Elijah on the Fire-cart | Art for Proper 8C

Elijah on the Fire-cart
Giotto
Elijah on the Fire-cart (on the decorative band)
1304-06
Fresco
Cappella Scrovegni (Arena Chapel), Padua
Click image for more information.

Cappella Scrovegni (Arena Chapel), Padua

Commentary by Hovak Najarian

Elijah on the Fire-Cart (within a decorative band), Fresco, c.1304-06, Giotto di Bondone, c.1266-1337

When image makers created icons and illuminated manuscripts for Byzantine Churches, their efforts were toward projecting a spiritual realm; they were not trying to depict the familiar world of our daily experiences. In Italy during the late thirteenth century, however, changes were taking place; interest in earthly matters and the physical world was leading the way to the Renaissance. Art gave visual form to this changing world and Giotto (JOT toe) played a key role in the advancement of painting. Early in his career, he worked with Cimabue who was shifting away from Byzantine art but Giotto broke from it even further. He depicted biblical subjects with gestures and expressions of real people in a natural world.

Very early in the fourteenth century, Giotto received a commission to paint frescos in the Scrovegni (The Arena) Chapel in Padua. The cycle of paintings depicts events in the life of Mary’s parents, the life of Christ, and the Last Judgment. These paintings fill the entire walls of the Chapel and are divided by wide borders that simulate marble mosaic patterns. Within the borders are images of saints, prophets, and Old Testament figures that are related in subject to the paintings adjacent to them. The image of “Elijah on the Fire-Cart” – painted in a quatrefoil within the border – is not a dramatic presentation; the chariot and horses are not engulfed totally in flames but the plumes of fire and overall red coloration of both the horse and cart indicates it is definitely afire. A whirlwind is not indicated but drama was not Giotto’s intent. The placement of Elijah is in accordance with a custom of showing parallels between Old and New Testament events. As a person progresses forward in the Chapel the small painting of Elijah’s ascension inside the border will be seen just before seeing, “Ascension of Christ” to its immediate right. “Elijah and the Fire-Cart” serves only as a small tie-in within the border.

Note

The Scrovegni Chapel: The wealthy Enrico Scrovegni purchased land for a palace and private chapel at the site of a former Roman amphitheatre known as the “Arena.” Hence, the chapel is known as “The Arena Chapel.”

Quatrefoil: In the fourteenth and fifteen century, circles and squares were regarded to be perfect shapes. A “quatrefoil” (meaning four leaves) is a framework made of four circles of equal diameter arranged so they all overlap equally in the center. When the overlapping lines of the circles are removed, the space it creates serves as a frame for decorative additions to architecture. Giotto’s “Elijah in the Fire-Cart” is painted in a quatrefoil.

Space Probe: Haley’s Comet passed by the earth in the year 1301. Three years later when Giotto painted the “Adoration of the Magi” in the Arena Chapel, he used an image of the comet as the star of Bethlehem. In 1986, when the European Space Agency launched sensors to examine the nucleus of Haley’s Comet, they saw it fitting to name the probe, “Giotto.”

Hovak Najarian © 2013

David Playing the Harp before Saul | Art for B Proper 7

1 Samuel 18:10 The next day an evil spirit from God rushed upon Saul, and he raved within his house, while David was playing the lyre, as he did day by day.

Note: Today’s image depicts the ALTERNATE Hebrew Bible reading
(1 Samuel 17:57-18:5, 10-16).
The normal reading is David & Goliath (1 Samuel 17: [1a, 4-11, 19-23], 32-49).

David Playing the Harp before Saul
LEYDEN, Lucas van
(b. 1494, Leiden, d. 1533, Leiden)
David Playing the Harp before Saul
c. 1508
Engraving, 254 x 184 mm
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Click image for more information.

Commentary by Hovak Najarian

(Post from June 24, 2012)

Dutch artist, Lucas van Leyden, was an extraordinary printmaker; only Albrecht Durer, whom he met and admired, was better known in his time. Like Durer, he was a master engraver and he too used Biblical stories as subject matter in his works. The engraving, David Playing the Harp before Saul, gives us an example of Lucas’ exceptional technical skill.

In the First Book of Samuel (16:23) we are given an account of the calming affect David’s music had on King Saul: “And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, that David took a harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him.”

In Lucas’ engraving, Saul is in a troubled state. David is standing to the left with fingers on the strings of his harp and the seated Saul is slumped in his throne and motionless. His face is passive, his eyes are turned aside unfocused, and he seems to be unable to understand or deal with his depression. There is nothing regal about him and in a different setting he could be overlooked as simply an old man. Following our initial study of David and Saul, our attention is shifted to two men standing behind the right arm of the throne. One gentleman, likely the court physician, is gesturing as they discuss Saul’s condition. Soldiers and guards with their halberd and spears are behind them in the shadows. The source of light, being from the front, leaves the background in darkness. This keeps our focus on the principal characters in the foreground and also adds to the sense of gloom overshadowing the scene.

In this composition, David, standing to the left with his harp, is the first to receive our attention. Our eyes move up to see his face and then we are led visually back down as we follow the edge of the harp and pause briefly at David’s spread fingers. From there the downward line of the harp curves to the right and leads us directly to Saul. The staff in Saul’s hand then points us back toward the center to the two men observing his despair. The back part of Saul’s throne keeps our focus contained and limits this composition to a tightly knit scene.

Note

David Playing the Harp before Saul is an engraving on a copper plate. In terms of where ink is placed, an engraving is the opposite of a woodcut. In a woodcut (known as a relief print), ink is rolled onto the raised portion of a plate (a carved wooden surface). In a metal engraving the ink is carried below the surface of a plate. An engraver uses a small chisel-like hardened steel tool (called a burin) to carve shallow v-shaped grooves into a plate of softer metal (often copper). After a composition is completed to an artist’s satisfaction, ink is rubbed into the grooves and the surface of the plate is wiped clean; the ink however, being below the surface, remains in the grooves. A piece of slightly damp paper is laid over the plate and it is run through a press. As it goes through the press, the paper is forced against the plate and makes contact with the ink. When the paper is pulled off the plate, the ink is lifted out of the grooves. The print on the paper will be a mirror image of the composition. An artist must prepare the plate in reverse of the image seen in the print.

All editions pulled directly from a plate are “originals” and thousands could be printed potentially. Today, however, an artist makes usually a limited edition and then destroys or “cancels” the plate. The artist numbers and signs each edition by hand.

______________

Commentary © 2012 Hovak Najarian

Hagar in the Wilderness | Art for A Proper 7

21:17 And God heard the voice of the boy; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Do not be afraid; for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is.

Hagar in the Wilderness
LANFRANCO, Giovanni
(b. 1582, Parma, d. 1647, Roma)
Hagar in the Wilderness
Oil on canvas, 138 x 159 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris
Click image for more information.

B Proper 7, Art for June 24, 2012

.
LEYDEN, Lucas van
(b. 1494, Leiden, d. 1533, Leiden)

Click to open Web Gallery of Art Artist Biography and to explore other works by this artist.

David Playing the Harp before Saul
c. 1508
Engraving, 254 x 184 mm
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Click to open Web Gallery of Art commentary page. Click image for large view.

Note: This image depicts today’s ALTERNATE Hebrew Bible reading
(1 Samuel 17:57-18:5, 10-16).
The normal reading is David & Goliath (1 Samuel 17: [1a, 4-11, 19-23], 32-49).

Related art commentary by Hovak Najarian.

David Playing the Harp before Saul, 1530, Engraving, Lucas van Leyden (1494-1533)

Commentary by Hovak Najarian

Related post B Proper 7, Art for June 24, 2012

Dutch artist, Lucas van Leyden, was an extraordinary printmaker; only Albrecht Durer, whom he met and admired, was better known in his time. Like Durer, he was a master engraver and he too used Biblical stories as subject matter in his works. The engraving, David Playing the Harp before Saul, gives us an example of Lucas’ exceptional technical skill.

In the First Book of Samuel (16:23) we are given an account of the calming affect David’s music had on King Saul: “And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, that David took a harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him.”

In Lucas’ engraving, Saul is in a troubled state. David is standing to the left with fingers on the strings of his harp and the seated Saul is slumped in his throne and motionless. His face is passive, his eyes are turned aside unfocused, and he seems to be unable to understand or deal with his depression. There is nothing regal about him and in a different setting he could be overlooked as simply an old man. Following our initial study of David and Saul, our attention is shifted to two men standing behind the right arm of the throne. One gentleman, likely the court physician, is gesturing as they discuss Saul’s condition. Soldiers and guards with their halberd and spears are behind them in the shadows. The source of light, being from the front, leaves the background in darkness. This keeps our focus on the principal characters in the foreground and also adds to the sense of gloom overshadowing the scene.

In this composition, David, standing to the left with his harp, is the first to receive our attention. Our eyes move up to see his face and then we are led visually back down as we follow the edge of the harp and pause briefly at David’s spread fingers. From there the downward line of the harp curves to the right and leads us directly to Saul. The staff in Saul’s hand then points us back toward the center to the two men observing his despair. The back part of Saul’s throne keeps our focus contained and limits this composition to a tightly knit scene.

Note

David Playing the Harp before Saul is an engraving on a copper plate. In terms of where ink is placed, an engraving is the opposite of a woodcut. In a woodcut (known as a relief print), ink is rolled onto the raised portion of a plate (a carved wooden surface). In a metal engraving the ink is carried below the surface of a plate. An engraver uses a small chisel-like hardened steel tool (called a burin) to carve shallow v-shaped grooves into a plate of softer metal (often copper). After a composition is completed to an artist’s satisfaction, ink is rubbed into the grooves and the surface of the plate is wiped clean; the ink however, being below the surface, remains in the grooves. A piece of slightly damp paper is laid over the plate and it is run through a press. As it goes through the press, the paper is forced against the plate and makes contact with the ink. When the paper is pulled off the plate, the ink is lifted out of the grooves. The print on the paper will be a mirror image of the composition. An artist must prepare the plate in reverse of the image seen in the print.

All editions pulled directly from a plate are “originals” and thousands could be printed potentially. Today, however, an artist makes usually a limited edition and then destroys or “cancels” the plate. The artist numbers and signs each edition by hand.

______________

© 2012 Hovak Najarian