepton, a mite was almost valueless. A mite’s worth was said to be less than a cent, a penny, or a farthing. It is difficult to calculate what its value would be today. “Very little” may be the best answer.

SAINT MARGARET OF SCOTLAND OVAL PATRON SAINT MEDAL / The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins| Art for St Margarets. Day and A Proper 27

14KT Yellow Gold
Medal Dimensions: 1″ H x 3/4″ W (Large – Appropriate for men; older boys or anybody that prefers to wear a larger medal.)

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Matthew 25:1-2 Jesus said, “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise.”

The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins
The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins,
ca. 1803–5
William Blake
(British, 1757–1827)
Watercolor, brush and gray wash, pen and black ink over graphite
14 1/8 x 13 1/16 in. (36 x 33.2 cm)

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