Elijah Fed by the Angel | Art for Proper 7C

Elijah Fed by the Angel
TINTORETTO
Elijah Fed by the Angel
1577-78
Oil on canvas, 370 x 265 cm
Scuola Grande di San Rocco, Venice
Click image for more information.

Scuola Grande di San Rocco.

Commentary by Hovak Najarian

Elijah Fed by the Angel, oil on canvas, c.1577-78, Tintoretto, 1518-1594

During the Renaissance, the composition of many paintings seemed staged but on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo did not organize figures in tableau-like fashion. Later, when he painted, “The Last Judgment,” he introduced even greater dynamic movement. Many sixteenth century artists admired this aspect of his work and it was Venetian painter Tintoretto’s stated desire to emulate the drawing ability of Michelangelo. Like Michelangelo, Tintoretto was praised in his lifetime and history also has treated him kindly; today, he continues to be regarded as an artist of the highest rank.

When Tintoretto received the commission to create paintings for the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice (an institute dedicated to charitable work), he was free from the whims of patrons. He was given permission to develop his own themes. On the ceiling of Sala Superiore (the upper room of the Scuola di San Rocco) – referred to occasionally as Tintoretto’s “Sistine” ceiling – he painted thirteen scenes from the Old Testament. The themes are on the subject of thirst, hunger, and disease; Tintoretto’s “Elijah Fed by an Angel” is one of the illustrations showing God’s providence in times of hunger.

Biblical events leading to the time when Elijah was fed by an angel goes back to when the people of Israel along with King Ahab, and the priests of Baal went to Mt. Carmel for a display of God’s power. The priests of Baal and Elijah each built an altar. When the priests prayed for fire to offer a sacrifice, their efforts were in vain but when Elijah prayed, an intense fire engulfed the altar of God. After this demonstration, hundreds of the priests of Baal were put to death and King Ahab’s wife, Jezebel, a follower of Baal, became livid. Elijah feared for his life and fled to Beersheba in Judah where he went into the wilderness. He sat under a shrub, prayed, and being exhausted, fell asleep. While asleep, an angel brought bread and water to him. Tintoretto’s painting depicts Elijah lying motionless as he is sleeping in the shade at the edge of the desert. Above him is the angel descending with wings and arms outspread. Elijah was awakened by the angel and he ate the bread; he then fell asleep again. Elijah was awakened once more and told to eat because a long journey awaited him.

Note

A painting is a surface on which pigment has been arranged to create an image. The arts of literature, music, theater, and cinema are like journeys. A duration of time is required to travel, read or listen. It also takes time to fully absorb a painting but its subject can be seen superficially in its entirety at a glance; further study will reveal details and deeper content. Artists have found that similarity (of colors shapes, lines, and textures) forms a very strong visual bond. “Elijah Fed by the Angel,” is unified clearly by similar curvilinear forms. The curves unify the composition and are also related visually to the oval-shaped canvas.

Hovak Najarian © 2013

Jezabel and Ahab Meeting Elijah in Naboth’s Vineyard | Art for Proper 6C

Jezabel and Ahab Meeting Elijah in Naboth's Vineyard Giclee

Jezabel and Ahab Meeting Elijah in Naboth’s Vineyard Giclee.
Print by Sir Frank Dicksee Click image for more information.

Commentary by Hovak Najarian

Jezebel and Ahab Meeting Elijah in Naboth’s Vineyard, Frank Dicksee, 1853-1929 [The source of this painting did not cite the date or medium.]

The term “jezebel” has come to mean an embodiment of wickedness in a woman. This association comes from the beautiful Phoenician Princess Jezebel who married King Ahab of Israel during the time of the prophet Elijah. Jezebel was a worshiper of Baal, and a power-seeking woman with no qualms about using any means available to get her way, even murder. After Ahab took her as his bride, possibly for political reasons, she began scheming to bring about the worship of Baal in Israel. Jewish prophets were killed and Elijah was threatened. Ahab, the king, seemed to have neither the will nor the ability to prevent her from doing as she pleased.

One day Ahab decided the vineyard near his castle would be a nice place for a vegetable garden. The vineyard, however, belonged to Naboth and it had been in his family for many generations. Ahab offered to trade another piece of property or pay for it but his offers were rejected. Naboth told Ahab the Lord forbids him to sell his inheritance. When Ahab saw he could not acquire the property, he became ill and would not eat. Jezebel’s quick solution to the problem was to have Naboth killed. Frank Dicksee’s painting depicts the time after Naboths death when Jezebel and Ahab, along with their servants go to the vineyard to claim it. They are surprised by the appearance of a very angry Elijah. The expression on Jezebel’s face expresses her intense dislike of Elijah and her displeasure at being confronted. Early in Dicksee’s career he worked as an illustrator; the painting, “Jezebel and Ahab Meeting Elijah in Naboth’s Vineyard” is likely from that early period. It is a style associated with Sunday School storybook illustrations and differs from the subtle use of color seen typically in Dicksee’s mature paintings.

Dicksee was admired greatly in his lifetime. He became President of the Royal Academy of Art, he was knighted, and King George named him to the Royal Victorian Order. The measure of an artist, however, is determined usually by the insights and understanding they give us about ourselves and the world we experience. Frank Dicksee and Vincent van Gogh were born in the same year (1853) but they followed very different paths. Today, van Gogh’s work continues to stir our emotions whereas Dicksee’s paintings of romanticized events are rarely given attention by art historians.

Note

This painting of Ahab, Jezebel and Elijah is being reproduced currently for commercial purposes and its medium is noted as, “giclee” (zhee-klay). The original image, however, was not created as a print. The French term “giclee, indicates simply that Dicksee’s painting (possibly a watercolor) was reproduced by a finer version of an inkjet printer. When the term “giclee” was coined, the calculated intent was to imbue this copying process with greater cachet. Artists now are creating images directly with inkjet printers but at the present time they are regarded still as pioneers in a new medium.

Hovak Najarian © 2013

The Tree of Jesse | Art for B Proper 6

1 Samuel 16:1 Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite

The Tree of Jesse
MINIATURIST, English
(active 1140s)
The Tree of Jesse
1140s
Illumination on parchment
Lambeth Palace, London

Click image for more information.

Commentary by Hovak Najarian

(Post from June 17, 2012)

During medieval times, light carried mystical and symbolic meaning as it passed through stained glass windows or was reflected from the surface of gold leafed icons. During this time, illuminated manuscripts were written painstakingly on parchment by hand with gold-leafed and vividly colored miniature paintings accompanying the text. Gold itself seemed magical and represented divine radiance; in its reflected light, images were “illuminated” literally.

In manuscripts, early Christian illustrators depicted usually the apostles and events in the life of Christ. During the eleventh century the range expanded to include the genealogy of Christ and from that time forward to the Renaissance, the “Tree of Jesse” remained a popular subject. Its source is found in Isaiah (11:1); “And there shall come forth a shoot from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots.” Matthew at the outset of his gospel (1:1-16) gives us Christ’s genealogy and Luke (3:23-38) also gives us Christ’s ancestry. The subject is noted once again in the Book of Revelation (22:16); “…I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and shining star.”

In the Tree of Jesse from the Lambeth Bible, Jesse is seen lying at the bottom of the illumination. From his hip rises what may be interpreted as a trunk of a tree and its vine-like branches forms roundels. In the roundels at the bottom are four old prophets. Isaiah, on the left, holds the scroll of his prophesy and points upward. On the right, an old prophet also points upward as he looks toward the large central figure of Mary who is dressed in blue (the symbol of purity and heavenly grace). Branches move upward from Mary’s head to form a roundel containing a half figure of Christ; He is surrounded by seven doves that represent gifts of the Holy Spirit. In the upper left roundel two apostles are shown with a crowned female figure that represents the triumph of the Church. At the top right, the hand of God removes a veil (symbolizing blindness) from Synagoga, a figure representing the Jewish religion; Moses, depicted with horns on his forehead, is at her side. In the two center roundels are the four virtues noted in Psalm 85:10; “Mercy and Truth are met together; Righteousness [Justice] and Peace have kissed.” At the right, Justice holds scales as she and Peace embrace following a kiss. In the left roundel, Mercy, holding a vase, is with Truth. Mercy represents the Gentiles and Truth represents the Jews; they are holding hands to indicate the unity of the Old and New Testament.

Notes

Medieval describes life during the Middle Ages (from approximately 500A.D. to 1450 A.D.) The Middle Ages came after the fall of the Roman Empire and ended with the Renaissance of the fifteenth century.

Illuminated Manuscript is a term used loosely today to include all miniature book illustrations of the medieval period but true illuminations are only paintings on which gold leaf (or gold dust) has been applied.

Parchment is the surface used for illuminated manuscripts. It was made from calf, sheep, or goat skin. Vellum is a parchment of finer quality.

Lambeth Palace has been the official London residence of the Archbishops of Canterbury since the thirteenth century.

Moses Pictured with Horns is a result of a translator’s interpretation. When Moses returned from Mt. Sinai the second time with two tablets, his face was said to shine. When Jerome, the translator of the Bible into Latin in the fifth century interpreted the Hebrew verb karan, meaning to cast a glow, he took it to be the literal form of the noun keren which means horn. Henceforth, artists depicted Moses with horns. The most noted example is Michelangelo’s sculpture of Moses.

______________

© 2012 Hovak Najarian

B Proper 6, Art for June 17, 2012

MINIATURIST, English
(active 1140s)

The Tree of Jesse
1140s
Illumination on parchment
Lambeth Palace, London
Click to open Web Gallery of Art commentary page. Click image for large view.

Related art commentary by Hovak Najarian.

The Tree of Jesse, Twelfth Century, Illumination on Parchment, Unknown Miniaturist, English (active 1140s), Lambeth Palace Library, London

Commentary by Hovak Najarian

Related post B Proper 6, Art for June 17, 2012

During medieval times, light carried mystical and symbolic meaning as it passed through stained glass windows or was reflected from the surface of gold leafed icons. During this time, illuminated manuscripts were written painstakingly on parchment by hand with gold-leafed and vividly colored miniature paintings accompanying the text. Gold itself seemed magical and represented divine radiance; in its reflected light, images were “illuminated” literally.

In manuscripts, early Christian illustrators depicted usually the apostles and events in the life of Christ. During the eleventh century the range expanded to include the genealogy of Christ and from that time forward to the Renaissance, the “Tree of Jesse” remained a popular subject. Its source is found in Isaiah (11:1); “And there shall come forth a shoot from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots.” Matthew at the outset of his gospel (1:1-16) gives us Christ’s genealogy and Luke (3:23-38) also gives us Christ’s ancestry. The subject is noted once again in the Book of Revelation (22:16); “…I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and shining star.”

In the Tree of Jesse from the Lambeth Bible, Jesse is seen lying at the bottom of the illumination. From his hip rises what may be interpreted as a trunk of a tree and its vine-like branches forms roundels. In the roundels at the bottom are four old prophets. Isaiah, on the left, holds the scroll of his prophesy and points upward. On the right, an old prophet also points upward as he looks toward the large central figure of Mary who is dressed in blue (the symbol of purity and heavenly grace). Branches move upward from Mary’s head to form a roundel containing a half figure of Christ; He is surrounded by seven doves that represent gifts of the Holy Spirit. In the upper left roundel two apostles are shown with a crowned female figure that represents the triumph of the Church. At the top right, the hand of God removes a veil (symbolizing blindness) from Synagoga, a figure representing the Jewish religion; Moses, depicted with horns on his forehead, is at her side. In the two center roundels are the four virtues noted in Psalm 85:10; “Mercy and Truth are met together; Righteousness [Justice] and Peace have kissed.” At the right, Justice holds scales as she and Peace embrace following a kiss. In the left roundel, Mercy, holding a vase, is with Truth. Mercy represents the Gentiles and Truth represents the Jews; they are holding hands to indicate the unity of the Old and New Testament.

Notes

Medieval describes life during the Middle Ages (from approximately 500A.D. to 1450 A.D.) The Middle Ages came after the fall of the Roman Empire and ended with the Renaissance of the fifteenth century.

Illuminated Manuscript is a term used loosely today to include all miniature book illustrations of the medieval period but true illuminations are only paintings on which gold leaf (or gold dust) has been applied.

Parchment is the surface used for illuminated manuscripts. It was made from calf, sheep, or goat skin. Vellum is a parchment of finer quality.

Lambeth Palace has been the official London residence of the Archbishops of Canterbury since the thirteenth century.

Moses Pictured with Horns is a result of a translator’s interpretation. When Moses returned from Mt. Sinai the second time with two tablets, his face was said to shine. When Jerome, the translator of the Bible into Latin in the fifth century interpreted the Hebrew verb karan, meaning to cast a glow, he took it to be the literal form of the noun keren which means horn. Henceforth, artists depicted Moses with horns. The most noted example is Michelangelo’s sculpture of Moses.

______________

© 2012 Hovak Najarian