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Sunday Gospel – Year A

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Matthew 24: 37- 44

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘As it was in Noah’s day, so will it be when the Son of Man comes. For in those days before the Flood people were eating, drinking, taking wives, taking husbands, right up to the day Noah went into the ark, and they suspected nothing till the Flood came and swept all away. It will be like this when the Son of Man comes. Then of two men in the fields one is taken, one left; of two women at the millstone grinding, one is taken, one left.

‘So stay awake, because you do not know the day when your master is coming. You may be quite sure of this that if the householder had known at what time of the night the burglar would come, he would have stayed awake and would not have allowed anyone to break through the wall of his house. Therefore, you too must stand ready because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: The flood with Noah’s Ark, painted by Jan Brueghel the Elder in 1601. The painting is 28cm x 36cm, is oil on copper and was bought in London, Sotheby’s, December 6, 2007 for £78,500.
Jan Brueghel the Elder (1568 –1625) was a Flemish painter, son of Pieter Bruegel the Elder and father of Jan Brueghel the Younger. Nicknamed “Velvet” Brueghel, “Flower” Brueghel, and “Paradise” Brueghel, of which the latter two were derived from his floral still life and paradise landscapes, while the former may refer to the velveteen sheen of his colours.
Jan was born in Brussels. His father died in 1569, and then, following the death of his mother in 1578, Jan, along with his brother Pieter Brueghel the Younger and sister Marie, probably went to live with their grandmother Mayken Verhulst (widow of Pieter Coecke van Aelst). She was an artist in her own right, according to Carel van Mander and Guicciardini, and possibly served as the first teacher of the two boys although her sons (their uncles) were also painters. Jan Brueghel moved to Antwerp around 1583.
In about 1589 Jan traveled to Italy, probably via Cologne. There he resided first in Naples, where his patron was Francesco Carracciolo. Next he moved to Rome, working for several discerning cardinals including, most famously, Federico Borromeo. It was in the company of Borromeo that Brueghel left Rome and took up residence in Milan, where he was part of the Cardinal’s household. In the summer of 1596 he returned to Antwerp, where he remained for the rest of his life apart from short journeys to Prague and to the Dutch Republic.
While in Italy he applied himself principally to landscapes and history paintings, including Biblical narratives and scenes from mythology and ancient history. Back in Antwerp he continued these types of subject matter but also acquired considerable reputation by his flower paintings and allegories. He formed a style more independent of his father’s than did his brother Pieter the Younger.
Many of his paintings are collaborations in which figures by other painters were placed in landscapes painted by Jan Brueghel; in other cases, Brueghel painted the figures into another artist’s landscape or architectural interior. The most famous of his collaborators was Peter Paul Rubens: the two collaborated on about 25 paintings including a Battle of the Amazons (Potsdam), Mars Disarmed by Venus (Getty Museum), The Fall of Man (Mauritshuis), The Five Senses (Prado), and several images of the Madonna and Child within a Flower Garland (Munich, Paris, Madrid). Hendrick van Balen and Joos de Momper were also regular collaborators with Brueghel.
He had a studio in Antwerp, where he died from cholera on 13 January 1625.

Matthew 3: 1- 12

In due course John the Baptist appeared; he preached in the wilderness of Judaea and this was his message: ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand’. This was the man the prophet Isaiah spoke of when he said:

A voice cries in the wilderness: Prepare a way for the Lord, make his paths straight.

This man John wore a garment made of camel-hair with a leather belt round his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then Jerusalem and all Judaea and the whole Jordan district made their way to him, and as they were baptised by him in the river Jordan they confessed their sins. But when he saw a number of Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism he said to them, ‘Brood of vipers, who warned you to fly from the retribution that is coming? But if you are repentant, produce the appropriate fruit, and do not presume to tell yourselves, “We have Abraham for our father,” because, I tell you, God can raise children for Abraham from these stones. Even now the axe is laid to the roots of the trees, so that any tree which fails to produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown on the fire. I baptise you in water for repentance, but the one who follows me is more powerful than I am, and I am not fit to carry his sandals; he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing-fan is in his hand; he will clear his threshing-floor and gather his wheat into the barn; but the chaff he will burn in a fire that will never go out.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: St John the Baptist, painted by Paolo Veronese in 1562. Oil on canvas, it is 205cm x 169cm, and is located in the Galleria Borghese, Rome. The extraordinary beauty of the Venetian fabrics already to be found in the work of Palma il Vecchio is brought to unrivalled perfection by Paolo Veronese. In this painting which heralds the coming of Christ, the figures are wrapped in magnificent oriental silk robes and three are wearing turbans. Their differing reactions to the sermon are reflected in their facial expressions. The skilful composition of the painting creates a balance between the weight of the group of figures on the right and the perspective on the left.
Veronese was an Italian Renaissance painter based in Venice, most famous for large history paintings of religious subjects. With Titian, who was at least a generation older, and Tintoretto, ten years older, he was one of the “great trio that dominated Venetian painting of the cinquecento” or 16th-century late Renaissance. Veronese is known as a supreme colourist, and after an early period with Mannerist influence turned to a more naturalist style influenced by Titian. His most famous works are elaborate narrative cycles, executed in a dramatic and colourful style, full of majestic architectural settings and glittering pageantry. His large paintings of biblical feasts, crowded with figures, painted for the refectories of monasteries in Venice and Verona are especially famous, and he was also the leading Venetian painter of ceilings.
Veronese moved to Venice in 1553 after obtaining his first state commission, ceilings in fresco decorating the Sala dei Cosiglio dei Dieci (the Hall of the Council of Ten) and the adjoining Sala dei Tre Capi del Consiglio in the Doge’s Palace, in the new rooms replacing those lost in the fire of 1547. His panel of Jupiter Expelling the Vices for the former is now in the Louvre. He then painted a History of Esther in the ceiling for the church of San Sebastiano. It was these ceiling paintings and those of 1557 in the Marciana Library (for which he was awarded a prize judged by Titian and Sansovino) that established him as a master among his Venetian contemporaries. Already these works indicate Veronese’s mastery in reflecting both the subtle foreshortening of the figures of Correggio and the heroism of those by Michelangelo. He produced great works of naturalist paintings until his death in 1588.

Matthew 11: 2- 11

John in his prison had heard what Christ was doing and he sent his disciples to ask him, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or have we got to wait for someone else?’ Jesus answered, ‘Go back and tell John what you hear and see; the blind see again, and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised to life and the Good News is proclaimed to the poor; and happy is the man who does not lose faith in me.’

As the messengers were leaving, Jesus began to talk to the people about John: ‘What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swaying in the breeze? No? Then what did you go out to see? A man wearing fine clothes? Oh no, those who wear fine clothes are to be found in palaces. Then what did you go out for? To see a prophet? Yes, I tell you, and much more than a prophet: he is the one of whom scripture says: Look, I am going to send my messenger before you; he will prepare your way before you. I tell you solemnly, of all the children born of women, a greater than John the Baptist has never been seen; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he is.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: St John in the Wilderness painted by Anton Raphael Mengs, 1760. Oil on canvas, 215cm x 148cm, it is located at the Museum of Fine Art, Houston, USA.
Anton Raphael Mengs (March 22, 1728 – June 29, 1779) was a German Bohemian painter, active in Rome, Madrid and Saxony, who became one of the precursors to Neoclassical painting.
Mengs was born in 1728 at Aussig in Bohemia, the son of Ismael Mengs, a Danish painter who eventually established himself at Dresden. In 1741 Mengs’s father took him from Dresden to Rome.
In 1749 he was appointed first painter to Frederick Augustus, elector of Saxony, but this did not prevent him from continuing to spend much of his time in Rome. There he married Margarita Guazzi, who had sat for him as a model in 1748. He converted to Catholicism, and in 1754 he became director of the Vatican school of painting. His fresco painting of Parnassus at Villa Albani gained him a reputation as a master painter.
In 1749 Mengs accepted a commission from the Duke of Northumberland to make a copy, in oil on canvas, of Raphael’s fresco The School of Athens for his London home. Executed in 1752–5, Mengs’ painting is full-sized, but adapts the composition to a rectangular format, with some additional figures. It is now in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum. Mengs died in Rome in June 1779 and was buried in the Roman Church of Santi Michele e Magno.
On two occasions he accepted invitations from Charles III of Spain to go to Madrid. There he produced some of his best work, most notably the ceiling of the banqueting hall of the Royal Palace of Madrid, the subject of which was the Triumph of Trajan and the Temple of Glory. After the completion of this work in 1777, Mengs returned to Rome, where he died two years later, in poor circumstances, leaving twenty children, seven of whom were pensioned by the king of Spain. His portraits and self-portraits recall an attention to detail and insight often lost in his grander paintings.
Mengs had a well-known rivalry with the contemporary Italian painter Pompeo Batoni. He was also a friend of Giacomo Casanova. Casanova provides accounts of his personality and contemporary reputation through anecdotes in his Histoire de Ma Vie.
Besides numerous paintings in Madrid, the Ascension and St Joseph at Dresden, Perseus and Andromeda at Saint Petersburg, and the ceiling of the Villa Albani are among his chief works. In 1911, Henry George Percy, 7th Duke of Northumberland, possessed Mengs’s work entitled Holy Family, and the colleges of All Souls and Magdalen, at Oxford, possessed altar-pieces by Mengs.
In his writings, in Spanish, Italian, and German, Mengs expressed an eclectic theory of art, seeing perfection as attainable by a well-schemed combination of diverse excellences: Greek design, with the expression of Raphael, the chiaroscuro of Correggio, and the colour of Titian.

Matthew 1: 18- 25

This is how Jesus Christ came to be born. His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph; but before they came to live together she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a man of honour and wanting to spare her publicity, decided to divorce her informally. He had made up his mind to do this when the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because she has conceived what is in her by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son and you must name him Jesus, because he is the one who is to save his people from their sins.’ Now all this took place to fulfil the words spoken by the Lord through the prophet:

The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son and they will call him Emmanuel, a name which means ‘God-is-with-us’. When Joseph woke up he did what the angel of the Lord had told him to do: he took his wife to his home.

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Adoration of the Child painted by Gerard van Honthorst, dated 1620. Oil on canvas, 96cm x 131cm, it is located in the Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy.
Anyone familiar with the work of Caravaggio immediately recognizes his influence on the work of Van Honthorst. The artist plays with light. Irrelevant parts of the canvas are left in the dark. The source of the light on the child is not shown, which suggests some mystic origin. The light is reflected on the faces of the other figures.
Gerard van Honthorst (Gerrit van Honthorst) (4 November 1592 – 27 April 1656) was a Dutch Golden Age painter who became especially noted for his depiction of artificially lit scenes, eventually receiving the nickname Gherardo delle Notti (“Gerard of the nights”).Early in his career he visited Rome, where he had great success painting in a style influenced by Caravaggio. Following his return to the Netherlands he became a leading portrait painter.
Honthorst was born in Utrecht, the son of a decorative painter, and trained under his father, and then under Abraham Bloemaert.
Having completed his education, Honthorst went to Italy, where he is first recorded in 1616. He was one the artists from Utrecht who went to Rome at around this time, all of whom were to be deeply influenced by the recent art they encountered there. They were named the Utrecht caravaggisti. Honthorst returned to Utrecht in 1620, and went on to build a considerable reputation both in the Dutch Republic and abroad. In 1623, the year of his marriage, he was president of the Guild of St. Luke in Utrecht. He soon became so fashionable that Sir Dudley Carleton, then English envoy at The Hague, recommended his works to the Earl of Arundel and Lord Dorchester. In 1626 Honthorst hosted a dinner for Rubens, and painted him as the honest man sought for and found by Diogenes.
His popularity in the Netherlands was such that he opened a second studio in the Hague, where he painted portraits of members of the court, and taught drawing. These large studios, where the work included making replicas of Honthorst’s royal portraits, employed a large number of pupils and assistants; according to one pupil, Joachim von Sandrart, describing his experiences in the mid-1620s, Honthorst would have about 24 students at any one time, each paying 100 guilders a year for their education.
Honthorst is often referred to as “Gherardo delle notti” (“Gerrit of the Nights”) by modern Italians. Honthorst was a prolific artist. His most attractive pieces are those in which he cultivates the style of Caravaggio, often tavern scenes with musicians, gamblers and people eating. He had great skill at chiaroscuro, often painting scenes illuminated by a single candle.
Some of his most notable pieces were portraits of the Duke of Buckingham and his family (Hampton Court), the King and Queen of Bohemia (Hanover and Combe Abbey), Marie de Medici (Amsterdam Stadthuis), 1628, the Stadtholders and their Wives (Amsterdam and The Hague), Charles Louis and Rupert, Charles I’s nephews (Musée du Louvre, St Petersburg, Combe Abbey and Willin), and Baron Craven (National Portrait Gallery, London). His early style can be seen in the Lute-player (1614) in the Louvre, the Martyrdom of St John in Santa Maria della Scala at Rome, or the Liberation of Peter in the Berlin Museum. His 1620 The Adoration of the Shepherds in the Uffizi was destroyed in the Via dei Georgofili Massacre of 1993.

John 1: 1-18

In the beginning was the Word:
the Word was with God
and the Word was God.
He was with God in the beginning.
Through him all things came to be,
not one thing had its being but through him.
All that came to be had life in him
and that life was the light of men,
a light that shines in the dark,
a light that darkness could not overpower.

A man came, sent by God.
His name was John.
He came as a witness,
as a witness to speak for the light,
so that everyone might believe through him.
He was not the light,
only a witness to speak for the light.

The Word was the true light
that enlightens all men;
and he was coming into the world.
He was in the world
that had its being through him,
and the world did not know him.
He came to his own domain
and his own people did not accept him.
But to all who did accept him
he gave power to become children of God,
to all who believe in the name of him
who was born not out of human stock
or urge of the flesh
or will of man
but of God himself.
The Word was made flesh,
he lived among us,
and we saw his glory,
the glory that is his as the only Son of the Father,
full of grace and truth.

John appears as his witness. He proclaims:
‘This is the one of whom I said:
He who comes after me
ranks before me
because he existed before me.’

Indeed, from his fullness we have, all of us, received –
yes, grace in return for grace,
since, though the Law was given through Moses,
grace and truth have come through Jesus Christ.
No one has ever seen God;
it is the only Son, who is nearest to the Father’s heart,
who has made him known.

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Saint John painted by Diego Velázquez, 1619. Oil on canvas, 136cm x 103cm, this painting is located in Room 30 at the National Gallery, London. Saint John the Evangelist is shown writing the Book of Revelation, the final book of the New Testament, with his symbol, an eagle, at his side.

Saint John looks up at his vision of the Woman of the Apocalypse (Revelation 12), which was the source for much of the imagery associated with the Immaculate Conception. This provides the thematic link between this work and its companion piece, ‘The Immaculate Conception’. 

As in all Velázquez’s early work, the central figures in both works are painted from models. The Saint John here is less idealised than the Virgin depicted in ‘The Immaculate Conception’. Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez was baptised on June 6, 1599, and died August 6, 1660. Velázquez was a Spanish painter, the leading artist in the court of King Philip IV, and one of the most important painters of the Spanish Golden Age. He was an individualistic artist of the contemporary Baroque period, important as a portrait artist. In addition to numerous renditions of scenes of historical and cultural significance, he painted scores of portraits of the Spanish royal family, other notable European figures, and commoners, culminating in the production of his masterpiece Las Meninas (1656).
From the first quarter of the nineteenth century, Velázquez’s artwork was a model for the realist and impressionist painters, in particular Édouard Manet. Since that time, famous modern artists, including Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí and Francis Bacon, have paid tribute to Velázquez by recreating several of his most famous works.

Solemnity of Mary, The Holy Mother

Luke 2: 16-21

The shepherds hurried away to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. When they saw the child they repeated what they had been told about him, and everyone who heard it was astonished at what the shepherds had to say. As for Mary, she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds went back glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen; it was exactly as they had been told.

When the eighth day came and the child was to be circumcised, they gave him the name Jesus, the name the angel had given him before his conception.

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: The Adoration of the Shepherds is a painting by El Greco, 1612. The original artwork was 319cm x 180cm and is oil on canvas. It is currently located in the Prado Museum, Madrid. This night scene is set in a narrow, irregular space -a sort of grotto with a gabled opening in the back, consisting of two semi-circular arches. Mary holds her newborn Son, naked on her lap, while Saint Joseph and three shepherds surround them, expressing their fervent devotion to the child. A kneeling ox also contemplates the baby. The compositional ellipse is closed at the top by a group of angels very close to the holy family. They express Heaven’s pleasure at the birth of the Redeemer, bearing a banner that reads GLORIA IN EXCEL[SIS DEO E]T IN TERRA PAX [HOMINIBUS]. This Nativity scene can be considered El Greco’s last work before his death on April 7, 1614. It was intended to adorn the burial place of the Theotocopuli family at the convent of Santo Domingo del Antiguo (Toledo), where El Greco had received his first commission in Spain, in 1557. In August 1612, that religious community reached an agreement with El Greco’s son, Jorge Manuel, in which the convent ceded a slab in the church of that monastery, which is the one bordering the main door of said church. That space was to serve as the burial area for the Theotocopuli, who promised to pay for the conditioning and decoration of the family tomb. In fact, besides El Greco, his son’s wife, Alfonsa de Morales, was also buried there. However, a disagreement between the two parties led to the cancelation of their agreement in 1618, just four years after El Greco’s death. The Cistercian nuns demanded that Jorge Manuel exhume the remains, but the large canvas conceived and painted by El Greco remained in the church until its sale to the Spanish State in 1954. This canvas marks the culmination of the formal refinement of the composition with which the painter had depicted this subject in his last versions, from between 1597 and 1605, for the altarpieces of Doña María de Aragón (now at the Muzeul National de artà, Bucharest), the Colegio del Patriarca in Valencia, and the Hospital de la Caridad in Illescas (Toledo). The Christ Child emits an intense light that bathes the small group contemplating him: the Virgin, Saint Joseph, three shepherds and a group of angels that form a sort of celestial vault. These figures constitute an excellent selection of this artist’s highly characteristic creations. The Metropolitan Museum of New York has a workshop version with slight variations, which was apparently made around the same time as the original canvas.

Solemnity of The Epiphany of the Lord

Matt 2:1-12

After Jesus had been born at Bethlehem in Judaea during the reign of King Herod, some wise men came to Jerusalem from the east. ‘Where is the infant king of the Jews?’ they asked. ‘We saw his star as it rose and have come to do him homage.’ When King Herod heard this he was perturbed, and so was the whole of Jerusalem. He called together all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, and enquired of them where the Christ was to be born. ‘At Bethlehem in Judaea,’ they told him, ‘for this is what the prophet wrote:
And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
you are by no means least among the leaders of Judah,
for out of you will come a leader
who will shepherd my people Israel.’
Then Herod summoned the wise men to see him privately. He asked them the exact date on which the star had appeared, and sent them on to Bethlehem. ‘Go and find out all about the child,’ he said ‘and when you have found him, let me know, so that I too may go and do him homage.’ Having listened to what the king had to say, they set out. And there in front of them was the star they had seen rising; it went forward and halted over the place where the child was. The sight of the star filled them with delight, and going into the house they saw the child with his mother Mary, and falling to their knees they did him homage. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh. But they were warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, and returned to their own country by a different way.

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Adoración de los Reyes Magos was painted by El Greco, in 1568. It is currently located in Museo Soumaya, Mexico City. It is 43cm x 51cm and is oil on panel.
The Museo Soumaya, designed by the Mexican architect Fernando Romero, is a private museum in Mexico City. It is a non-profit cultural institution with two museum buildings in Mexico City – Plaza Carso and Plaza Loreto. It has over 66,000 works from 30 centuries of art including sculptures from Pre-Hispanic Mesoamerica, 19th- and 20th-century Mexican art and an extensive repertoire of works by European old masters and masters of modern western art such as Auguste Rodin, Salvador Dalí, Bartolomé Esteban Murillo and Tintoretto. It is considered one of the most complete collections of its kind. The museum is named after Soumaya Domit, who died in 1999, and was the wife of the founder of the museum Carlos Slim. The museum received an attendance of 1,095,000 in 2013, making it the most visited art museum in Mexico and the 56th in the world that year. In October 2015, the museum welcomed its five millionth visitor.
Doménikos Theotokópoulos 1541 – 1614, most widely known as El Greco, was a painter, sculptor and architect of the Spanish Renaissance. “El Greco” (“The Greek”) was a nickname a reference to his Greek origin. El Greco was born in Crete, which was at that time part of the Republic of Venice, and the center of Post-Byzantine art. He trained and became a master within that tradition before traveling at age 26 to Venice, as other Greek artists had done. In 1570 he moved to Rome, where he opened a workshop and executed a series of works. During his stay in Italy, El Greco enriched his style with elements of Mannerism and of the Venetian Renaissance. In 1577, he moved to Toledo, Spain, where he lived and worked until his death. In Toledo, El Greco received several major commissions and produced his best-known paintings.
El Greco’s dramatic and expressionistic style was met with puzzlement by his contemporaries but found appreciation in the 20th century. El Greco is regarded as a precursor of both Expressionism and Cubism, while his personality and works were a source of inspiration for poets and writers such as Rainer Maria Rilke and Nikos Kazantzakis. El Greco has been characterized by modern scholars as an artist so individual that he belongs to no conventional school. He is best known for tortuously elongated figures and often fantastic or phantasmagorical pigmentation, marrying Byzantine traditions with those of Western painting.

John 1: 29-34

Seeing Jesus coming towards him, John said, ‘Look, there is the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. This is the one I spoke of when I said: A man is coming after me who ranks before me because he existed before me. I did not know him myself, and yet it was to reveal him to Israel that I came baptising with water.’ John also declared, ‘I saw the Spirit coming down on him from heaven like a dove and resting on him. I did not know him myself, but he who sent me to baptise with water had said to me, “The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and rest is the one who is going to baptise with the Holy Spirit.” Yes, I have seen and I am the witness that he is the Chosen One of God.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Baptism of Christ is painted by Cima da Conegliano in 1493. It is oil on panel and ins 350cm x 210cm. It is currently located in Church of San Giovanni in Bragora Venice.
The painting portrays Christ at the center of the scene, standing with joined hands. His attitude is that of humble submission to baptism, which is being given him by St. John the Baptist, who appears on the right.
At the left are three angels with Christ’s garments, in red and blue colours, which he will use after the baptism. The scene is completed by an angelic choir in the sky, and a generic oriental city on a spur in the left, behind the angels, while another one is visible in the far background.
Giovanni Battista Cima, also called Cima da Conegliano (c. 1459 – c. 1517), was an Italian Renaissance painter, who mostly worked in Venice. He can be considered part of the Venetian school, though he was also influenced by Antonello da Messina, in the emphasis he gives to landscape backgrounds and the tranquil atmosphere of his works. Once formed his style did not change greatly. He mostly painted religious subjects, often on a small scale for homes rather than churches, but also a few, mostly small, mythological ones.
He often repeated popular subjects in different versions with slight variations, including his Madonnas and Saint Jerome in a Landscape. His paintings of the Madonna and Child include several variations of a composition that have a standing infant Jesus, which in turn are repeated several times.
Giovanni Battista Cima was born at Conegliano, now part of the province of Treviso, in 1459 or 1460. His father, who died in 1484, was a cloth-shearer (cimator), hence the family surname.
In 1488 the young painter was at work at Vicenza; in 1492 he established himself at Venice, but by the summer of 1516 he had returned to his native place. Cima married twice, his first wife, Corona, bore him two sons, the older of whom took Holy orders at Padua. By Joanna, his second wife, he had six children, three being daughters.
His oldest painting inscribed with a date is the Madonna of the Arbour (1489; now in Museum of Vicenza). This picture is done in distemper and savours so much of the style of Bartolomeo Montagna, who lived at Vicenza from 1480, as to make it highly probable that Cima was his pupil. Even in this early production Cima gave evidence of the serious calm, and almost passionless spirit that so eminently characterized him. Later he fell under the influence of Giovanni Bellini and became one of his ablest successors, forming a happy, if not indispensable link between this master and Titian.
According to the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia:
At first his figures were somewhat crude, but they gradually lost their harshness and gained in grace while still preserving the dignity. In the background of his facile, harmonious compositions the mountains of his country are invested with new importance. Cima was one of the first Italians to assign a place for landscape depiction, and to formulate the laws of atmosphere and of the distribution of light and shade. His Baptism of Christ in the church of San Giovanni in Bragora, in Venice (1492), gives striking evidence of this. The colouring is rich and right with a certain silvery tone peculiar to Cima, but which in his later works merges into a delicate gold. His conceptions are usually calm and undramatic, and he has painted scarcely any scenes (having depicted religious ones almost exclusively) that are not suggestive of “sante conversazioni”. His Incredulity of St. Thomas (National Gallery, London) and his beautiful Nativity (Venice, Santa Maria dei Carmini, 1509) are hardly aught else. But most of his paintings represent Madonnas enthroned among the elect, and in these subjects he observes a gently animated symmetry. The groupings of these sainted figures, even though they may not have a definitely pious character, and the impression of unspeakable peace.
Among his pupils were his son, Carlo da Conegliano, and Vittore Belliniano. It is unclear if Francesco Beccaruzzi, who was born in Conegliano in 1492, received direct training from Cima.

Matt 4:12-23

Hearing that John had been arrested Jesus went back to Galilee, and leaving Nazareth he went and settled in Capernaum, a lakeside town on the borders of Zebulun and Naphtali. In this way the prophecy of Isaiah was to be fulfilled:

Land of Zebulun! Land of Naphtali!
Way of the sea on the far side of Jordan,
Galilee of the nations!
The people that lived in darkness
has seen a great light;
on those who dwell in the land and shadow of death
a light has dawned.

From that moment Jesus began his preaching with the message, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand.’ As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee he saw two brothers, Simon, who was called Peter, and his brother Andrew; they were making a cast in the lake with their net, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.’ And they left their nets at once and followed him.

Going on from there he saw another pair of brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John; they were in their boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. At once, leaving the boat and their father, they followed him.

He went round the whole of Galilee teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom and curing all kinds of diseases and sickness among the people.

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: The first disciples is painted by Adam Brenner in 1839. It is an oil painting on canvas and is 63cm x 79cm. It is located at the New Walk Museum, Leicester.
Adam Brenner was born in Vienna in 1800 and died 22 April 1891 in Austria.
Adam Brenner studied under Kupelwieser and Waldmüller at the Vienna academy of fine art. He travelled in France, Switzerland and Germany.
The Academy of Fine Arts Vienna was founded in 1692 as a private academy modelled on the Accademia di San Luca and the Parisien Académie de peinture et de sculpture by the court-painter Peter Strudel, who became the Praefectus Academiae Nostrae. In 1701 he was ennobled by Emperor Joseph I as Freiherr (Baron) of the Empire. With his death in 1714, the academy temporarily closed.
On 20 January 1725, Emperor Charles VI appointed the Frenchman Jacob van Schuppen as Prefect and Director of the Academy, which was refounded as the k.k. Hofakademie der Maler, Bildhauer und Baukunst (Imperial and Royal Court Academy of painters, sculptors and architecture). Upon Charles’ death in 1740, the academy at first declined, however during the rule of his daughter Empress Maria Theresa, a new statute reformed the academy in 1751. The prestige of the academy grew during the deanships of Michelangelo Unterberger and Paul Troger, and in 1767 the archduchesses Maria Anna and Maria Carolina were made the first Honorary Members. In 1772, there were further reforms to the organisational structure. Chancellor Wenzel Anton Kaunitz integrated all existing art schools into the k.k. vereinigten Akademie der bildenden Künste (Imperial and Royal Unified Academy of Fine Arts). The word “vereinigten” (unified) was later dropped. In 1822 the art cabinet grew significantly with the bequest of honorary member Anton Franz de Paula Graf Lamberg-Sprinzenstein. His collection still forms the backbone of the art on display.
In 1872 Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria approved a statute making the academy the supreme government authority for the arts. A new building was constructed according to plans designed by the faculty Theophil Hansen in the course of the layout of the Ringstraße boulevard. On 3 April 1877, the present-day building on Schillerplatz in the Innere Stadt district was inaugurated, the interior works, including ceiling frescos by Anselm Feuerbach, continued until 1892. In 1907 and 1908, young Adolf Hitler, who had come from Linz, was twice denied admission to the drawing class. He stayed in Vienna, subsisting on his orphan allowance, and tried unsuccessfully to continue his profession as an artist. Soon he had withdrawn into poverty and started selling amateur paintings, mostly watercolours, for meagre sustenance until he left Vienna for Munich in May 1913.
During the Austrian Anschluss to Nazi Germany from 1938–1945, the academy was forced to heavily reduce its number of Jewish staff. After World War II, the academy was reconstituted in 1955 and its autonomy reconfirmed. It has had university status since 1998, but retained its original name. It is currently the only Austrian university that doesn’t have the word “university” in its name.

 

 

Matt 5: 1 – 12

Seeing the crowds, Jesus went up the hill. There he sat down and was joined by his disciples. Then he began to speak. This is what he taught them:

‘How happy are the poor in spirit:
theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Happy the gentle:
they shall have the earth for their heritage.
Happy those who mourn:
they shall be comforted.
Happy those who hunger and thirst for what is right:
they shall be satisfied.
Happy the merciful:
they shall have mercy shown them.
Happy the pure in heart:
they shall see God.
Happy the peacemakers:
they shall be called sons of God.
Happy those who are persecuted in the cause of right:
theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

‘Happy are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: The Sermon on the Mount was painted by Carl Bloch in 1877. It is 104cm x 92cm and is located at the Museum of National History at Frederiksborg Castle, Denmark. Bloch was born in Copenhagen, Denmark and studied with Wilhelm Marstrand at the Royal Danish Academy of Art (Det Kongelige Danske Kunstakademi) there. Bloch’s parents wanted their son to enter a respectable profession – an officer in the Navy. This, however, was not what Carl wanted. His only interest was drawing and painting, and he was consumed by the idea of becoming an artist. He went to Italy to study art, passing through the Netherlands, where he became acquainted with the work of Rembrandt, which became a major influence on him. Carl Bloch met his wife, Alma Trepka, in Rome, where he married her on May 31, 1868. They were happily married until her early death in 1886.
His early work featured rural scenes from everyday life. From 1859 to 1866, Bloch lived in Italy, and this period was important for the development of his historical style.
His first great success was the exhibition of his “Prometheus Unbound” in Copenhagen in 1865. After the death of Marstrand, he finished the decoration of the ceremonial hall at the University of Copenhagen. The sorrow over losing his wife weighed heavily on Bloch, and being left alone with their eight children after her death was very difficult for him.
In a New Year’s letter from 1866 to Bloch, H. C. Andersen wrote the following: “What God has arched on solid rock will not be swept away!” Another letter from Andersen declared “Through your art you add a new step to your Jacob-ladder into immortality.”
In a final ode, from a famous author to a famous artist, H.C. Andersen said “Write on the canvas; write your seal on immortality. Then you will become noble here on earth.”
He was then commissioned to produce 23 paintings for the Chapel at Frederiksborg Palace. These were all scenes from the life of Christ which have become very popular as illustrations. The originals, painted between 1865 and 1879, are still at Frederiksborg Palace. The altarpieces can be found at Holbaek, Odense, Ugerloese and Copenhagen in Denmark, as well as Loederup, Hoerup, and Landskrona in Sweden.
Through the assistance of Danish-born artist Soren Edsberg, the acquisition of Christ healing at the pool of Bethesda, [formerly owned by Indre Mission, Copenhagen, Denmark], was made possible for The Museum of Art, Brigham Young University (BYU), Provo, Utah, United States. A second work by Bloch, an 1880 grisaille version of The Mocking of Christ, was purchased by BYU in June 2015.
Carl Bloch died of cancer on February 22, 1890. His death came as “an abrupt blow for Nordic art” according to an article by Sophus Michaelis. Michaelis stated that “Denmark has lost the artist that indisputably was the greatest among the living.” Kyhn stated in his eulogy at Carl Bloch’s funeral that “Bloch stays and lives.”
A prominent Danish art critic, Karl Madsen, stated that Carl Bloch reached higher toward the great heaven of art than all other Danish art up to that date. Madsen also said “If there is an Elysium, where the giant, rich, warm and noble artist souls meet, there Carl Bloch will sit among the noblest of them all!” (From Carl Bloch Site).
For over 40 years The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has made heavy use of Carl Bloch’s paintings, mostly from the Frederiksborg Palace collection, in its church buildings and printed media. The LDS church has produced films depicting scriptural accounts of Christ’s mortal ministry, using Bloch’s paintings as models for the colour, light and overall set design as well as the movement of the actors in many of the films’ scenes. The most notable example of this is the movie The Testaments of One Fold and One Shepherd.

Matt 5: 13 – 16

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘You are the salt of the earth. But if salt becomes tasteless, what can make it salty again? It is good for nothing, and can only be thrown out to be trampled underfoot by men.

‘You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill-top cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp to put it under a tub; they put it on the lamp-stand where it shines for everyone in the house. In the same way your light must shine in the sight of men, so that, seeing your good works, they may give the praise to your Father in heaven.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: The Light of the World is an allegorical painting by the English Pre-Raphaelite artist William Holman Hunt (1827–1910) representing the figure of Jesus. It was painted between 1851 and 1853, is oil on canvas and is 50cm x 27cm. The original is variously said to have been painted at night in a makeshift hut at Worcester Park Farm in Surrey and in the garden of the Oxford University Press while it is suggested that Hunt found the dawn light he needed outside Bethlehem on one of his visits to the Holy Land. In oil on canvas, it was begun around 1849/50, completed in 1853, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1854 and is now in a side room off the large chapel at Keble College, Oxford. The painting was donated to the college by the widow of Thomas Combe, Printer to the University of Oxford, Tractarian and a patron of the Pre-Raphaelites, in the year following his death in 1872 on the understanding that it would hang in the chapel (constructed 1873–6) but the building’s architect William Butterfield was opposed to this and made no provision in his design. When the college’s library opened in 1878 it was placed there, and was moved to its present position only after the construction in 1892–5 by another architect, J. T. Micklethwaite, of the side chapel to accommodate it.
That the college at that time charged to view it persuaded Hunt toward the end of his life to paint a larger, life-size, version, begun about 1900 and completed in 1904, which was purchased by shipowner and social reformer Charles Booth and hung in St Paul’s Cathedral, London, where it was dedicated in 1908 after a 1905–7 world tour where the picture drew large crowds. It was claimed that four-fifths of Australia’s population viewed it. Due to Hunt’s increasing infirmity and glaucoma, he was assisted in the completion of this version by English painter Edward Robert Hughes (who also assisted with Hunt’s version of The Lady of Shalott). Hunt was buried in St Paul’s.
A third smaller version of the painting, painted by Hunt in oils between 1851 and 1856, is on display at Manchester City Art Gallery, England, which purchased it in 1912.
This painting inspired much popular devotion in the late Victorian period and inspired several musical works, including Arthur Sullivan’s 1873 oratorio The Light of the World. Engraved reproductions were widely hung in nurseries, infant schools and church buildings.

Matt 5: 17 – 37

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘ Do not imagine that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish them but to complete them. I tell you solemnly, till heaven and earth disappear, not one dot, one little stroke, shall disappear from the Law until its purpose is achieved. Therefore, the man who infringes even one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be considered the least in the kingdom of heaven; but the man who keeps them and teaches them will be considered great in the kingdom of heaven.

‘For I tell you, if your virtue goes no deeper than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.

‘You have learnt how it was said to our ancestors: You must not kill; and if anyone does kill he must answer for it before the court. But I say this to you: anyone who is angry with his brother will answer for it before the court; if a man calls his brother “Fool” he will answer for it before the Sanhedrin; and if a man calls him “Renegade” he will answer for it in hell fire. So then, if you are bringing your offering to the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, go and be reconciled with your brother first, and then come back and present your offering. Come to terms with your opponent in good time while you are still on the way to the court with him, or he may hand you over to the judge and the judge to the officer, and you will be thrown into prison. I tell you solemnly, you will not get out till you have paid the last penny.

‘You have learnt how it was said: You must not commit adultery. But I say this to you: if a man looks at a woman lustfully, he has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye should cause you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; for it will do you less harm to lose one part of you than to have your whole body thrown into hell. And if your right hand should cause you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; for it will do you less harm to lose one part of you than to have your whole body go to hell.

‘It has also been said: Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a writ of dismissal. But I say this to you: everyone who divorces his wife, except for the case of fornication, makes her an adulteress; and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

‘Again, you have learnt how it was said to our ancestors: You must not break your oath, but must fulfil your oaths to the Lord. But I say this to you: do not swear at all, either by heaven, since that is God’s throne; or by the earth, since that is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, since that is the city of the great king. Do not swear by your own head either, since you cannot turn a single hair white or black. All you need say is “Yes” if you mean yes, “No” if you mean no; anything more than this comes from the evil one.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Christ as the Redeemer is a painting by Andrea Mantegna, painted in 1495. It is tempera on wood, is 78cm x 48cm in dimension and is currently located at the Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen, Denmark.
Andrea Mantegna, 1431 – 1506, was an Italian painter, a student of Romanarcheology, and son-in-law of Jacopo Bellini. Like other artists of the time, Mantegna experimented with perspective, e.g., by lowering the horizon in order to create a sense of greater monumentality. His flinty, metallic landscapes and somewhat stony figures give evidence of a fundamentally sculptural approach to painting. He also led a workshop that was the leading producer of prints in Venice before 1500.
Mantegna was born in Isola di Carturo, Republic of Venice close to Padua (now Italy), second son of a carpenter, Biagio. At the age of eleven he became the apprentice of Francesco Squarcione, Paduan painter. As many as 137 painters and pictorial students passed through Squarcione’s school, which had been established towards 1440 and which became famous all over Italy. Padua was attractive for artists coming not only from Veneto but also from Tuscany, such as Paolo Uccello, Filippo Lippi and Donatello. Mantegna’s early career was shaped indeed by impressions of Florentine works. Mantegna never changed the manner which he had adopted in Padua, though his colouring—at first neutral and undecided—strengthened and matured. Throughout his works there is more balancing of colour than fineness of tone. One of his great aims was optical illusion, carried out by a mastery of perspective which, though not always mathematically correct, attained an astonishing effect in those times.
In 1488 Mantegna was called by Pope Innocent VIII to paint frescos in a chapel Belvedere in the Vatican. This series of frescos, including a noted Baptism of Christ, was destroyed by Pius VI in 1780. The pope treated Mantegna with less liberality than he had been used to at the Mantuan court; but all things considered their connection, which ceased in 1500, was not unsatisfactory to either party. Mantegna also met the famous Turkish hostage Jem and studied with attention the ancient monuments, but his impression of the city was a disappointing one as a whole. Returned to Mantua in 1490, he embraced again his more literary and bitter vision of antiquity, and entered in strong connection with the new marquise, the cultured and intelligent Isabella d’Este.
In what was now his city he went on with the nine tempera pictures of the Triumphs of Caesar, which he had probably begun before his leaving for Rome, and which he finished around 1492. These superbly invented and designed compositions are gorgeous with the splendour of their subject-matter, and with the classical learning and enthusiasm of one of the master-spirits of the age.
In spite of declining health, Mantegna continued to be active. Other works of this period include the Madonna of the Caves, the St. Sebastian and the famous Lamentation over the Dead Christ, probably painted for his personal funerary chapel. Another work of Mantegna’s later years was the so-called Madonna della Vittoria, now in the Louvre. It was painted in tempera about 1495, in commemoration of the Battle of Fornovo, whose disputable outcome Francesco Gonzaga was eager to show as an Italian League victory; the church which originally housed the picture was built from Mantegna’s own design. The Madonna is depicted with various saints, the archangel Michael and St. Maurice holding her mantle, which is extended over the kneeling Francesco Gonzaga, amid a profusion of rich festooning and other accessory. Though not in all respects of his highest order of execution, this counts among the most obviously beautiful and attractive of Mantegna’s works from which the qualities of beauty and attraction are often excluded, in the stringent pursuit of those other excellences more germane to his severe genius, tense energy passing into haggard passion.

Matt 5: 38 – 48

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘You have learnt how it was said: Eye for eye and tooth for tooth. But I say this to you: offer the wicked man no resistance. On the contrary, if anyone hits you on the right cheek, offer him the other as well; if a man takes you to law and would have your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone orders you to go one mile, go two miles with him. Give to anyone who asks, and if anyone wants to borrow, do not turn away.

‘You have learnt how it was said: You must love your neighbour and hate your enemy. But I say this to you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you; in this way you will be sons of your Father in heaven, for he causes his sun to rise on bad men as well as good, and his rain to fall on honest and dishonest men alike. For if you love those who love you, what right have you to claim any credit? Even the tax collectors do as much, do they not? And if you save your greetings for your brothers, are you doing anything exceptional? Even the pagans do as much, do they not? You must therefore be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Christ the Saviour (Pantokrator), a 6th-century encaustic icon from Saint Catherine’s Monastery, Mount Sinai.
Saint Catherine’s Monastery, officially “Sacred Monastery of the God-Trodden Mount Sinai” lies on the Sinai Peninsula, at the mouth of a gorge at the foot of Mount Sinai, in the city of Saint Catherine, Egypt in the South Sinai Governorate. The monastery is controlled by the autocephalous Church of Sinai, part of the wider Eastern Orthodox Church, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Built between 548 and 565, the monastery is one of the oldest working Christian monasteries in the world. The site contains the world’s oldest continually operating library, possessing many unique books including the Syriac Sinaiticus and, until 1859, the Codex Sinaiticus. A small town with hotels and swimming pools, called Saint Katherine City, has grown around the monastery.
According to tradition, Catherine of Alexandria was a Christian martyr sentenced to death on the wheel. When this failed to kill her, she was beheaded. According to tradition, angels took her remains to Mount Sinai. Around the year 800, monks from the Sinai Monastery found her remains.
Although it is commonly known as Saint Catherine’s, the monastery’s full official name is the Sacred Monastery of the God-Trodden Mount Sinai. The patronal feast of the monastery is the Transfiguration. The monastery has become a favourite site of pilgrimage.
The oldest record of monastic life at Sinai comes from the travel journal written in Latin by a woman named Egeria about 381-384. She visited many places around the Holy Land and Mount Sinai, where, according to the Hebrew Bible, Moses received the Ten Commandments from God.
The monastery was built by order of Emperor Justinian I (reigned 527-565), enclosing the Chapel of the Burning Bush (also known as “Saint Helen’s Chapel”) ordered to be built by Empress Consort Helena, mother of Constantine the Great, at the site where Moses is supposed to have seen the burning bush. The living bush on the grounds is purportedly the one seen by Moses. Structurally the monastery’s king post truss is the oldest known surviving roof truss in the world. The site is sacred to Christianity, Islam and Judaism.
In May 1844 and February 1859, Constantin von Tischendorf visited the monastery for research and discovered the Codex Sinaiticus, dating from the 4th Century, at the time the oldest almost completely preserved manuscript of the Bible. The finding from 1859 left the monastery in the 19th century for Russia, in circumstances that had been long disputed. But in 2003 Russian scholars discovered the donation act for the manuscript signed by the Council of Cairo Metochion and Archbishop Callistratus on 13 November 1869. The monastery received 9000 rubles as a gift from Tsar Alexander II of Russia. The Codex was sold by Stalin in 1933 to the British Museum and is now in the British Library, London, where it is on public display. Prior to September 1, 2009, a previously unseen fragment of Codex Sinaiticus was discovered in the monastery’s library.
In February 1892, Agnes Smith Lewis identified a palimpsest in St Catherine’s library that became known as the Syriac Sinaiticus and is still in the Monastery’s possession. Agnes and her sister Margaret Dunlop Gibson returned with a team of scholars that included J. Rendel Harris, to photograph and transcribe the work in its entirety. As the manuscript predates the Codex Sinaiticus, it became crucial in understanding the history of the New Testament.
The Monastery also has a copy of the Ashtiname of Muhammad, in which the Islamic prophet Muhammad is claimed to have bestowed his protection upon the monastery.
The most important manuscripts have since been filmed or digitised, and so are accessible to scholars. A team of imaging scientists and scholars from the USA and Europe is using spectral imaging techniques developed for imaging the Archimedes Palimpsest to study more than one hundred palimpsests in the monastery library. The library will be extensively renovated for some time.
The complex houses irreplaceable works of art: mosaics, the best collection of early icons in the world, many in encaustic, as well as liturgical objects, chalices and reliquaries, and church buildings. The large icon collection begins with a few dating to the 5th (possibly) and 6th centuries, which are unique survivals, the monastery having been untouched by Byzantine iconoclasm, and never sacked. The oldest icon on an Old Testament theme is also preserved there. A project to catalogue the collections has been ongoing since the 1960s. The monastery was an important centre for the development of the hybrid style of Crusader art, and still retains over 120 icons created in the style, by far the largest collection in existence. Many were evidently created by Latins, probably monks, based in or around the monastery in the 13th century.

Matt 7: 21 – 27

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘It is not those who say to me, “Lord, Lord”, who will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the person who does the will of my Father in heaven. When the day comes many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, cast out demons in your name, work many miracles in your name?” Then I shall tell them to their faces: I have never known you; away from me, you evil men!

‘Therefore, everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a sensible man who built his house on rock. Rain came down, floods rose, gales blew and hurled themselves against that house, and it did not fall: it was founded on rock. But everyone who listens to these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a stupid man who built his house on sand. Rain came down, floods rose, gales blew and struck that house, and it fell; and what a fall it had!’

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Jesus with the Apostles, painted approx. 1311, by Duccio di Buoninsegna, tempera on wood. Height: 36.5 cm x Width: 47.5 cm. Duccio (1260 -1319) was an Italian painter, active in the city of Siena in Tuscany, where he was born.
He is considered to be the father of Sienese painting and along with a few others the founder of Western art. He was hired throughout his life to complete many important works in government and religious buildings around Italy. Duccio is credited with creating the painting style of Trecento and the Sienese school, and contributed significantly to the Sienese Gothic style.
Only two of Duccio’s surviving works can be securely dated. Both were major public commissions: the “Rucellai Madonna” (Galleria degli Uffizi), commissioned in April 1285 by the Compagnia del Laudesi di Maria Vergine for a chapel in the church of Santa Maria Novella in Florence, and the Maestà commissioned for the high altar of Siena Cathedral in 1308 and completed by June 1311.
Duccio known works are on wood panel, painted in egg tempera and embellished with gold leaf. Different from his contemporaries and artists before him, Duccio was a master of tempera and managed to conquer the medium with delicacy and precision. Duccio’s style was similar to Byzantine art in some ways, with its gold backgrounds and familiar religious scenes but also different and more experimental. Duccio’s paintings are warm with colour, and inviting. His pieces held a high level of beauty with delicate details, sometimes inlaid with jewels and almost ornamental fabrics. Duccio was also noted for his complex organisation of space. Characters were organized specifically and purposefully. Duccio began to break down the sharp lines of Byzantine art, and soften the figures. He used modelling (playing with light and dark colours) to reveal the figures underneath the heavy drapery; hands, faces, and feet became more rounded and three-dimensional.
Duccio was also one of the first painters to put figures in architectural settings. He began to explore and investigate depth and space. He also had a refined attention to emotion, not seen in other painters at this time. The characters interact tenderly, and softly with each other, it is no longer Christ and the Virgin, it is mother and child. With this he flirts with naturalism but his paintings are still awe inspiring. Duccio’s figures seem to be out of this world and heavenly; existing elsewhere with beautiful colours, soft hair, gracefulness and draped in textures not available to mere humans. His influence can be seen in the work of many other painters, including Simone Martini and the brothers Ambrogio and Pietro Lorenzetti.

Matt 4: 1 – 11

Jesus was led by the Spirit out into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights, after which he was very hungry, and the tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to turn into loaves.’ But he replied, ‘Scripture says:

Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’

The devil then took him to the holy city and made him stand on the parapet of the Temple. ‘If you are the Son of God,’ he said, ‘throw yourself down; for scripture says:

He will put you in his angels’ charge, and they will support you on their hands in case you hurt your foot against a stone.’

Jesus said to him, ‘Scripture also says: You must not put the Lord your God to the test.’

Next, taking him to a very high mountain, the devil showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour. ‘I will give you all these’, he said, ‘if you fall at my feet and worship me.’ Then Jesus replied, ‘Be off, Satan! For scripture says:

You must worship the Lord your God, and serve him alone.’

Then the devil left him, and angels appeared and looked after him.

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Fresco of the Temptation of Christ, Sistine Chapel, painted 1481 by Sandro Botticelli (1445 – 1510).
Botticelli is credited for three frescos in the Sistine Chapel, along with seven papal portraits (paintings of previous popes). The images in the Sistine Chapel were of the Old and New Testament. The New Testament paintings were on the North side of the building and the Old Testament paintings were on the South side. The images always followed the same pattern. The main part of the biblical story or theme was portrayed in the front or foreground of the picture and in the middle and background parts of the picture there were additional scenes that related to the subject. The background was especially evident on the sides of the frescos so the next picture in the sequence could appear as a continuation of the landscape line.
Botticelli’s painting Adoration, his reputation, and his ability to work with frescos is what caught the attention of Pope Sixtus IV. Botticelli was then asked to paint a trial fresco on the North wall; his Temptation of Christ painting. The four trial paintings done by Botticelli, Perugino, Ghirlandaio and Rosselli were used to determine their pay. Painting began in October 1481 and was completed by March 1482. This short time indicated that the original 16 commissioned frescos were finished very quickly. The efficiency was due to the help of other painters working under the masters as the projects moved to completion.
Botticelli painted three major frescos in the Sistine Chapel: The Temptation of Moses and The Punishment of Korah were on the South wall and the Temptation of Christ on the North wall. He also painted at least seven of the papal portraits that were in the window zone of the chapel. As far as the content of the pictures, Botticelli was not one of the decision makers. He was told what subjects to portray and then to portray their stories. Just being able to be part of the project in the Sistine Chapel was a great honour for any artist during that time period.
The Temptation of Christ was Botticelli’s trial fresco for the Sistine Chapel. It was according to this work that his pay scale was set up. The landscape of The Temptation of Christ was one used by most artists of the Sistine Chapel. There is a rocky landscape that frames the picture, yet allows for the artist of the picture placed right next to it to continue the same kind of landscape to create a unified look.
There are three temptations shown in this picture. The one on the far left is when the devil, dressed as a monk, tried to convince Christ to turn the rocks into bread proving that he was the true Son of God. The middle one is on the top if the building where the devil, again disguised as a monk, tempts Christ to cast himself down. The last temptation, on the far right, was when the devil offers Christ all the kingdoms of the world but instead, Christ cast him down into the depths. Christ, the one true God, resists all temptations and evil loses every time.
In the foreground or front of the picture stands Nehemiah. Nehemiah stood for leadership and was known for continuing the traditional religious rites. He was also an architectural developer. Nehemiah represents Pope Sixtus, who was also a builder. The building in the middle ground of the picture resembles a church renovation project that Pope Sixtus worked on.
There are two oak trees in the background. One is flourishing the other is not. The oak trees are symbolic of Giuliano della Rovere, who was eventually elected pope, and alo are symbolic of Sixtus IV. The less developed oak tree symbolizes Giuliano who had large potential for growth and the more developed tree symbolized the older, more experienced Pope Sixtus IV.
Botticelli had many requirements in his Sistine Chapel paintings, but his style remained. He incorporated the facial detail that he used so many times in his portraits on the left side of the image. On the right side he used actual people as subjects and used a realistic style to their faces. The two female subjects in this image are painted in the same way as Botticelli’s painted female subjects in some of his other works.

Transfiguration of Christ

Matt 17: 1 – 9

Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain where they could be alone. There in their presence he was transfigured: his face shone like the sun and his clothes became as white as the light. Suddenly Moses and Elijah appeared to them; they were talking with him. Then Peter spoke to Jesus. ‘Lord,’ he said ‘it is wonderful for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ He was still speaking when suddenly a bright cloud covered them with shadow, and from the cloud there came a voice which said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; he enjoys my favour. Listen to him.’ When they heard this, the disciples fell on their faces, overcome with fear. But Jesus came up and touched them. ‘Stand up,’ he said ‘do not be afraid.’ And when they raised their eyes they saw no one but only Jesus.

As they came down from the mountain Jesus gave them this order, ‘Tell no one about the vision until the Son of Man has risen from the dead.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: The Transfiguration of Christ, Fresco, 226 x 229cm, located at Collegio del Cambio, Perugia. Pietro Perugino (1446 – 1523), born Pietro Vannucci, was an Italian Renaissance painter of the Umbrian school, who developed some of the qualities that found classic expression in the High Renaissance. Raphael was his most famous pupil.
He was born Pietro Vannucci in Città della Pieve, Umbria, the son of Cristoforo Marie Vannucci; his nickname characterises him as from Perugia, the chief city of Umbria. He most likely began to study painting in Perugia, in local workshops such as those of Bartolomeo Caporali or Fiorenzo di Lorenzo. Perugino was one of the earliest Italian practitioners of oil painting. Some of his early works were extensive frescoes for the convent of the Ingessati fathers, destroyed during the siege of Florence; he produced for them also many cartoons, which they executed with brilliant effect in stained glass. A good specimen of his early style in tempera is the tondo (circular picture) in the Musée du Louvre of the Virgin and Child Enthroned between Saints.
Perugino returned from Florence to Perugia, where his Florentine training showed in the Adoration of the Magi for the church of Santa Maria dei Servi of Perugia (c. 1476). In about 1480, he was called to Rome by Sixtus IV to paint fresco panels for the Sistine Chapel walls. The frescoes he executed there included Moses and Zipporah (often attributed to Luca Signorelli), the Baptism of Christ, and Delivery of the Keys. Pinturicchio accompanied Perugino to Rome, and was made his partner, receiving a third of the profits. He may have done some of the Zipporah subject. The Sistine frescoes were the major high Renaissance commission in Rome. The altar wall was also painted with the Assumption, the Nativity, and Moses in the Bulrushes. These works were later destroyed to make a space for Michelangelo’s Last Judgement,
Between 1486 and 1499 Perugino worked mostly in Florence, making one journey to Rome and several to Perugia, where he may have maintained a second studio. He had an established studio in Florence, and received a great number of commissions. His Pietà (1483–1493) in the Uffizi is an uncharacteristically stark work that avoids Perugino’s sometimes too easy sentimental piety.
In 1499 the guild of the cambio (money-changers or bankers) of Perugia asked him to decorate their audience-hall, the Sala delle Udienze del Collegio del Cambio. The humanist Francesco Maturanzio acted as his consultant. This extensive scheme, which may have been finished by 1500, comprised the painting of the vault, showing the seven planets and the signs of the zodiac (Perugino being responsible for the designs and his pupils most probably for the execution), and the representation on the walls of two sacred subjects: the Nativity and Transfiguration; in addition, the Eternal Father, the cardinal virtues of Justice, Prudence, Temperance and Fortitude, Cato as the emblem of wisdom, and numerous life-sized figures of classic worthies, prophets and sibyls figured in the program. On the mid-pilaster of the hall Perugino placed his own portrait in bust-form. It is probable that Raphael, who in boyhood, towards 1496, had been placed by his uncles under the tuition of Perugino, bore a hand in the work of the vaulting.
Perugino’s last frescoes were painted for the church of the Madonna delle Lacrime in Trevi (1521, signed and dated), the monastery of Sant’Agnese in Perugia, and in 1522 for the church of Castello di Fortignano. Both series have disappeared from their places, the second being now in the Victoria and Albert Museum. He was still at Fontignano in 1523 when he died of the plague. Like other plague victims, he was hastily buried in an unconsecrated field, the precise spot now unknown..
Among his pupils were Raphael, upon whose early work Perugino’s influence is most noticeable, Eusebio da San Giorgio, Mariano di Eusterio ,and Giovanni di Pietro (lo Spagna).

John 4: 5 – 42

Jesus came to the Samaritan town called Sychar, near the land that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well is there and Jesus, tired by the journey, sat straight down by the well. It was about the sixth hour. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink.’ His disciples had gone into the town to buy food. The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘What? You are a Jew and you ask me, a Samaritan, for a drink?’ – Jews, in fact, do not associate with Samaritans. Jesus replied:

‘If you only knew what God is offering
and who it is that is saying to you:
Give me a drink,
you would have been the one to ask,
and he would have given you living water.’

‘You have no bucket, sir,’ she answered ‘and the well is deep: how could you get this living water? Are you a greater man than our father Jacob who gave us this well and drank from it himself with his sons and his cattle?’ Jesus replied:

‘Whoever drinks this water
will get thirsty again:
but anyone who drinks the water that I shall give
will never be thirsty again:
the water that I shall give
will turn into a spring inside him, welling up to eternal life.’

‘Sir,’ said the woman, ‘give me some of that water, so that I may never get thirsty and never have to come here again to draw water.'< ‘Go and call your husband’ said Jesus to her ‘and come back here.’ The woman answered, ‘I have no husband.’ He said to her, ‘You are right to say, “I have no husband”; for although you have had five, the one you have now is not your husband. You spoke the truth there.’

‘I see you are a prophet, sir’ said the woman. ‘Our fathers worshipped on this mountain, while you say that Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.’ Jesus said:

‘Believe me, woman, the hour is coming
when you will worship the Father
neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.
You worship what you do not know;
we worship what we do know;
for salvation comes from the Jews.
But the hour will come – in fact it is here already –
when true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth:
that is the kind of worshipper
the Father wants.
God is spirit,
and those who worship
must worship in spirit and truth.’

The woman said to him, ‘I know that Messiah – that is, Christ – is coming; and when he comes he will tell us everything.’ ‘I who am speaking to you,’ said Jesus ‘I am he.’

At this point his disciples returned, and were surprised to find him speaking to a woman, though none of them asked, ‘What do you want from her?’ or, ‘Why are you talking to her?’ The woman put down her water jar and hurried back to the town to tell the people, ‘Come and see a man who has told me everything I ever did; I wonder if he is the Christ?’ This brought people out of the town and they started walking towards him. Meanwhile, the disciples were urging him, ‘Rabbi, do have something to eat’; but he said, ‘I have food to eat that you do not know about.’ So the disciples asked one another, ‘Has someone been bringing him food?’ But Jesus said:

‘My food
is to do the will of the one who sent me,
and to complete his work.
Have you not got a saying:
Four months and then the harvest?
Well, I tell you:
Look around you, look at the fields;
already they are white, ready for harvest!
Already the reaper is being paid his wages,
already he is bringing in the grain for eternal life,
and thus sower and reaper rejoice together.
For here the proverb holds good:
one sows, another reaps;
I sent you to reap
a harvest you had not worked for.
Others worked for it;
and you have come into the rewards of their trouble.’

Many Samaritans of that town had believed in him on the strength of the woman’s testimony when she said, ‘He told me all I have ever done’, so, when the Samaritans came up to him, they begged him to stay with them. He stayed for two days, and when he spoke to them many more came to believe; and they said to the woman, ‘Now we no longer believe because of what you told us; we have heard him ourselves and we know that he really is the saviour of the world.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Christ and the Samaritan woman at the well, oil on canvas, painted 1796 by Angelica Kauffman. 124 x 159cm, it is located at Neue Pinakothek, Munich, Germany.

Maria Anna Angelika Kauffmann (30 October 1741 – 5 November 1807), was a Swiss Neoclassical painter who had a successful career in London and Rome. Remembered primarily as an history painter, Kauffmann was a skilled portraitist, landscape and decoration painter. She was one of the two female founding members of the Royal Academy in London in 1768.
Kauffman was born at Chur in Graubünden, Switzerland, where her father was working for the local bishop but grew up in Schwarzenberg in Vorarlberg/Austria where her family originated. Her father, Joseph Johann Kauffmann, was a relatively poor man but a skilled painter, who was often traveling for his work. It was he who taught his precocious daughter. Angelica, a child prodigy, rapidly acquired several languages from her mother, Cleophea Lutz, read incessantly and showed talent as a musician, but her greatest progress was in painting, and by her twelfth year she had become known as a painter, with bishops and nobles being her sitters.
In 1754 her father took her to Milan. Later visits to Italy of long duration followed. She became a member of the Accademia di Belle Arti di Firenze in 1762. In 1763 she visited Rome, returning again in 1764. From Rome she passed to Bologna and Venice, everywhere feted for her talents and charm.
While Kauffman produced many types of art, she identified herself primarily as a history painter, an unusual designation for a woman artist in the 18th century. History painting was considered the most elite and lucrative category in academic painting during this time period and, under the direction of Sir Joshua Reynolds, the Royal Academy made a strong effort to promote it to a native audience more interested in commissioning and buying portraits and landscapes. Despite the popularity that Kauffman enjoyed in British society, and her success there as an artist, she was disappointed by the relative apathy of the British towards history painting. Ultimately she left Britain for the continent, where history painting was better established, held in higher esteem and patronized.
History painting, as defined in academic art theory, was classified as the most elevated category. Its subject matter was the representation of human actions based on themes from history, mythology, literature, and scripture. This required extensive learning in biblical and Classical literature, knowledge of art theory and a practical training that included the study of anatomy from the male nude. Most women were denied access to such training, especially the opportunity to draw from nude models; yet Kauffman managed to cross the gender boundary to acquire the necessary skill to build a reputation as a successful history painter who was admired by colleagues and eagerly sought by patrons.
Harmonious and powerful colours and the soft-brushed, multi-layered style of English portraitists, Sir Joshua Reynolds and Thomas Gainsborough, are typical for Kauffmann’s paintings.
In 1781, after her first husband’s death (she had been long separated from him), she married Antonio Zucchi (1728–1795), a Venetian artist then resident in Britain. Shortly thereafter she retired to Rome, where she befriended, among others, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who said she worked harder and accomplished more than any artist he knew; yet, always restive, she wanted to do more and lived for 25 years with much of her old prestige.
In 1782, Kauffman’s father died, as did her husband in 1795. She continued at intervals to contribute to the Royal Academy in London, her last exhibit being in 1797. After this she produced little, and in 1807 she died in Rome, being honoured by a splendid funeral under the direction of Canova. The entire Academy of St Luke, with numerous ecclesiastics and virtuosi, followed her to her tomb in Sant’Andrea delle Fratte, and, as at the burial of Raphael, two of her best pictures were carried in procession.

John 9: 1 – 41

As Jesus went along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, for him to have been born blind?’ ‘Neither he nor his parents sinned,’ Jesus answered, ‘he was born blind so that the works of God might be displayed in him.

‘As long as the day lasts
I must carry out the work of the one who sent me;
the night will soon be here when no one can work.
As long as I am in the world
I am the light of the world.’

Having said this, he spat on the ground, made a paste with the spittle, put this over the eyes of the blind man and said to him, ‘Go and wash in the Pool of Siloam’ (a name that means ‘sent’). So the blind man went off and washed himself, and came away with his sight restored.

His neighbours and people who earlier had seen him begging said, ‘Isn’t this the man who used to sit and beg?’ Some said, ‘Yes, it is the same one.’ Others said, ‘No, he only looks like him.’ The man himself said, ‘I am the man.’ So they said to him, ‘Then how do your eyes come to be open?’ ‘The man called Jesus’ he answered ‘made a paste, daubed my eyes with it and said to me, “Go and wash at Siloam”; so I went, and when I washed I could see.’ They asked, ‘Where is he?’ ‘I don’t know’ he answered.

They brought the man who had been blind to the Pharisees. It had been a Sabbath day when Jesus made the paste and opened the man’s eyes, so when the Pharisees asked him how he had come to see, he said, ‘He put a paste on my eyes, and I washed, and I can see.’ Then some of the Pharisees said, ‘This man cannot be from God: he does not keep the Sabbath.’ Others said, ‘How could a sinner produce signs like this?’ And there was disagreement among them. So they spoke to the blind man again, ‘What have you to say about him yourself, now that he has opened your eyes?’ ‘He is a prophet’ replied the man.

However, the Jews would not believe that the man had been blind and had gained his sight, without first sending for his parents and asking them, ‘Is this man really your son who you say was born blind? If so, how is it that he is now able to see?’ His parents answered, ‘We know he is our son and we know he was born blind, but we don’t know how it is that he can see now, or who opened his eyes. He is old enough: let him speak for himself.’ His parents spoke like this out of fear of the Jews, who had already agreed to expel from the synagogue anyone who should acknowledge Jesus as the Christ. This was why his parents said, ‘He is old enough; ask him.’

So the Jews again sent for the man and said to him, ‘Give glory to God! For our part, we know that this man is a sinner.’ The man answered, ‘I don’t know if he is a sinner; I only know that I was blind and now I can see.’ They said to him, ‘What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?’ He replied, ‘I have told you once and you wouldn’t listen. Why do you want to hear it all again? Do you want to become his disciples too?’ At this they hurled abuse at him: ‘You can be his disciple,’ they said ‘we are disciples of Moses: we know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this man, we don’t know where he comes from.’ The man replied, ‘Now here is an astonishing thing! He has opened my eyes, and you don’t know where he comes from! We know that God doesn’t listen to sinners, but God does listen to men who are devout and do his will. Ever since the world began it is unheard of for anyone to open the eyes of a man who was born blind; if this man were not from God, he couldn’t do a thing.’ ‘Are you trying to teach us,’ they replied ‘and you a sinner through and through, since you were born!’ And they drove him away.

Jesus heard they had driven him away, and when he found him he said to him, ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’ ‘Sir,’ the man replied ‘tell me who he is so that I may believe in him.’ Jesus said, ‘You are looking at him; he is speaking to you.’ The man said, ‘Lord, I believe’, and worshipped him.

Jesus said:

‘It is for judgement
that I have come into this world,
so that those without sight may see
and those with sight turn blind.’

Hearing this, some Pharisees who were present said to him, ‘We are not blind, surely?’ Jesus replied:

‘Blind? If you were,
you would not be guilty,
but since you say, “We see”,
your guilt remains.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Christ Healing the Blind man, painted by Nicolas Colombel, 1682. Oil on canvas, the size is 120 x 89cm and is located at the Saint Louis Art Museum, USA.

Nicolas Colombel (c.1644–1717) was a French painter, much influenced by Poussin.

Colombel was born at Sotteville, near Rouen, in about 1644. He went to Rome when quite young, and remained there until 1692, forming his style by a study of the works of Raphael and Nicolas Poussin. His pictures met with considerable success, but most later critics dismissed him as a mere imitator of Poussin.

He was admitted into the Academy of St Luke at Rome in 1686, and in 1694 into that of Paris. The Louvre possesses the Mars and Rhea Sylvia, which he painted for his reception to the Academy, and a work representing the Saint Hyacinth Saving the Statue of the Virgin from the Enemies of the Name of Christ. He was employed by Louis XIV at both Versailles and Meudon. Many of his works were engraved by Dufloc, and by Michel Dossier. He died in Paris in 1717.
Sir Edmund Head, writing in 1848, described Colombel as “in some sense a master who stood alone among his contemporaries in dignity of feeling, and in the solid character of his art.” More recently, Didier Rykner has described his work as “generally easy to recognise”, adding “[Colombel] does indeed have his own style, consisting in a gentle Classicism, at times a bit affected, a fondness for subtle and porcelain-like colors, deep blues (close to Sassoferrato).” A considerable number of paintings have been attributed to Colombel in recent years, including an altarpiece, Saint Dominic Presenting the Dominican Order to Christ, in the collection of the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Grenoble, identified in 2000. An exhibition of Colombel’s work was held between November 2012 and February 2013 at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Rouen.

John 11: 1 – 45

There was a man named Lazarus who lived in the village of Bethany with the two sisters, Mary and Martha, and he was ill. It was the same Mary, the sister of the sick man Lazarus, who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair. The sisters sent this message to Jesus, ‘Lord, the man you love is ill.’ On receiving the message Jesus said, ‘This sickness will end not in death but in God’s glory, and through it the Son of God will be glorified.’

Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, yet when he heard that Lazarus was ill he stayed where he was for two more days before saying to the disciples, ‘Let us go to Judaea.’ The disciples said, ‘Rabbi, it is not long since the Jews wanted to stone you; are you going back again?’ Jesus replied:

‘Are there not twelve hours in the day?
A man can walk in the daytime without stumbling
because he has the light of this world to see by;
but if he walks at night he stumbles,
because there is no light to guide him.’

He said that and then added, ‘Our friend Lazarus is resting, I am going to wake him.’ The disciples said to him, ‘Lord, if he is able to rest he is sure to get better.’ The phrase Jesus used referred to the death of Lazarus, but they thought that by ‘rest’ he meant ‘sleep’, so Jesus put it plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead; and for your sake I am glad I was not there because now you will believe. But let us go to him.’ Then Thomas – known as the Twin – said to the other disciples, ‘Let us go too, and die with him.’
On arriving, Jesus found that Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days already. Bethany is only about two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to sympathise with them over their brother.

When Martha heard that Jesus had come she went to meet him. Mary remained sitting in the house. Martha said to Jesus, ‘If you had been here, my brother would not have died, but I know that, even now, whatever you ask of God, he will grant you.’ ‘Your brother’ said Jesus to her ‘will rise again.’ Martha said, ‘I know he will rise again at the resurrection on the last day.’ Jesus said:

‘I am the resurrection and the life.
If anyone believes in me, even though he dies he will live,
and whoever lives and believes in me
will never die.
Do you believe this?’

‘Yes, Lord,’ she said ‘I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who was to come into this world.’

When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in a low voice, ‘The Master is here and wants to see you.’ Hearing this, Mary got up quickly and went to him. Jesus had not yet come into the village; he was still at the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who were in the house sympathising with Mary saw her get up so quickly and go out, they followed her, thinking that she was going to the tomb to weep there.

Mary went to Jesus, and as soon as she saw him she threw herself at his feet, saying, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ At the sight of her tears, and those of the Jews who followed her, Jesus said in great distress, with a sigh that came straight from the heart, ‘Where have you put him?’ They said, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus wept; and the Jews said, ‘See how much he loved him!’ But there were some who remarked, ‘He opened the eyes of the blind man, could he not have prevented this man’s death?’ Still sighing, Jesus reached the tomb: it was a cave with a stone to close the opening. Jesus said, ‘Take the stone away.’ Martha said to him, ‘Lord, by now he will smell; this is the fourth day.’ Jesus replied, ‘Have I not told you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?’ So they took away the stone. Then Jesus lifted up his eyes and said:

‘Father, I thank you for hearing my prayer.
I knew indeed that you always hear me,
but I speak
for the sake of all these who stand round me,
so that they may believe it was you who sent me.’

When he had said this, he cried in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, here! Come out!’ The dead man came out, his feet and hands bound with bands of stuff and a cloth round his face. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, let him go free.’

Many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary and had seen what he did believed in him.

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Raising of Lazarus by Jesus by Carl Bloch, painted 1875, oil on copper plate, is located at the Hope Gallery, Salt Lake City, USA.
Carl Heinrich Bloch (May 23, 1834 – February 22, 1890) was a Danish painter.
He was born in Copenhagen, Denmark and studied with Wilhelm Marstrand at the Royal Danish Academy of Art there. Bloch’s parents wanted their son to enter a respectable profession – an officer in the Navy. This, however, was not what Carl wanted. His only interest was drawing and painting, and he was consumed by the idea of becoming an artist. He went to Italy to study art, passing through the Netherlands, where he became acquainted with the work of Rembrandt, which became a major influence on him. Carl Bloch met his wife, Alma Trepka, in Rome, where he married her on May 31, 1868. They were happily married until her early death in 1886.
His early work featured rural scenes from everyday life. From 1859 to 1866, Bloch lived in Italy, and this period was important for the development of his historical style.
His first great success was the exhibition of his “Prometheus Unbound” in Copenhagen in 1865. After the death of Marstrand, he finished the decoration of the ceremonial hall at the University of Copenhagen. The sorrow over losing his wife weighed heavily on Bloch, and being left alone with their eight children after her death was very difficult for him.
In a New Year’s letter from 1866 to Bloch, H. C. Andersen wrote the following: “What God has arched on solid rock will not be swept away!” Another letter from Andersen declared “Through your art you add a new step to your Jacob-ladder into immortality.”
In a final ode, from a famous author to a famous artist, H.C. Andersen said “Write on the canvas; write your seal on immortality. Then you will become noble here on earth.”
He was then commissioned to produce 23 paintings for the Chapel at Frederiksborg Palace. These were all scenes from the life of Christ which have become very popular as illustrations. The originals, painted between 1865 and 1879, are still at Frederiksborg Palace. The altarpieces can be found at Holbaek, Odense, Ugerloese and Copenhagen in Denmark, as well as Loederup, Hoerup, and Landskrona in Sweden.
Through the assistance of Danish-born artist Soren Edsberg, the acquisition of Christ healing at the pool of Bethesda, [formerly owned by Indre Mission, Copenhagen, Denmark], was made possible for The Museum of Art, Brigham Young University (BYU), Provo, Utah, United States.[1] A second work by Bloch, an 1880 grisaille version of The Mocking of Christ, was purchased by BYU in June 2015.
Carl Bloch died of cancer on February 22, 1890. His death came as “an abrupt blow for Nordic art” according to an article by Sophus Michaelis. Michaelis stated that “Denmark has lost the artist that indisputably was the greatest among the living.” Kyhn stated in his eulogy at Carl Bloch’s funeral that “Bloch stays and lives.”
A prominent Danish art critic, Karl Madsen, stated that Carl Bloch reached higher toward the great heaven of art than all other Danish art up to that date. Madsen also said “If there is an Elysium, where the giant, rich, warm and noble artist souls meet, there Carl Bloch will sit among the noblest of them all!”
For over 40 years The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has made heavy use of Carl Bloch’s paintings, mostly from the Frederiksborg Palace collection, in its church buildings and printed media. The LDS church has produced films depicting scriptural accounts of Christ’s mortal ministry, using Bloch’s paintings as models for the colour, light and overall set design as well as the movement of the actors in many of the films’ scenes. The most notable example of this is the movie The Testaments of One Fold and One Shepherd.

Matt 26: 14 -27:66

One of the Twelve, the man called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, ‘What are you prepared to give me if I hand him over to you?’ They paid him thirty silver pieces, and from that moment he looked for an opportunity to betray him.

Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus to say, ‘Where do you want us to make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?’ He replied ‘Go to so-and-so in the city and say to him. “The Master says: My time is near. It is at your house that I am keeping Passover with my disciples.”‘ The disciples did what Jesus told them and prepared the Passover.

When evening came he was at table with the twelve disciples. And while they were eating he said, ‘I tell you solemnly, one of you is about to betray me.’ They were greatly distressed and started asking him in turn, ‘Not I, Lord, surely?’ He answered, ‘Someone who has dipped his hand into the dish with me will betray me. The Son of Man is going to his fate, as the scriptures say he will, but alas for that man if he had never been born!’ Judas, who was to betray him, asked in his turn, ‘Not I, Rabbi, surely?’ Jesus answered, ‘They are your own words.’

Now as they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and when he had said the blessing he broke it and gave it to the disciples and said, ‘Take it and eat; this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, and when he had returned thanks he gave it to them saying, ‘Drink all of you from this, for this is my blood, the blood of the covenant, which is to be poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. From now on, I tell you, I shall not drink wine until the day I drink the new wine with you in the kingdom of my Father.’

After psalms had been sung they left for the Mount of Olives. Then Jesus said to them, ‘You will all lose faith in me this night, for the scripture says: I shall strike the shepherd and the flock will be scattered. But after my resurrection I shall go before you to Galilee.’ At this, Peter said, ‘Though all shall lose faith in you, I will never lose faith.’ Jesus answered him, ‘I tell you solemnly, this very night, before the cock crows, you will have disowned me three times.’ Peter said to him, ‘Even if I have to die with you, I shall never disown you.’ And all the disciples said the same.

Then Jesus came with them to a small estate called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, ‘Stay here while I go over there to pray.’ He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee with him. And the sadness came over him, and great distress. Then he said to them, ‘My soul is sorrowful to the point of death. Wait here and keep awake with me.’ And going on a little further he fell on his face and prayed. ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass me by, Nevertheless, let it be as you, not I, would have it.’ He came back to the disciples and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, ‘So you had not the strength to keep awake with me one hour? You should be awake, and praying not to be put to the test. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.’ Again, a second time, he went away and prayed: ‘My Father, if this cup cannot pass by without my drinking it, your will be done!’ And he came back again and found them sleeping, their eyes were so heavy. Leaving them there, he went away again and prayed for the third time, repeating the same words. Then he came back to the disciples and said to them, ‘You can sleep on now and take your rest. Now the hour has come when the Son of Man is to be betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up! Let us go! My betrayer is already close at hand.’

He was still speaking when Judas, one of the Twelve, appeared, and with him a large number of men armed with swords and clubs, sent by the chief priests and elders of the people. Now the traitor had arranged a sign with them. He had said, ‘The one I kiss, he is the man. Take him in charge.’ So he went straight up to Jesus and said, ‘Greetings, rabbi,’ and kissed him. Jesus said to him, ‘My friend, do what you are here for.’ Then they came forward, seized Jesus and took him in charge. At that, one of the followers of Jesus grasped his sword and drew it; he struck out at the high priest’s servant, and cut off his ear. Jesus then said, ‘Put your sword back, for all who draw the sword die by the sword. Or do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father who would promptly send more than twelve legions of angels to my defence? But then, how would the scriptures be fulfilled that say this is the way it must be?’ It was at this time that Jesus said to the crowds, ‘Am I a brigand, that you had to set out to capture me with swords and clubs? I sat teaching in the Temple day after day and you never laid hands on me.’ Now all this happened to fulfil the prophecies in scripture. Then all the disciples deserted him and ran away.

The men who had arrested Jesus led him off to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and elders were assembled. Peter followed him at a distance, and when he reached the high priest’s palace, he went in and sat down with the attendants to see what the end would be.

The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus, however false, on which they might pass the death-sentence. But they could not find any, though several lying witnesses came forward. Eventually two stepped forward and made a statement, ‘This man said, “I have power to destroy the Temple of God and in three days build it up.”‘ The high priest then stood up and said to him, ‘Have you no answer to that? What is the evidence these men are bringing against you?’ But Jesus was silent. And the high priest said to him, ‘I put you on oath by the living God to tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.’ Jesus answered, ‘The words are your own. Moreover, I tell you that from this time onwards you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.’ At this, the high priest tore his clothes and said, ‘There! You have just heard the blasphemy. What is your opinion?’ They answered, ‘He deserves to die.’

Then they spat in his face and hit him with their fists; others said as they struck him, ‘Play the prophet, Christ! Who hit you then?’

Meanwhile Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard, and a servant-girl came up to him and said, ‘You too were with Jesus the Galilean.’ But he denied it in front of them all, saying ‘I do not know what you are talking about.’ When he went out to the gateway another servant-girl saw him and said to the people there, ‘This man was with Jesus the Nazarene.’ And again, with an oath, he denied it, ‘I do not know the man.’ A little later the bystanders came up to and said to Peter, ‘You are one of them for sure! Why, your accent gives you away.’ Then he started calling down curses on himself and swearing, ‘I do not know the man.’ At that moment the cock crew, and Peter remembered what Jesus had said, ‘Before the cock crows you will have disowned me three times.’ And he went outside and wept bitterly.

When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people met in council to bring about the death of Jesus. They had him bound, and led away to hand him over to Pilate, the governor.

When he found that Jesus had been condemned, Judas his betrayer was filled with remorse and took the thirty pieces back to the chief priests and elders, saying, ‘I have sinned. I have betrayed innocent blood.’ They replied, ‘What is that to us? That is your concern.’ And flinging down the silver pieces in the sanctuary he made off, and went and hanged himself. The chief priests picked up the silver pieces and said, ‘It is against the Law to put this into the treasury; it is blood money.’ So they discussed the matter and bought the potter’s field with it as a graveyard for foreigners, and this is why the field is called the Field of Blood today. The words of the prophet Jeremiah were then fulfilled: And they took the thirty silver pieces, the sum at which the precious One was priced by children of Israel, and they gave them for the potter’s field, just as the Lord directed me.

Jesus, then, was brought before the governor, and the governor put to him this question, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ Jesus replied, ‘It is you who say it.’ But when he was accused by the chief priests and the elders he refused to answer at all. Pilate then said to him, ‘Do you not hear how many charges they have brought against you?’ But to the governor’s complete amazement, he offered no reply to any of the charges.

At festival time it was the governor’s practice to release a prisoner for the people, anyone they chose. Now there was at this time a notorious prisoner whose name was Barabbas. So when the crowd gathered Pilate said to them, ‘Which do you want me to release for you: Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Christ?’ For Pilate knew it was out of jealousy that they had handed him over.

Now as he was seated in the chair of judgement, his wife sent him a message, ‘Have nothing to do with that man; I have been upset all day by a dream I had about him.’

The chief priests and the elders, however, had persuaded the crowd to demand the release of Barabbas and the execution of Jesus. So when the governor spoke and asked them, ‘Which of the two do you want me to release for you?’ they said ‘Barabbas.’ Pilate said to them, ‘What am I to do with Jesus who is called Christ.’ They all said, ‘Let him be crucified!’ Pilate asked: ‘Why? What harm has he done?’ But they shouted all the louder, ‘Let him be crucified!’ Then Pilate saw that he was making no impression, that in fact a riot was imminent. So he took some water, washed his hands in front of the crowd and said, ‘I am innocent of this man’s blood. It is your concern.’ And the people, to a man, shouted back, ‘His blood be on us and on our children!’ Then he released Barabbas for them. He ordered Jesus to be first scourged and then handed over to be crucified.

The governor’s soldiers took Jesus with them into the Praetorium and collected the whole cohort around him. Then they stripped him and made him wear a scarlet cloak, and having twisted some thorns into a crown out they this on his head and placed a reed in his right hand saying, ‘Hail, king of the Jews!’ And they spat on him and took the reed and struck him on the head with it. And when they had finished making fun of him, they dressed him in his own clothes and led him away to crucify him.

On their way out, they came across a man from Cyrene, Simon by name, and enlisted him to carry his cross. When they reached a place called Golgotha, that is, the place of the skull, they gave him wine to drink mixed with gall, which he tasted but refused to drink. When they had finished crucifying him they shared out his clothes by casting lots, and then sat down and stayed there keeping guard over him.

Above his head was placed the charge against him: it read: ‘This is Jesus, the king of the Jews.’ At the same time two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left.

The passers-by jeered at him; they shook their heads and said, ‘So you would destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days! Then save yourself! If you are God’s son, come down from the cross!’ The chief priests with the scribes and elders mocked him in the same way, saying, ‘He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the king of Israel; let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him. He outs his trust in God; now let God rescue him if he wants him. For hew did say, “I am the son of God”.’ Even the robbers who were crucified with him taunted him in the same way.

From the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you deserted me?’ When some of those who stood there heard this, they said, ‘The man is calling Elijah,’ and one of them quickly ran to get a sponge which he dipped in vinegar and, putting it on a reed, gave it him to drink. The rest of them said, ‘Wait! See if Elijah will come to save him.’ But Jesus, again crying out in a loud voice yielded up his spirit.

At that, the veil of the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom; the earth quaked; the rocks were split; the tombs opened and the bodies of many holy men rose from he dead, and these, after his resurrection , came out of the tombs, entered the Holy City and appeared to a number of people. Meanwhile the centurion , together with the others guarding Jesus, had seen the earthquake and all that was taking place, and they were terrified and said, ‘In truth this was a son of God.’

And many women were there, watching from a distance, the same women who had followed Jesus from Galilee and looked after him. Among them were Mary of Magdala, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.

When it was evening, there came a rich man of Arimethea, called Joseph, who had become a disciple of Jesus. This man went to Pilate and asked him for the body of Jesus. Pilate thereupon ordered it to be handed over. So Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean shroud and put it in his own new tomb which he had hewn out of rock. He then rolled a large stone across the entrance of the tomb and went away. Now Mary of Magdala and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the sepulchre.

Next day, that is, when Preparation Day was over, the chief priests and the Pharisees went in a body to Pilate and said to him, ‘Your excellency, we recall that this impostor said, while he was still alive, “After three days I shall rise again.” Therefore give the order to have the sepulchre kept secure until the third day, for fear his disciple come and steal him away and tell the people, “He has risen from the dead.” This last piece of fraud would be worse than what went before.’ Pilate said to them, ‘You may have your guards. Go and make all as secure as you know.’ So they went and made the sepulchre secure, putting seals on the stone and mounting a guard.

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Entry of Christ into Jerusalem, painted in 1320 by Lorenzetti, located in the lower basilica, San Francesco, Assisi.
Pietro Lorenzetti (1280 – 1348) was an Italian painter, active between c.1306 and 1345. Together with his younger brother Ambrogio, he introduced naturalism into Sienese art. In their artistry and experiments with three-dimensional and spatial arrangements, the brothers foreshadowed the art of the Renaissance.
Pietro worked in Assisi, Florence, Pistoia, Cortona, and Siena, although the precise chronology is unknown. His work suggests the influence of Duccio (in whose studio he may have worked, possibly alongside Simone Martini), Giotto, and Giovanni Pisano.
It was Pietro’s frescoes that adorned the facade of Siena’s Ospedale della Scala that first bought him to the attention of his contemporaries. Unfortunately, the frescoes – now believed to be the work of both Lorenzetti brothers – were destroyed in 1720 and subsequently whitewashed over.
Many of his religious works may still be seen in churches and museums in the Tuscan towns of Arezzo, Assisi, and Siena.
Although Lorenzetti’s integration of frame and painted architecture in the Nativity of the Virgin is usually thought to be unique, it is evident in the frescoes of Assisi some decades earlier.One probable conclusion can be made that he did not read Latin as there was documentation of a translator being paid in association with his work on The Birth of the Virgin.
His masterwork is a fresco decoration of the lower church of Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi, where he painted a series of large scenes depicting the Crucifixion, Deposition from the Cross, and Entombment. The massed figures in these pieces display emotional interactions, unlike many prior depictions which appear to be iconic agglomerations, as if independent figures had been glued onto a surface, with no compelling relationship to one another. The narrative influence of Giotto’s frescoes in the Bardi and Peruzzi Chapels in Santa Croce (Florence) and the Arena Chapel (Padua) can be seen in these and other works of the lower church. The Lorenzetti brothers and their contemporary competitor from Florence, Giotto, but also his followers Bernardo Daddi and Maso di Banco, seeded the Italian pictorial revolution that extracted figures from the gilded ether of Byzantine iconography into pictorial worlds of towns, land, and air. Sienese iconography, generally more mystical and fantastic than that of the more naturalistic Florentines, sometimes resembles a modern surrealist landscape.
These Passion fresco is Lorenzetti’s most ambitious work, the seventeen well-preserved frescoes – the highpoint of his early career. The conditions for the execution of the frescoes would have been difficult as very little natural light would be available and the lower church would be near darkness. The exact time line of the frescoes is in question; some scholars believed the cycle was painted in sections over several years as the style had some similaritiesto Lorenzetti’s Carmelite Altarpiece. The reasons are varied, from painting only in the dry season to the bloody skirmishes in the area at the time.
Believed to be one of his earliest works (begun as early as 1310) is the Madonna and Child with Saint Francis and John the Baptist, in the chapel of Saint John the Baptist. According to Maginnis the “finest and most complete realization of the ambition to conjoin real and painted space was left to Pietro Lorenzetti, working in the left transept. There, his well-known fictive altar-piece is, in reality, much more.”
In front of the Crucifixion is the Stigmata of Saint Francis. The portrayal of the life of Saint Francis appears in the nave of the church, suggesting a parallel between the life of Christ and that of Saint Francis. Lorenzetti carries the idea further by placing Saint Francis next to the Capture of Christ replacing Agony of Garden from the original Passion story with Saint Francis.
The upper scenes on the same wall and the final two stories of the Passion cycle, the Descent of Christ to Limbo and the Resurrection are horn shaped in a small difficult space. The two scenes represent examples of similar styles to the first six scenes, especially the face of Christ.

John 20: 1-9

It was very early on the first day of the week and still dark, when Mary of Magdala came to the tomb. She saw that the stone had been moved away from the tomb and came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved. ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb’ she said ‘and we don’t know where they have put him.’

So Peter set out with the other disciple to go to the tomb. They ran together, but the other disciple, running faster than Peter, reached the tomb first; he bent down and saw the linen cloths lying on the ground, but did not go in. Simon Peter who was following now came up, went right into the tomb, saw the linen cloths on the ground, and also the cloth that had been over his head; this was not with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in; he saw and he believed. Till this moment they had failed to understand the teaching of scripture, that he must rise from the dead.

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: The Resurrection is an oil on canvas painting by Luca Giordano. It is 114 x 116cm and resides at the Alte Residenz, Salzburg, Austria.
Luca Giordano (1634 – 1705) was an Italian late Baroque painter and printmaker in etching. Fluent and decorative, he worked successfully in Naples and Rome, Florence and Venice, before spending a decade in Spain.
Born in Naples, Giordano was the son of the painter Antonio Giordano. In around 1650 he was apprenticed to Ribera on the recommendation of the viceroy of Naples and his early work was heavily influenced by his teacher. Like Ribera, he painted many half-length figures of philosophers, either imaginary portraits of specific figures, or generic types.
He acquired the nickname Luca fa presto, which translates into “Luca paints quickly.” His speed, in design as well as handiwork, and his versatility, which enabled him to imitate other painters deceptively, earned for him two other epithets, “The Thunderbolt” (Fulmine) and “The Proteus” of painting.
Following a period studying in Rome, Parma and Venice, Giordano developed an elaborate Baroque style fusing Venetian and Roman Influences. His mature work combines the ornamental pomp of Paul Veronese with the lively complex schemes, the “grand manner”, of Pietro da Cortona. He is also noted for his lively and showy use of colour.
In 1682–1683 Giordano painted various fresco series in Florence, including one in the dome of Corsini Chapel of the Chiesa del Carmine. In the large block occupied by the former Medici palace, he painted the ceiling of the Biblioteca Riccardiana (Allegory of Divine Wisdom) and the long gallery of the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi. The vast frescoes of the latter are contained in the 1670s gallery addition, overlooking the gardens. The planning was overseen by Alessandro Segni and commissioned by Francesco Riccardi. They include the prototypic hagiographic celebration of the Medici family in the centre, surrounded by a series of interlocking narratives: allegorical figures (the Cardinal Virtues, the Elements of Nature) and mythological episodes (Neptune and Amphitrita, The Rape of Proserpine, The Triumphal procession of Bacchus, The Death of Adonis, Ceres and Triptolemus).
In 1692 Giordano went to Spain at the invitation of Charles II. He stayed there for ten years, returning to Naples in 1702, following Charles’ death. While in Spain, he painted major decorative schemes at the Buen Retiro Palace, El Escorial, the sacristry of Toledo Cathedral, and other sites. He also painted many pictures for the court, private patrons and churches. His pupils, Aniello Rossi and Matteo Pacelli, assisted him in Spain. Giordano was popular at the Spanish court, and the king granted him the title of a “caballero”.
After his return to Naples early in 1702, Giordano continued to paint prolifically. Executed in a lighter, less rhetorical style, these late works, prefiguring Rococo, proved influential throughout the eighteenth century, and were admired by Fragonard.
He spent large sums in acts of munificence, and was particularly liberal to poorer artists. One of his maxims was that the good painter is the one whom the public like, and that the public are attracted more by colour than by design.
Giordano had an astonishing facility, which often lead to an impression of superficiality of his works. He left many works in Rome, and far more in Naples. Of the latter, his Christ expelling the Traders from the Temple in the church of the Padri Girolamini, a colossal work, full of expressive “lazzaroni” or beggars from Naples; also the frescoes of the Triumph of Judith at San Martino, and those in the Tesoro della Certosa, including the subject of Moses and the Brazen Serpent; and the cupola paintings in the Church of Santa Brigida. This church contains the artist’s own tomb. Other notable examples are the Judgment of Paris in the Berlin Museum, and Christ with the Doctors in the Temple, in the Corsini Gallery of Rome. In later years, he painted influential frescoes for the Cappella Corsini, the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi and other works.

John 20: 19-31

In the evening of that same day, the first day of the week, the doors were closed in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood among them. He said to them, ‘Peace be with you,’ and showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord, and he said to them again, ‘Peace be with you.

‘As the Father sent me, so am I sending you.’

After saying this he breathed on them and said:

‘Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained.’

Thomas, called the Twin, who was one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. When the disciples said, ‘We have seen the Lord’, he answered, ‘Unless I see the holes that the nails made in his hands and can put my finger into the holes they made, and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe.’ Eight days later the disciples were in the house again and Thomas was with them. The doors were closed, but Jesus came in and stood among them. ‘Peace be with you’ he said. Then he spoke to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; look, here are my hands. Give me your hand; put it into my side. Doubt no longer but believe.’ Thomas replied, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him:

‘You believe because you can see me. Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.’

There were many other signs that Jesus worked and the disciples saw, but they are not recorded in this book. These are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing this you may have life through his name.

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: The incredulity of St. Thomas by Hendrick ter Brugghen was painted in 1622. It’s dimensions are 109cm x 137cm and is located at Rijksmuseum Amsterdam.
Hendrick Jansz ter Brugghen (1588 –1629) was a painter at the start of Dutch Golden Age painting and a leading member of the Dutch followers of Caravaggio–the so-called Utrecht Caravaggisti. Along with Gerrit van Hondhorst and Dirck van Baburen, Ter Brugghen was one of the most important Dutch painters to have been influenced by Caravaggio.
The earliest brief reference to the painter is in Het Gulden Cabinet (1661) of Cornelis de Bie, where he is mistakenly referred to as Verbrugghen. Another short account is found in the Teutsche Academie (1675) by Joachim von Sandrart, where he is referred to as Verbrug. Here we learn that he studied with Abraham Bloemaert, a Mannerist painter. Sandrart also refers to the painter’s “tiefsinnige, jedoch, schwermütige Gedanken in seinen Werken” [profound, but melancholic thoughts in his works].
From this unsure footing, the artist’s son Richard ter Brugghen sought to rehabilitate his father’s reputation as a painter in the early 18th century. He secured a letter, dated 15 April 1707, from Adriaen van der Werff in Rotterdam, attesting to his appreciation of Hendrick’s work. Later that year, on 5 August 1707, Richard presented the government council of Deventer with four paintings of the Evangelists, to be hung in the Town Hall as a permanent memorial to his father.
An engraving, in all likelihood commissioned by Richard ter Brugghen from Pieter Bodart, and based on an earlier drawing by Gerard Hoet, was put about in 1708. It shows an idealised portrait of Hendrick, the family coat-of-arms, and a printed caption translated from the Dutch as:
Born in Overijsel in 1588, travelled from Utrecht to Rome, and ten years later returned to Utrecht, married there, lived there interruptedly, and died at the age of 42 on 1st Nov. 1629; he was a great and famous history painter from life, painting life-size figures in the Italian manner, so very superior to all others that the famous P. P. Rubens on travelling through the Netherlands declared on coming to Utrecht that he had found only one painter, namely Henricus ter Brugghen. G. Hoet del. P. Bodart, fec.
Cornelis de Bie, in his Spiegel vande Verdrayde Werelt (1708), and Arnold Houbraken, in his De Groote Schouburgh (1718-1721),[6]produced biographies where they repeated Richard’s claims that the painter met Rubens in Rome and also worked in Naples.[7] There was a cadet of the same name serving in the army of Ernst Casimir of Nassau-Dietz in the spring of 1607, and for this reason, Ter Brugghen is thought to have been in Italy, but only in that year, rather than as previously believed in 1604 (inferred as it was from the inscription on the Bodart print). This would certainly mean that he never met Caravaggio in Rome; that artist had fled Rome on a murder charge in 1606. However, it is certain that he was the only Dutch painter in Rome during Caravaggio’s lifetime.
By 1614, Ter Brugghen was in Milan, on his way home. On 1 April 1615, Thyman van Galen and Ter Brugghen are witnesses before the court in Utrecht. He is already listed as a member of the Utrecht painter’s guild in 1616, and on 15 October of that year he married Jacomijna Verbeeck, his elder brother Jan’s stepdaughter.
Ter Brugghen died in Utrecht on 1 November 1629, possibly a victim of the plague. The family had been living in the Snippenvlucht. Ter Brugghen’s last child of eight, Hennickgen, was born four months later on 14 March 1630.
He certainly studied Caravaggio’s work, as well as that of his followers–the Italian Caravaggisti–such as Orazio Gentileschi. Caravaggio’s work had caused quite a sensation in Italy. His paintings were characteristic for their bold tenebroso technique–the contrast produced by clear, bright surfaces alongside sombre, dark sections–but also for the social realism of the subjects, sometimes charming, sometimes shocking or downright vulgar. Other Italian painters who had an influence on Ter Brugghen during his stay in Italy were Annibale Carracci, Domenichino and Guido Reni.
Upon returning to Utrecht, he worked with Gerard van Honthorst, another of the Dutch Caravaggisti. Ter Brugghen’s favourite subjects were half-length figures of drinkers or musicians, but he also produced larger-scale religious images and group portraits. He carried with him Caravaggio’s influence, and his paintings have a strong dramatic use of light and shadow, as well as emotionally charged subjects. Even though he died young, his work was well received and had great influence on others. His treatment of religious subjects can be seen reflected in the work of Rembrandt, and elements of his style can also be found in the paintings of Frans Hals and Johannes Vermeer. Peter Paul Rubens described ter Brugghen’s work as “…above that of all the other Utrecht artists”.

Luke 24: 13-35

Two of the disciples of Jesus were on their way to a village called Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking together about all that had happened. Now as they talked this over, Jesus himself came up and walked by their side; but something prevented them from recognising him. He said to them, ‘What matters are you discussing as you walk along?’ They stopped short, their faces downcast.

Then one of them, called Cleopas, answered him, ‘You must be the only person staying in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have been happening there these last few days.’ ‘What things?’ he asked. ‘All about Jesus of Nazareth’ they answered ‘who proved he was a great prophet by the things he said and did in the sight of God and of the whole people; and how our chief priests and our leaders handed him over to be sentenced to death, and had him crucified. Our own hope had been that he would be the one to set Israel free. And this is not all: two whole days have gone by since it all happened; and some women from our group have astounded us: they went to the tomb in the early morning, and when they did not find the body, they came back to tell us they had seen a vision of angels who declared he was alive. Some of our friends went to the tomb and found everything exactly as the women had reported, but of him they saw nothing.’

Then he said to them, ‘You foolish men! So slow to believe the full message of the prophets! Was it not ordained that the Christ should suffer and so enter into his glory?’ Then, starting with Moses and going through all the prophets, he explained to them the passages throughout the scriptures that were about himself.

When they drew near to the village to which they were going, he made as if to go on; but they pressed him to stay with them. ‘It is nearly evening’ they said ‘and the day is almost over.’ So he went in to stay with them. Now while he was with them at table, he took the bread and said the blessing; then he broke it and handed it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognised him; but he had vanished from their sight. Then they said to each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us as he talked to us on the road and explained the scriptures to us?’

They set out that instant and returned to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven assembled together with their companions, who said to them, ‘Yes, it is true. The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.’ Then they told their story of what had happened on the road and how they had recognised him at the breaking of bread.

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Supper at Emmaus, painted in 1648 by Rembrandt. The dimensions are 68cm x 65cm and is located at Musuem Musee du Louvre, Paris.
Using the Emmaus story, both the encounter on the road and the ensuing supper have been depicted in art, but the supper has received more attention. Medieval art tends to show a moment before Jesus is recognized; Christ wears a large floppy hat to help explain the initial lack of recognition by the disciples. This is often a large pilgrim’s hat with badges or, rarely, a Jewish hat. However, the depiction of the supper has been a more popular theme, at least since the Renaissance, showing Jesus eating with the disciples. Often the moment of recognition is shown.
Rembrandt’s 1648 depiction of the Supper builds on the etching that he did six years earlier, in which the disciple on the left had risen, hands clasped in prayer. In both depictions, the disciples are startled and in awe but not in fear. The servant is oblivious to the theophanic moment taking place during the supper.
Caravaggio’s painting in London and his painting in Milan were six years apart, and both imitate natural colour very well, but both were criticized for lack of decorum. Caravaggio depicted Jesus without a beard, and the London painting shows fruits on the table that are out of season. Moreover, the inn keeper is shown serving with a hat.
Some other artists who have portrayed the Supper are Jacopo Bassano, Pontormo, Vittore Carpaccio, Philippe de Champaigne, Albrecht Dürer, Benedetto Gennari, Jacob Jordaens, Marco Marziale, Pedro Orrente, Tintoretto, Titian, Velázquez, and Paolo Veronese. The supper was also the subject of one of Han van Meegeren’s most successful Vermeer forgeries.
In literary art, the Emmaus theme is treated as early as the 12th century by Durham poet Laurentius in a semidramatic Latin poem.
Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn was a Dutch draughtsman, painter, and printmaker. A prolific and versatile master across three media, he is generally considered one of the greatest visual artists in the history of art and the most important in Dutch art history. Unlike most Dutch Masters of the 17th century, Rembrandt’s works depict a wide range of style and subject matter, from portraits, self-portraits, to landscapes, genre scenes, allegorical and historical scenes, biblical and mythological themes as well as animal studies. His contributions to art came in a period of great wealth and cultural achievement that historians call the Dutch Golden Age when Dutch Golden Age painting, although in many ways antithetical to the Baroque style that dominated Europe, was extremely prolific and innovative, and gave rise to important new genres in painting.
Rembrandt’s portraits of his contemporaries, self-portraits and illustrations of scenes from the Bible are regarded as his greatest creative triumphs. His self-portraits form a unique and intimate biography, in which the artist surveyed himself without vanity and with the utmost sincerity. His reputation as the greatest etcher in the history of the medium was established in his lifetime, and never questioned since. Few of his paintings left the Dutch Republic whilst he lived, but his prints were circulated throughout Europe, and his wider reputation was initially based on them alone.
In his paintings and prints he exhibited knowledge of classical iconography, which he molded to fit the requirements of his own experience; thus, the depiction of a biblical scene was informed by Rembrandt’s knowledge of the specific text, his assimilation of classical composition, and his observations of Amsterdam’s Jewish population. Because of his empathy for the human condition, he has been called “one of the great prophets of civilization.”

John 10: 1-10

Jesus said: ‘I tell you most solemnly, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold through the gate, but gets in some other way is a thief and a brigand. The one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the flock; the gatekeeper lets him in, the sheep hear his voice, one by one he calls his own sheep and leads them out. When he has brought out his flock, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow because they know his voice. They never follow a stranger but run away from him: they do not recognise the voice of strangers.’

Jesus told them this parable but they failed to understand what he meant by telling it to them.

So Jesus spoke to them again:

‘I tell you most solemnly,
I am the gate of the sheepfold.
All others who have come
are thieves and brigands;
but the sheep took no notice of them.
I am the gate.
Anyone who enters through me will be safe:
he will go freely in and out
and be sure of finding pasture.
The thief comes
only to steal and kill and destroy.
I have come
so that they may have life
and have it to the full.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Christ as Saviour painted by El Greco between 1610 & 1614. Oil on canvas, 99cm x 179cm, it is located in the Museo de El Greco, Toledo.

El Greco painted several series in which Christ and the Apostles appear as separate images (Apostolados). The artist accepted the assistance of collaborators in some of these he painted in the final years of his life, but it is no less certain that he preserved until the very end that absolute mastery over his art so conspicuous in the superb series in the Museo de El Greco in Toledo. Other (incomplete) series are in the Toledo Cathedral, in Oviedo and in the Prado.
The group of thirteen pictures in the Museo de El Greco was conceived as a whole, with Christ looking directly at the viewer, six of the Apostles turning to the right and six to the left. The expressive, fragmentary brushwork has led some to suppose that the series was left unfinished at El Greco’s death.
Literally, the apostles (from the Greek apostolos, envoy, messenger) are the twelve disciples of Christ whom he sent out to evangelise the nations. The name was also given at a later date to the small number of saints who continued the task of evangelisation begun by the first “apostles”, and who are also considered as emissaries of Christ. Following St Paul, the apostle of the Gentiles, come, among many others, St Martin, the apostle of the Gauls; St Boniface, apostle of Frisia and Germany; and SS. Cyril and Methodius, apostles of the Slavs. The original twelve formed a group which served to witness that the Jesus they knew was indeed the Messiah.
In the lists given in the New Testament, the earliest disciples – Peter (Simon Peter), Andrew, James the Greater (or Great) and John – are always named first. A second group of four follows: Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew and Thomas. Finally appear James the Less, Jude (or Thaddaeus), Simon the Canaanite and Judas Iscariot. Peter always occupies the first place and Judas the last; the latter was replaced by Matthias after the betrayal. However, in all of El Greco’s Apostolados, Apostle Paul is chosen to replace Judas. Although not one of the original twelve whom Christ chose to be his closest followers, Paul became the ‘Apostle of the Gentiles’ following his dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus.
Popular piety had all the apostles die for the true faith and their legends include a number of different methods of martyrdom. Like Christ, five were crucified: Peter and Philip upside down and Andrew on a cross saltire.

John 15: 1-8

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that bears no fruit he cuts away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes to make it bear even more. You are pruned already, by means of the word that I have spoken to you. Make your home in me, as I make mine in you. As a branch cannot bear fruit all by itself, but must remain part of the vine, neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches.

Whoever remains in me, with me in him, bears fruit in plenty; for cut off from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is like a branch that has been thrown away – he withers; these branches are collected and thrown on the fire, and they are burnt.

If you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask what you will and you shall get it. It is to the glory of my Father that you should bear much fruit, and then you will be my disciples.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: 16th Century Greek Icon. There are numerous Old Testament passages which refer to Israel as a vine: Ps 80:8–16, Isa 5:1–7, Jer 2:21, Ezek 15:1–8, 17:5–10, 19:10–14, and Hos 10:1. The Old Testament passages which use this symbol appear to regard Israel as faithless to Yahweh and the object of severe punishment. Ezek 15:1–8 in particular talks about the worthlessness of wood from a vine (in relation to disobedient Judah). A branch cut from a vine is worthless except to be burned as fuel. This appears to fit more with the statements about the disciples than with Jesus’ description of himself as the vine.

Ezek 17:5–10 contains vine imagery which refers to a king of the house of David, Zedekiah, who was set up as king in Judah by Nebuchadnezzar. Zedekiah allied himself to Egypt and broke his covenant with Nebuchadnezzar (and therefore also with God), which would ultimately result in his downfall (17:20–21). Ezek 17:22–24 then describes the planting of a cedar sprig which grows into a lofty tree, a figurative description of Messiah. But it is significant that Messiah himself is not described in Ezekiel 17 as a vine, but as a cedar tree. The vine imagery here applies to Zedekiah’s disobedience.

Several authors comment that “parables are noticeably absent from the Gospel of John”. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia article on Parables: “There are no parables in St. John’s Gospel” and according to the Encyclopaedia Britannica article on Gospel of St. John: “Here Jesus’ teaching contains no parables and but three allegories, the Synoptists present it as parabolic through and through.” These sources all suggest that the passage is better described as a metaphor than a parable. However, some writers, referred to the passage by a Latin term that is typically translated into English as a “parable”.

John 14: 15-21

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘If you love me you will keep my commandments.
I shall ask the Father,
and he will give you another Advocate
to be with you for ever,
that Spirit of truth
whom the world can never receive
since it neither sees nor knows him;
but you know him,
because he is with you, he is in you.
I will not leave you orphans;
I will come back to you.
In a short time the world will no longer see me;
but you will see me,
because I live and you will live.
On that day
you will understand that I am in my Father
and you in me and I in you.
Anybody who receives my commandments and keeps them
will be one who loves me;
and anybody who loves me will be loved by my Father,
and I shall love him and show myself to him.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Christ Jesus painted by Ary Scheffer in 1851. Oil on fabric the painting in 108cm x 74cm and is located at the Walters Art Musuem, Baltimore, USA.
Before enrolling in the École des Beaux-Arts, Scheffer studied with the neoclassically trained artist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, whose mastery of the art of the past and high technical finish he emulated. He exhibited his first works at the age of 17 in the 1812 Salon in the so-called “juste-milieu” (in English, literally, middle path) tradition. Scheffer was attracted to romantic themes gleaned from contemporary authors such as Sir Walter Scott and Goethe. His meteoric rise in the art world drew instant critical acclaim and the acquaintance of such artists as Théodore Géricault, Eugène Delacroix, and Paul Delaroche. This work was not seen until after Scheffer’s death. He stopped exhibiting at the Salon altogether in 1846 and became increasingly preoccupied with religious imagery with a seriousness that reflects a pointed departure from his earlier, more anecdotal work. In this iconic image, he focuses on the solitary figure of Christ.
His other religious subjects: Christus Consolator (1836) was followed by Christus Remunerator, The shepherds led by the star (1837), The Magi laying down their crowns, Christ in the Garden of Olives, Christ bearing his Cross, Christ interred (1845), and St Augustine and Monica (1846).
One of the reduced versions of his Christus Consolator (the major work today to be found in the Van Gogh-museum, Amsterdam), lost for 70 years, was rediscovered in a janitor’s closet in Gethsemane Lutheran Church in Dassel, Minnesota in 2007. It has been restored and is on display at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.
Scheffer was also an accomplished portrait painter, finishing 500 portraits in total. His subjects included composers Frédéric Chopin and Franz Liszt, the Marquis de la Fayette, Pierre-Jean de Béranger, Alphonse de Lamartine, Charles Dickens, Duchess de Broglie, Talleyrand and Queen Marie Amélie.
After 1846, he ceased to exhibit. His strong ties with the royal family caused him to fall out of favour when, in 1848, the Second Republic came into being. Scheffer was made commander of the Legion of Honour in 1848, that is, after he had wholly withdrawn from the Salon. Shut up in his studio, he produced many paintings that were only exhibited after his death in 1858.
The works first exhibited posthumously include Sorrows of the earth, and the Angel announcing the Resurrection, which he had left unfinished. By the time of his death, his reputation was damaged: though his paintings were praised for their charm and facility, they were condemned for poor use of colour and vapid sentiment.

Matthew 28: 16-20

The eleven disciples set out for Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had arranged to meet them. When they saw him they fell down before him, though some hesitated. Jesus came up and spoke to them. He said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations; baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you. And know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Ascension painted by John Singleton Copley in 1775. It is oil on canvas and is currently located in the Museum of Fine Art, Boston, USA.
John Singleton Copley RA (1738 – 1815) was an American painter, active in both colonial America and England. He was probably born in Boston, Massachusetts, to Richard and Mary Singleton Copley, both Anglo-Irish. He is famous for his portrait paintings of important figures in colonial New England, depicting in particular middle-class subjects. His portraits were innovative in their tendency to depict artifacts relating to these individuals’ lives.
After planning a trip to Europe for more than a decade, Copley finally left Boston in June 1774. After a brief stop in London he spent four months in Rome, studying the works of the old masters and composing a painting of his own. He took his inspiration from Raphael’s “Transfiguration of Christ” (Vatican Museums), which he deemed of “exalted Merrit.” He gave careful thought to his interpretation of the event—“I considered how the Apostles would be affected at that Instant”—and then began the present study, a sketch of the lower part of the picture. Copley concerned himself with the arrangement of areas of light and shadow, devised the action of each figure, and drew from a layman, or artist’s mannequin, that he draped with a wet tablecloth. The drawing occupied him for the better part of November 1774, and on December 4 of that year he reported to his wife that it “has the approbation of all who have seen it. I am encouraged to paint it.” His finished painting “The Ascension” is now in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Solemnity of Pentecost

John 20: 19-23

In the evening of the first day of the week, the doors were closed in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood among them. He said to them, ‘Peace be with you’, and showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord, and he said to them again, ‘Peace be with you.

‘As the Father sent me,
so am I sending you.’

After saying this he breathed on them and said:

‘Receive the Holy Spirit.
For those whose sins you forgive,
they are forgiven:
for those whose sins you retain,
they are retained.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Pentecost is a work of El Greco , made with oil on canvas between 1597 and 1600, during his last period of Toledo. Exhibited in one of the halls of the Prado Museum in Madrid . It belonged to the group painted the altarpiece for the church of an Augustinian seminary of Madrid , known as the “School of Doña María de Aragón”.

El Greco promised in 1596 to make the altarpiece of the church of Doña María de Aragón school. The popular name alludes to the seminar María de Aragón, the patron who paid work. El Greco was commissioned by the Council of Castile , who had taken over the work after the death of Dona Maria. There are documents that testify that it had to be done in three years and value the work into something more than sixty-three thousand reale , the highest price that reached to his life. However, there are references to the number of pictures that were, or the structure of the altar, or the field concerned.

This work was in part superior altarpiece. She, like many of the other pieces, El Greco organized composition based on a triangle reversed. The scene revolves around the Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene and the Apostles. In the background is the dove of the Holy Spirit, which radiates a light that enlightens every stage and affects the costumes of the characters.

The scene is based on a passage concerning the Acts of the Apostles, uses elongated figures that move away from the traditional stereotype of classical beauty. There is a sense of perspective, while the strong tones of certain sections are direct inheritance of Tintoretto and Michelangelo.

Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

John 3: 16-18

Jesus said to Nicodemus,

‘God loved the world so much
that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost
but may have eternal life.
For God sent his Son into the world
not to condemn the world,
but so that through him the world might be saved.
No one who believes in him will be condemned;
but whoever refuses to believe is condemned already,
because he has refused to believe
in the name of God’s only Son.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Holy Trinity painted by Hendrick van Balen in 1620. It is oil on panel and is located at Sint-Jaconskerk, Antwerp.

Hendrick van Balen (1575 – 1632) was a Flemish Baroque painter and stained glass designer. Hendrick van Balen specialised in small cabinet pictures often painted on a copper support. His favourite themes were mythological and allegorical scenes and, to a lesser extent, religious subjects. The artist played an important role in the renewal of Flemish painting in the early 17th century and was one of the teachers of Anthony van Dyck.

The Trinity is most commonly seen in Christian art with the Spirit represented by a dove, as specified in the Gospel accounts of the Baptism of Christ; he is nearly always shown with wings outspread. However depictions using three anthropomorphic figures appear occasionally in most periods of art.
The Father and the Son are usually differentiated by age, and later by dress, but this too is not always the case. The usual depiction of the Father as an older man with a white beard may derive from the biblical Ancient of Days, which is often cited in defense of this sometimes controversial representation. However, in Eastern Orthodoxy the Ancient of Days is usually understood to be God the Son, not God the Father (see below)—early Byzantine images show Christ as the Ancient of Days, but this iconography became rare. When the Father is depicted in art, he is sometimes shown with a halo shaped like an equilateral triangle, instead of a circle. The Son is often shown at the Father’s right hand. He may be represented by a symbol—typically the Lamb or a cross—or on a crucifix, so that the Father is the only human figure shown at full size. In early medieval art, the Father may be represented by a hand appearing from a cloud in a blessing gesture, for example in scenes of the Baptism of Christ. Later, in the West, the Throne of Mercy (or “Throne of Grace”) became a common depiction. In this style, the Father (sometimes seated on a throne) is shown supporting either a crucifix or, later, a slumped crucified Son, similar to the Pietà (this type is distinguished in German as the Not Gottes) in his outstretched arms, while the Dove hovers above or in between them. This subject continued to be popular until the 18th century at least.

By the end of the 15th century, larger representations, other than the Throne of Mercy, became effectively standardised, showing an older figure in plain robes for the Father, Christ with his torso partly bare to display the wounds of his Passion, and the dove above or around them. In earlier representations both Father, especially, and Son often wear elaborate robes and crowns. Sometimes the Father alone wears a crown, or even a papal tiara.

Solemnity of the Most Body and Blood of Christ – Corpus Christi

John 6: 51-58

Jesus said to the Jews:

‘I am the living bread which has come down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world.’

Then the Jews started arguing with one another: ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ they said. Jesus replied:

‘I tell you most solemnly,
if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man
and drink his blood,
you will not have life in you.
Anyone who does eat my flesh and drink my blood
has eternal life,
and I shall raise him up on the last day.
For my flesh is real food
and my blood is real drink.
He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood
lives in me
and I live in him.
As I, who am sent by the living Father,
myself draw life from the Father,
so whoever eats me will draw life from me.
This is the bread come down from heaven;
not like the bread our ancestors ate:
they are dead,
but anyone who eats this bread will live for ever.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Corpus Christi procession is painted by Caril Emil Doepler the Elder in 1860. It is oil on canvas, 46cm x 37cm and is located in Germany.

Carl Emil Doepler (1824–1905) was a German painter, illustrator and costume designer. He created the costumes for Richard Wagner’s opera Der Ring des Nibelungen at the Bayreuther Festspiele in 1876. His son, Emil Doepler, was also an artist.

The Feast of Corpus Christi (Latin for Body of Christ) is a Latin Rite liturgical solemnity celebrating the belief in the body and blood of Jesus Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist. It emphasises the joy of the institution of the Eucharist. The latter had previously been observed only on Maundy Thursday, in the somber atmosphere leading to Good Friday.

The feast is liturgically celebrated on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday or, “where the Solemnity of The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ is not a holy day of obligation, it is assigned to the Sunday after the Most Holy Trinity as its proper day”. It was reported in 2017, however, that Pope Francis had moved the feast from Thursday to the following Sunday, when it is celebrated in Italy.

At the end of Holy Mass, there is often a procession of the Blessed Sacrament, generally displayed in a monstrance. The procession is followed by Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. A notable Eucharistic procession is that presided over by the Pope each year in Rome, where it begins at the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran and passes to the Basilica of Saint Mary Major, where it concludes with Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.

Matthew 10: 26-33

Jesus instructed the Twelve as follows: ‘Do not be afraid. For everything that is now covered will be uncovered, and everything now hidden will be made clear. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the daylight; what you hear in whispers, proclaim from the housetops.

‘Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; fear him rather who can destroy both body and soul in hell. Can you not buy two sparrows for a penny? And yet not one falls to the ground without your Father knowing. Why, every hair on your head has been counted. So there is no need to be afraid; you are worth more than hundreds of sparrows.

‘So if anyone declares himself for me in the presence of men, I will declare myself for him in the presence of my Father in heaven. But the one who disowns me in the presence of men, I will disown in the presence of my Father in heaven.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: The Inspiration of Saint Matthew is a painting by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, painted in 1602. It is oil on canvas and is currently located at the Contarelli Chapel, Church of San Luigi dei Francesi, Rome.
This painting is Caravaggio’s second version of the subject, was the last in the series, although it is over the high altar and therefore central in location as well as meaning. Unlike the lateral canvases, it is visible from all points in the chapel, a constant reminder of the importance of the Gospel. The angelic messenger is evidently dictating to the saint, ticking off points on the fingers of his left hand. The reading of the text of the Gospel demonstrates that he has reached the second part of the introduction, that is, Christ’s genealogy and hence His continuity with the past.
Saint Matthew appears to have been portrayed from the same model as in the Martyrdom, and, appropriately enough, to be older than he was in the Calling. Despite his dignity, his noble, bearded face and bald head, and his robes reminiscent of an ancient philosopher’s, he is in a very unsettled pose, not having had time to sit down, and with the bench under his knee tipping a little whimsically over the edge of a ledge. Obviously he is writing on the inspiration of the moment, coached by the angel. His role as a divine instrument is also implied by his name, which was believed to derive from the words “manus” (hand) and “theos” (god).
Cardinal Contarelli originally intended that the two figures be placed side by side, as they were in the first version. By changing this scheme for the traditional arrangement of the angel’s flying in, Caravaggio emphasized the divinity of Matthew’s inspiration and thus the authority of his Gospel. No doubt Caravaggio referred to some of the numerous sixteenth-century prototypes for the compo¬sition. Perhaps he had access to Taddeo Zuccaro’s drawing of The Flight to Egypt, where the poses and some of the gestures of Joseph and the angel, and the relation between them, are similar. Or he may have been influenced by one of the many Venetian prototypes, of which the closest seems to be the reversed composition of The Inspiration of Saint John the Evangelist that Francesco Bassano had painted a few years earlier.
The ledge beneath the bench precisely defines the saint’s spatial position in relation to the altar and to the whole chapel. But the placement of the angel is ambiguous. He must be not only above Matthew but also in front of him, judging from the saint’s direction of regard. But in the whole context he is difficult to place, as if, like the blank, amorphous background, he were out of time and place. Nonetheless, he is fully corporeal and probably was inspired by actors in the contemporary theater, who were flown across the stage on wires. Of the three paintings in the chapel, this shows the most use of the grooves that are incised in some of Caravaggio’s paintings.

Matthew 10: 37-42

Jesus instructed the Twelve as follows: ‘Anyone who prefers father or mother to me is not worthy of me. Anyone who prefers son or daughter to me is not worthy of me. Anyone who does not take his cross and follow in my footsteps is not worthy of me. Anyone who finds his life will lose it; anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it.

‘Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me; and those who welcome me welcome the one who sent me.

‘Anyone who welcomes a prophet because he is a prophet will have a prophet’s reward; and anyone who welcomes a holy man because he is a holy man will have a holy man’s reward.

‘If anyone gives so much as a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is a disciple, then I tell you solemnly, he will most certainly not lose his reward.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew is painted by Caravaggio, around 1600. It is oil on canvas, 323cm x 343cm and is located at Chiesa di San Luigi dei Francesi (Rome).

Saint Matthew’s history continues with his death. The king of Ethiopia, Hirticus, wished to marry his niece Iphigenia, the abbess of a convent, whose resurrection by Saint Matthew and conversion to Christianity provided the subject for D’Arpino’s fresco in the vault. When Saint Matthew forbade the marriage, Hirticus had him killed.

The scene takes place in the foreground of a vast, dark interior, where nearly nude converts to the left and right of a pool await baptism. An altar is in the background. Muziano had painted the subject a few years earlier in the Roman church of Santa Maria Aracoeli, but it was not very often represented. Caravaggio must have been familiar with Muziano’s painting and perhaps with a now-lost drawing for the scene made by the Cavaliere d’Arpino while he was still under contract to do the lateral paintings. Caravaggio seems to have been most influenced, however, by more distant works: Titian’s famous painting (destroyed by fire in 1867) of The Death of Saint Peter Martyr in the church of Santi Giovanni Paolo in Venice, of which there were many prints in circulation by the end of the sixteenth century; Marcantonio Raimondi’s engraving after Raphael’s Massacre of the Innocents; and comparable derivative works.

From these sources, all appropriate to a scene of Christian martyrdom, Caravaggio took various poses. He focused on the executioner in the center, at the critical moment when he seizes the supine, helpless Saint Matthew. While Matthew raises his right hand beseechingly toward the executioner, the angel hands down the martyr’s palm and the other figures scatter in dismay. We see only fragments of these fleeing figures; light falls jaggedly on them like a strobe, emphasizing their confusion. This outburst of action contrasts with the inaction of the Calling; the movements of those figures seem to be momentarily suspended, while these appear to be congealed in their poses. The pause in the movement of the figures in the Calling is a part of the narrative and contributes to its authenticity; these men in flight, on the other hand, have been portrayed in an instant of continuing action. The executioner and the saint might pause, just before the fatal blow is struck; but the fleeing figures are in precarious, unsustainable poses, so that the effect is artificial, as if the instant of the outburst of response had been quick-frozen.

The confusion of movement and the almost jigsaw pattern of sharply contrasting lights and darks are stabilized by the horizontals of the steps and the altar and by the dim architectural background verticals. Less evident than in the Calling but faintly discernible is an underlying grid composition underpinning the jumble of actions around the central figure. The harshness of the act of assassination is modified by the graceful S-curve connecting the body of the angel through his arm and the palm branch to Saint Matthew’s arms. The juxtaposition of the saint’s right hand, the executioner’s left hand, and the martyr’s palm over the Maltese cross on the altarpiece cannot have been accidental; their proximity provides a focus for the meaning of the painting. Perhaps the single candle burning on the altar is symbolic, representing the all-seeing eye of God, ever present and aware of His martyr’s sacrifice; it may also refer to the fugitiveness of human life.

The most distant figure is a self-portrait of Caravaggio; it provides a very specific reference point for the viewer, as if Caravaggio were participating in the tragedy, and thus making it contemporary. He looks out at the martyrdom, as if to involve the spectator in it.

Matthew 11: 25-30

Jesus exclaimed, ‘I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children. Yes, Father, for that is what it pleased you to do. Everything has been entrusted to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, just as no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

‘Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: The Calling of Saint Matthew is a painting by Caravaggio, painted 1600. It is oil on canvas, dimensions 322cm x 340cm and is located at the San Luigi dei Francesi, Rome.

The subject traditionally was represented either indoors or out; sometimes Saint Matthew is shown inside a building, with Christ outside (following the Biblical text) summoning him through a window. Both before and after Caravaggio the subject was often used as a pretext for anecdotal genre paintings. Caravaggio may well have been familiar with earlier Netherlandish paintings of money lenders or of gamblers seated around a table like Saint Matthew and his associates.

Caravaggio represented the event as a nearly silent, dramatic narrative. The sequence of actions before and after this moment can be easily and convincingly re-created. The tax-gatherer Levi (Saint Matthew’s name before he became the apostle) was seated at a table with his four assistants, counting the day’s proceeds, the group lighted from a source at the upper right of the painting. Christ, His eyes veiled, with His halo the only hint of divinity, enters with Saint Peter. A gesture of His right hand, all the more powerful and compelling because of its languor, summons Levi. Surprised by the intrusion and perhaps dazzled by the sudden light from the just-opened door, Levi draws back and gestures toward himself with his left hand as if to say, “Who, me?”, his right hand remaining on the coin he had been counting before Christ’s entrance.

The two figures on the left, derived from a 1545 Hans Holbein print representing gamblers unaware of the appearance of Death, are so concerned with counting the money that they do not even notice Christ’s arrival; symbolically their inattention to Christ deprives them of the opportunity He offers for eternal life, and condemns them to death. The two boys in the center do respond, the younger one drawing back against Levi as if seeking his protection, the swaggering older one, who is armed, leaning forward a little menacingly. Saint Peter gestures firmly with his hand to calm his potential resistance. The dramatic point of the picture is that for this moment, no one does anything. Christ’s appearance is so unexpected and His gesture so commanding as to suspend action for a shocked instant, before reaction can take place. In another second, Levi will rise up and follow Christ – in fact, Christ’s feet are already turned as if to leave the room. The particular power of the picture is in this cessation of action. It utilizes the fundamentally static medium of painting to convey characteristic human indecision after a challenge or command and before reaction.

The picture is divided into two parts. The standing figures on the right form a vertical rectangle; those gathered around the table on the left a horizontal block. The costumes reinforce the contrast. Levi and his subordinates, who are involved in affairs of this world, are dressed in a contemporary mode, while the barefoot Christ and Saint Peter, who summon Levi to another life and world, appear in timeless cloaks. The two groups are also separated by a void, bridged literally and symbolically by Christ’s hand. This hand, like Adam’s in Michelangelo’s Creation, unifies the two parts formally and psychologically. Underlying the shallow stage-like space of the picture is a grid pattern of verticals and horizontals, which knit it together structurally.

The light has been no less carefully manipulated: the visible window covered with oilskin, very likely to provide diffused light in the painter’s studio; the upper light, to illuminate Saint Matthew’s face and the seated group; and the light behind Christ and Saint Peter, introduced only with them. It may be that this third source of light is intended as miraculous. Otherwise, why does Saint Peter cast no shadow on the defensive youth facing him?

Matthew 13:1-23

Jesus left the house and sat by the lakeside, but such crowds gathered round him that he got into a boat and sat there. The people all stood on the beach, and he told them many things in parables.

He said, ‘Imagine a sower going out to sow. As he sowed, some seeds fell on the edge of the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Others fell on patches of rock where they found little soil and sprang up straight away, because there was no depth of earth; but as soon as the sun came up they were scorched and, not having any roots, they withered away. Others fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Others fell on rich soil and produced their crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Listen, anyone who has ears!’

Then the disciples went up to him and asked, ‘Why do you talk to them in parables?’ ‘Because’ he replied ‘the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven are revealed to you, but they are not revealed to them. For anyone who has will be given more, and he will have more than enough; but from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away. The reason I talk to them in parables is that they look without seeing and listen without hearing or understanding. So in their case this prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled:

You will listen and listen again, but not understand,
see and see again, but not perceive.
For the heart of this nation has grown coarse,
their ears are dull of hearing,
and they have shut their eyes,
for fear they should see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their heart,
and be converted
and be healed by me.

‘But happy are your eyes because they see, your ears because they hear! I tell you solemnly, many prophets and holy men longed to see what you see, and never saw it; to hear what you hear, and never heard it.

‘You, therefore, are to hear the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom without understanding, the evil one comes and carries off what was sown in his heart: this is the man who received the seed on the edge of the path. The one who received it on patches of rock is the man who hears the word and welcomes it at once with joy. But he has no root in him, he does not last; let some trial come, or some persecution on account of the word, and he falls away at once. The one who received the seed in thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this world and the lure of riches choke the word and so he produces nothing. And the one who received the seed in rich soil is the man who hears the word and understands it; he is the one who yields a harvest and produces now a hundredfold, now sixty, now thirty.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Christ of the Cornfield is a painting by Thomas Francis Dickee in 1883. It is oil on canvas, 140cm x 105cm and is currently in a private collection, sold at Christie’s, London for £67,000 in 2012.

Thomas Francis Dicksee (1819–1895) was an English painter born in France. He was a portraitist and painter of historical, genre subjects — often from Shakespeare — who was the pupil of H. P. Briggs. He exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1841 until the year of his death. His brother John Robert Dicksee was also a painter, and his children, Sir Francis Dicksee and Margaret likewise became painters. In The Dictionary of Victorian Painters, Herbert Dicksee is given as his son also, but according to the City of London School, where Herbert taught, he was the son of John Robert Dicksee.

Thomas Dicksee produced a series of portraits of family members, and also painted idealised portraits, including the Shakespearean characters Ophelia, Beatrice, Miranda and Ariel. A Juliet is in the Sunderland Art Gallery, and At the Opera is in the collection of Leicester Art Gallery. A portrait of Lady Teasdale is in the Adelaide Art Gallery, Australia and an Ophelia (1875) is in the Mead Art Museum, Amherst, Massachusetts. Dicksee would become particularly well known for his depictions of Shakespearean heroines and exhibited a total of seven at the Royal Academy. Other oil paintings, including this one have been seen in several auctions including Christ of the Cornfield, Distant Thoughts, and paintings of Beatrice, Miranda, and Amy Robsart.

Matthew 13: 24-43

Jesus put a parable before the crowds, ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. While everybody was asleep his enemy came, sowed darnel all among the wheat, and made off. When the new wheat sprouted and ripened, the darnel appeared as well. The owner’s servants went to him and said, “Sir, was it not good seed that you sowed in your field? If so, where does the darnel come from?” “Some enemy has done this” he answered. And the servants said, “Do you want us to go and weed it out?” But he said, “No, because when you weed out the darnel you might pull up the wheat with it. Let them both grow till the harvest; and at harvest time I shall say to the reapers: First collect the darnel and tie it in bundles to be burnt, then gather the wheat into my barn.” ‘

He put another parable before them, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the biggest shrub of all and becomes a tree so that the birds of the air come and shelter in its branches.’

He told them another parable, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like the yeast a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour till it was leavened all through.’

In all this Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables; indeed he would never speak to them except in parables. This was to fulfil the prophecy:

I will speak to you in parables
and expound things hidden since the foundation of the world.

Then, leaving the crowds, he went to the house; and his disciples came to him and said, ‘Explain the parable about the darnel in the field to us.’ He said in reply, ‘The sower of the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world; the good seed is the subjects of the kingdom; the darnel, the subjects of the evil one; the enemy who sowed them, the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; the reapers are the angels. Well then, just as the darnel is gathered up and burnt in the fire, so it will be at the end of time. The Son of Man will send his angels and they will gather out of his kingdom all things that provoke offences and all who do evil, and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth. Then the virtuous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Listen, anyone who has ears!’

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Parable of the Wheat and the Tares is a painting by Abraham Bloemaert in 1624 during the baroque period. It is oil on canvas, 101cm x 133cm, and is located at the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, USA.

In this parable from the Gospel of Matthew, the devil, identified by his horns and tail, sows weeds (or tares) in the field where wheat has been planted, while the lazy peasants are sleeping. Christians considered sloth one of the Seven Deadly Sins to which mankind was subject as a result of the Original Sin of Adam and Eve, to whom the two naked sleepers allude. The dovecote (a birdhouse to attract doves or pigeons that can be trapped for food without the bother of raising them) was associated with the morally lazy who take the easy way. The goat, known for its lust, alludes to self-indulgence, and the peacock, to pride. Bloemaert was gifted in depicting natural detail, but he never painted pure landscapes, preferring pictures with a lesson. He was one of the leading artists of Utrecht and trained many major artists of the next generation.

Abraham Bloemaert (1566 – 1651) was a Dutch painter and printmaker in etching and engraving. He was one of the “Haarlem Mannerists” from about 1585, but in the new century altered his style to fit new Baroque trends. He mostly painted history subjects and some landscapes. He was an important teacher, who trained most of the Utrecht Caravaggisti, at least for a period.

Bloemaert was born in Gorinchem, Habsburg Netherlands, the son of the architect Cornelis Bloemaert I, who moved his family to Utrecht in 1575, where Abraham was first a pupil of Gerrit Splinter (pupil of Frans Floris) and of Joos de Beer. From the age of 15 or 16, he then spent three years in Paris from 1581–1583, studying six weeks under a Jehan Bassot (possibly Jean Cousin the Younger) and then under a Maistre Herry. While in the School of Fontainebleau he received further training from his fellow countryman Hieronymus Francken. He returned to Utrecht in 1583, just before the French Wars of Religion began, which destroyed much of the work at the Chateau of Fontainebleau.

When his father was appointed city architect (Stads-bouwmeester) in Amsterdam 1591 he accompanied him there, and on his father’s death in 1593 returned finally to Utrecht, where he set up a workshop and in 1594 became dean (“deken”) of the “zadelaarsgilde”, as from 1367 the painters were included in the saddlemaker’s guild, with no Guild of St. Luke of their own. In 1611, along with the two other leading Utrecht painters, Joachim Wtewael and Paulus Moreelse, he was one of the founders of the Utrecht Guild of Saint Luke (St Lucas-gilde) a new Utrecht painters’ guild, and became its deken in 1618. Many of Bloemaert’s paintings were commissioned by Utrecht’s clandestine Catholic churches. He died in Utrecht.

According to the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, “[h]e excelled more as a colourist than as a draughtsman, was extremely productive, and painted and etched historical and allegorical pictures, landscapes, still-life, animal pictures and flower pieces.” In the first decade of the seventeenth-century, Bloemaert began formulating his landscape paintings to include picturesque ruined cottages and other pastoral elements. In these works, the religious or mythological figures play a subordinate role. Country life was to remain Bloemaert’s favourite subject, which he depicted with increasing naturalism. He drew motifs such as peasant cottages, dovecotes and trees from life and then on his return to the studio worked them up into complex imaginary scenes.

Matthew 13: 44-52

Jesus said to the crowds, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field which someone has found; he hides it again, goes off happy, sells everything he owns and buys the field.

‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls; when he finds one of great value he goes and sells everything he owns and buys it.

‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet cast into the sea that brings in a haul of all kinds. When it is full, the fishermen haul it ashore; then, sitting down, they collect the good ones in a basket and throw away those that are no use. This is how it will be at the end of time: the angels will appear and separate the wicked from the just to throw them into the blazing furnace where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.

‘Have you understood all this?’ They said, ‘Yes.’ And he said to them, ‘Well, then, every scribe who becomes a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out from his storeroom things both new and old.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Parable of the hidden treasure painted in the workshop of Rembrandt; possibly painted by Gerrit Dou and Goveart Flinck. It was painted around 1630 and is currently located at the Museum of Fine Art, Budapest.

This intriguing work, which is unsigned and undated, is characteristic of paintings created in Leiden around 1630, but much debate has surrounded its attribution. It was once thought to have been executed by Rembrandt van Rijn (1606–69), but that traditional assessment was challenged in 1911 when Wilhelm Martin gave the painting to Rembrandt’s pupil, Gerrit Dou. Martin dated it to the period of Dou’s apprenticeship with Rembrandt from 1628 to 1631. Subsequently, Kurt Bauch proposed that Rembrandt retouched the work in critical areas, specifically the face of the artist. Werner Sumowski, who initially accepted Bauch’s proposal, eventually concluded that Dou made the various compositional adjustments himself.

Gerrit Dou (7 April 1613 – 9 February 1675), was a Dutch Golden Age painter, whose small, highly polished paintings are typical of the Leiden fijnschilders. He specialised in genre scenes and is noted for his trompe l’oeil “niche” paintings and candlelit night-scenes with strong chiaroscuro. He was a student of Rembrandt.

He studied drawing under Bartholomeus Dolendo, and then trained in the stained-glass workshop of Pieter Couwenhorn. In February 1628, at the age of fourteen, his father sent him to study painting in the studio of Rembrandt (then aged about 21) who lived nearby. From Rembrandt, with whom he remained for about three years, he acquired his skill in colouring and in the more subtle effects of chiaroscuro, and his master’s style is reflected in several of his earlier pictures, notably a self-portrait at the age of 22 in the Bridgewater Collection, and in the Blind Tobit going to meet his Son, at Wardour Castle.

At a comparatively early point in his career, however, he developed a distinctive manner of his own which diverged considerably from Rembrandt’s, cultivating a minute and elaborate style of treatment. He is said to have spent five days in painting a hand, and his work was so fine that he found it necessary to manufacture his own brushes.

Notwithstanding the minuteness of his touch, the general effect was harmonious and free from stiffness, and his colour was always fresh and transparent. He often represented subjects in lantern or candle light, the effects of which he reproduced with an unparalleled fidelity and skill. He often painted with the aid of a concave mirror, and to obtain exactness looked at his subject through a frame crossed with squares of silk thread. His practice as a portrait painter, which was at first considerable, gradually declined, sitters being unwilling to give him the time that he deemed necessary. His pictures were always small in size. More than 200 are attributed to him, and examples are to be found in most of the major public collections of Europe. His chef-d’oeuvre is generally considered to be The dropsical woman (1663), and The Dutch Housewife (1650), both in the Louvre. The Evening School, in the Amsterdam Rijksmuseum, is the best example of the candlelight scenes in which he excelled. In the National Gallery, London, favourable specimens are to be seen in the Poulterer’s Shop (1672), and a self-portrait. Dou’s pictures brought high prices, and one patron, Pieter Spiering, who acted as Swedish Ambassador in The Hague from the mid-1630s, paid him 500 guilders annually simply for the right of first refusal of his latest works. Queen Christina of Sweden owned eleven paintings by Dou, and Cosimo III de’ Medici visited his house, where he may have bought at least one of the works now in the Uffizi. The Dutch royal court itself, however, preferred work of a more classical tendency.

Matthew 17: 1-9

Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain where they could be alone. There in their presence he was transfigured: his face shone like the sun and his clothes became as white as the light. Suddenly Moses and Elijah appeared to them; they were talking with him. Then Peter spoke to Jesus. ‘Lord,’ he said ‘it is wonderful for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ He was still speaking when suddenly a bright cloud covered them with shadow, and from the cloud there came a voice which said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; he enjoys my favour. Listen to him.’ When they heard this, the disciples fell on their faces, overcome with fear. But Jesus came up and touched them. ‘Stand up,’ he said ‘do not be afraid.’ And when they raised their eyes they saw no one but only Jesus.

As they came down from the mountain Jesus gave them this order, ‘Tell no one about the vision until the Son of Man has risen from the dead.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: The Transfiguration is the last painting by the Italian High Renaissance master Raphael. Commissioned by Cardinal Giulio de Medici, the later Pope Clement VII (1523–1534) and conceived as an altarpiece for the Narbonne Cathedral in France, Raphael worked on it until his death in 1520. The painting exemplifies Raphael’s development as an artist and the culmination of his career. Unusually for a depiction of the Transfiguration of Jesus in Christian art, the subject is combined with an additional episode from the Gospels in the lower part of the painting.
The Transfiguration stands as an allegory of the transformative nature of representation. It is now in the Pinacoteca Vaticana in Vatican City.
By December 1516, the latest date of commission, Cardinal Giulio de Medici, cousin to Pope Leo X (1513–1521), was also the Pope’s vice-chancellor and chief advisor. He had been endowed with the legation of Bologna, the bishoprics of Albi, Ascoli, Worcester, Eger and others. From February 1515, this included the archbishopric of Narbonne. He commissioned two paintings for the cathedral of Narbonne, The Transfiguration of Christ from Raphael and The Raising of Lazarus from Sebastiano del Piombo. With Michelangelo providing drawings for the latter work, Medici was rekindling the rivalry initiated a decade earlier between Michelangelo and Raphael, in the Stanze and Sistine Chapel.
From 11 to 12 December 1516, Michelangelo was in Rome to discuss with Pope Leo X and Cardinal Medici the facade of the Basilica of San Lorenzo in Florence. During this meeting, he was confronted with the commission of The Raising of Lazarus and it was here that he agreed to provide drawings for the endeavour, but not to execute the painting himself. The commission went to Michelangelo’s friend Sebastiano del Piombo. As of this meeting the paintings would become emblematic of a paragone between two approaches to painting, and between painting and sculpture in Italian art.
An early modello for the painting, done in Raphael’s studio by Giulio Romano, depicted a 1:10 scale drawing for the Transfiguration. Here Christ is shown on Mount Tabor. Moses and Eljah float towards him; John and James are kneeling to the right; Peter is to the left. The top of the model depicts God the Father and a throng of angels. A second modello, done by Gianfrancesco Penni, shows a design with two scenes, as the painting was to develop. This modello is held by the Louvre.
The Raising of Lazarus was unofficially on view by October 1518. By this time Raphael had barely started on his altarpiece. By the time Sebastiano del Piombo’s work was officially inspected in the Vatican by Leo X on Sunday, 11 December 1519, the third Sunday of Advent, The Transfiguration was still unfinished.
Raphael would have been familiar with the final form of The Raising of Lazarus as early as the autumn of 1518, and there is considerable evidence that he worked feverishly to compete, adding a second theme and nineteen figures. A surviving modello for the project, now in the Louvre (a workshop copy of a lost drawing by Raphael’s assistant Gianfrancesco Penni) shows the dramatic change in the intended work.
Examination of the final Transfiguration revealed more than sixteen incomplete areas and pentimenti (alterations). An important theory holds that the writings of Blessed Amadeo Menes da Silva was key to the transformation. Amadeo was an influential friar, healer and visionary as well as the Pope’s confessor. He was also diplomat for the Vatican State. In 1502, after his death, many of Amadeo’s writings and sermons were compiled as the Apocalypsis Nova. This tract was well known Pope Leo X. Guillaume Briçonnet, Cardinal Giulio de’ Medici’s predecessor as bishop of Narbonne, and his two sons also consulted the tract as spiritual guide. Cardinal Giulio knew the Apocalypsis Nova and could have influenced the painting’s final composition. Amadeo’s tract describes the episodes of the Transfiguration and the possessed boy consecutively. The Transfiguration represents a prefiguration of the Last Judgement, and of the final defeat of the Devil, something that could only be achieved by Christ, hence the apostles are powerless to cure the possessed boy.
Raphael died on 6 April 1520. At the time of his death, the artist ‘who lived more like a prince than a painter’ lay in state for a couple of days at his house in the Borgo, with the famous Transfiguration, left unfinished at Raphael’s death, at his head.” A week after his death, the two paintings were exhibited together in the Vatican.
While there is some speculation that Raphael’s pupil, Giulio Romano, and assistant, Gianfrancesco Penni, painted some of the background figures in the lower right half of the painting, there is no evidence that anyone but Raphael finished the substance of the painting. The cleaning of the painting from 1972 to 1976 revealed that assistants only finished some of the lower left figures, while the rest of the painting is by Raphael himself.
Rather than send it to France, Cardinal Giulio retained the picture. In 1523, he installed it on the high altar in the Blessed Amadeo’s church of San Pietro in Montorio, Rome, in a frame which was the work of Giovanni Barile (no longer in existence). A mosaic copy of the painting was completed by Stefano Pozzi in St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City in 1774.
In November 1798, The Transfiguration was on public display in the Grand Salon at the Louvre. As of 4 July 1801, it became the centrepiece of a large Raphael exhibition in the Grande Galerie. More than 20 Raphaels were on display. In 1810, a famous drawing by Benjamin Zix recorded the occasion of Napoleon and Marie Louise’s wedding procession through the Grande Galerie, The Transfiguration on display in the background.
After the fall of Napoleon Bonaparte, in 1815, envoys to Pope Pius VII, Antonio Canova and Marino Marini managed to secure The Transfiguration (along with 66 other pictures) as part of the Treaty of Paris. By agreement with the Congress of Vienna, the works were to be exhibited to the public. The original gallery was in the Borgia Apartment in the Apostolic Palace. After several moves within the Vatican, the painting now resides in the Pinacoteca Vaticana.
Raphael’s painting depicts two consecutive, but distinct, biblical narratives from the Gospel of Matthew, also related in the Gospel of Mark. In the first, the Transfiguration of Christ itself, Moses and Elijah appear before the transfigured Christ with Peter, James and John looking on (Matthew 17:1-9; Mark 9:2-13). In the second, the Apostles fail to cure a boy from demons and await the return of Christ (Matthew 17:14-21; Mark 9:14). The upper register of the painting shows the Transfiguration itself (on Mount Tabor, according to tradition), with the transfigured Christ floating in front of illuminated clouds, between the prophets Moses, on the right, and Elijah, on the left with whom he is conversing (Matthew 17:3). The two figures kneeling on the left are commonly identified as Justus and Pastor who shared August 6 as a feast day with the Feast of the Transfiguration. These saints were the patrons of Medici’s archbishopric and the cathedral for which the painting was intended. It has also been proposed that the figures might represent the martyrs Saint Felicissimus and Saint Agapitus who are commemorated in the missal on the feast of the Transfiguration.
The upper register of the painting includes, from left to right, James, Peter and John, traditionally read as symbols of faith, hope and love; hence the symbolic colours of blue-yellow, green and red for their robes.
In the lower register, Raphael depicts the Apostles attempting to free the possessed boy of his demonic possession.
Raphael’s Transfiguration can be considered a prefiguration of both Mannerism, as evidenced by the stylised, contorted poses of the figures at the bottom of the picture; and of Baroque painting, as evidenced by the dramatic tension imbued within those figures, and the strong use of chiaroscuro throughout.
As a reflection on the artist, Raphael likely viewed the Transfiguration as his triumph. Raphael uses the contrast of Jesus presiding over men to satiate his commissioners Roman Catholic Church. More interestingly, Raphael uses the cave to symbolise the Renaissance style, easily observed in the extended index finger as a reference to Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. Additionally, he subtly incorporates a landscape in the background, but uses darker colouring to show his disdain for the style. Yet the focal point of to the viewer is the Baroque styled child and his guarding father. In all, Raphael successfully appeased his commissioners, paid homage to his predecessors, and ushered the subsequent predominance of Baroque painting.
On the simplest level, the painting can be interpreted as a depicting a dichotomy: the redemptive power of Christ, as symbolised by the purity and symmetry of the top half of the painting; contrasted with the flaws of Man, as symbolised by the dark, chaotic scenes in the bottom half of the painting.

 

Matthew 14: 22-33

Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side while he would send the crowds away. After sending the crowds away he went up into the hills by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, while the boat, by now far out on the lake, was battling with a heavy sea, for there was a head-wind. In the fourth watch of the night he went towards them, walking on the lake, and when the disciples saw him walking on the lake they were terrified. ‘It is a ghost’ they said, and cried out in fear. But at once Jesus called out to them, saying, ‘Courage! It is I! Do not be afraid.’ It was Peter who answered. ‘Lord,’ he said ‘if it is you, tell me to come to you across the water.’ ‘Come’ said Jesus. Then Peter got out of the boat and started walking towards Jesus across the water, but as soon as he felt the force of the wind, he took fright and began to sink. ‘Lord! Save me!’ he cried. Jesus put out his hand at once and held him. ‘Man of little faith,’ he said ‘why did you doubt?’ And as they got into the boat the wind dropped. The men in the boat bowed down before him and said, ‘Truly, you are the Son of God.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Walking on water, painted by Ivan Aivazovsky in 1890. It is oil on canvas, 70cm x 50cm and is in a private collection.
Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky (29 July 1817 – 2 May 1900) was a Russian Romantic painter. He is considered one of the greatest marine artists in history. Baptised as Hovhannes Aivazian, Aivazovsky was born into an Armenian family in the Black Sea port of Feodosia in Crimea and was mostly based there.
Following his education at the Imperial Academy of Arts, Aivazovsky travelled to Europe and lived briefly in Italy in the early 1840s. He then returned to Russia and was appointed the main painter of the Russian Navy. Aivazovsky had close ties with the military and political elite of the Russian Empire and often attended military maneuvers. He was sponsored by the state and was well-regarded during his lifetime. The saying “worthy of Aivazovsky’s brush”, popularised by Anton Chekhov, was used in Russia for “describing something ineffably lovely.”
One of the most prominent Russian artists of his time, Aivazovsky was also popular outside Russia. He held numerous solo exhibitions in Europe and the United States. During his almost 60-year career, he created around 6,000 paintings, making him one of the most prolific artists of his time. The vast majority of his works are seascapes, but he often depicted battle scenes, Armenian themes, and portraiture. Most of Aivazovsky’s works are kept in Russian, Ukrainian and Armenian museums as well as private collections.
During his career, Aivazovsky produced around 6,000 paintings of, what one online art magazine describes, “very different value … there are masterpieces and there are very timid works”. However, according to one count as many as 20,000 paintings are attributed to him. The vast majority of Aivazovsky’s works depict the sea. He rarely drew dry-landscapes and created only a handful of portraits. According to Rosa Newmarch Aivazovsky “never painted his pictures from nature, always from memory, and far away from the seaboard.” Rogachevsky wrote that “His artistic memory was legendary. He was able to reproduce what he had seen only for a very short time, without even drawing preliminary sketches.”

Matthew 15: 21-28

Jesus left that place and withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. Then out came a Canaanite woman from that district and started shouting, ‘Sir, Son of David, take pity on me. My daughter is tormented by a devil.’ But he answered her not a word in answer to her. And his disciples went and pleaded with him, saying, ‘Give her what she wants,’ they said ‘because she is shouting after us.’ He said in reply, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.’ But the woman had come up and was kneeling at his feet. ‘Lord,’ she said, ‘help me.’

He replied, ‘It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the house-dogs.’ She retorted, ‘Ah yes, sir; but even house-dogs can eat the scraps that fall from their masters’ table.’ Then Jesus answered her, ‘Woman, you have great faith. Let your wish be granted.’ And from that moment her daughter was well again.

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Jesus and the woman of Canaan is painted by Michael Angelo Immenraet between 1673 and 1678. It is oil on canvas and is located at Unionskirche Idstein, Germany.

Michael Angelo Immenraet (1621, Antwerp – 1683, Utrecht), was a Flemish history and portrait painter who is mainly remembered for the lavish Baroque painting series of Biblical scenes which he produced for the Unionskirche, Idstein in Germany. He painted allegorical, history, religious and genre scenes as well as portraits. Aside from the painting cycle in the Unionskirche, Idstein not many of his works are known.

The earliest known work by Immenraet is the Double portrait of Odila en Phillipine van Wassenaer as Shepherdesses of 1661 (‘Hofje van Nieuwkoop’, The Hague). The portrait depicts the two young governesses of het ‘Hofje van Nieuwkoop’ as shepherdesses in an Arcadian landscape. This type of idealized representation was in vogue in the Dutch Republic at the time.

The best-known works from his oeuvre are the series of 38 paintings, which the realized with the assistance of Johann Caspar Bencard for the ceiling of the Unionskirche, Idstein. The commission was given by Johann of Nassau-Idstein (1603–77) who wished to turn the existing church into a Baroque “Predigt- und Hofkirche” (sermon and court church) after the Thirty Years’ War. The Dutch painters Joachim von Sandrart and his nephew Johann von Sandrart also created paintings for the church. The difficulty for the artists was to create a language that corresponded to Lutheran sensitivities. The programme of works all represent scenes from the Bible without any depictions of saints as would typically have been the case in a Catholic church. The works represented the stories from the Bible as ever present, living realities. The Biblical figures are dressed in courtly Baroque garments. The painting of the “Visitation” shows Mary arriving with a servant who carries her cases on his head. Saint Elisabeth’s residence with its formal garden in the background resembles the Idstein residential palace of Johann of Nassau-Idstein, the construction of which was commenced in 1646. The subjects and the use of Baroque optical illusionism in the paintings in the center of the ceiling are intended to make the viewer look up, from altar to the back: The Transfiguration, the Elevation of the Holy Cross, The Resurrection, The Deposition, The Ascension and The Vision of St. John on Patmos.

A number of Immenraet’s compositions for the Unionskirche were based on well-known works by Rubens. For instance The Wedding at Cana on the south wall is largely inspired by Rubens’ painting The Feast of Herod which is in the collection of the National Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh. The series of works were at the time regarded as a remarkably unique Baroque contribution to church decoration in Protestant Germany.

Matthew 16: 13-20

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi he put this question to his disciples, ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say he is John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ ‘But you,’ he said ‘who do you say I am?’ Then Simon Peter spoke up, ‘You are the Christ,’ he said, ‘the Son of the living God.’ Jesus replied, ‘Simon son of Jonah, you are a happy man! Because it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven. So I now say to you: You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.’ Then he gave the disciples strict orders not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Saint Peter is painted by Bartolome Esteban Murillo. It was painted between 1650 and 1655, oil on canvas, 148cm x 104cm, is located at Bilbao Fine Art Museum, Spain.

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (born late December 1617, baptized January 1, 1618 – April 3, 1682) was a Spanish Baroque painter. Although he is best known for his religious works, Murillo also produced a considerable number of paintings of contemporary women and children. These lively, realist portraits of flower girls, street urchins, and beggars constitute an extensive and appealing record of the everyday life of his times.

Murillo began his art studies in Seville under Juan del Castillo, who was a relative of his mother (Murillo’s uncle, Antonio Pérez, was also a painter). His first works were influenced by Zurbarán, Jusepe de Ribera and Alonzo Cano, and he shared their strongly realist approach. The great commercial importance of Seville at the time ensured that he was subject to artistic influences from other regions. He became familiar with Flemish painting and the “Treatise on Sacred Images” of Molanus (Ian van der Meulen or Molano). As his painting developed, his more important works evolved towards the polished style that suited the bourgeois and aristocratic tastes of the time, demonstrated especially in his Roman Catholic religious works.
In 1642, at the age of 26, he moved to Madrid, where he most likely became familiar with the work of Velázquez, and would have seen the work of Venetian and Flemish masters in the royal collections; the rich colours and softly modelled forms of his subsequent work suggest these influences. In 1645 he returned to Seville and married Beatriz Cabrera y Villalobos, with whom he eventually had eleven children.

In that year, he painted eleven canvases for the convent of St. Francisco el Grande in Seville. These works depicting the miracles of Franciscan saints vary between the Zurbaránesque tenebrism of the Ecstasy of St Francis and a softly luminous style (as in Death of St Clare) that became typical of Murillo’s mature work. According to the art historian Manuela B. Mena Marqués, “in … the Levitation of St Giles (usually known as the “Angel’s Kitchen”, Paris, Louvre) and the Death of St Clare (Dresden, Gemäldegal. Alte Meister), the characteristic elements of Murillo’s work are already evident: the elegance and beauty of the female figures and the angels, the realism of the still-life details and the fusion of reality with the spiritual world, which is extraordinarily well developed in some of the compositions.”

Also completed 1645 was the first of Murillo’s many paintings of children, The Young Beggar (Musée du Louvre), in which the influence of Velázquez is apparent. Following the completion of a pair of pictures for the Seville Cathedral, he began to specialize in the themes that brought him his greatest successes: the Virgin and Child and the Immaculate Conception.

After another period in Madrid, from 1658 to 1660, he returned to Seville. Here he was one of the founders of the Academia de Bellas Artes (Academy of Art), sharing its direction, in 1660, with the architect Francisco Herrera the Younger. This was his period of greatest activity, and he received numerous important commissions, among them the altarpieces for the Augustinian monastery, the paintings for Santa María la Blanca (completed in 1665), and others. He died in Seville in 1682 at the age of 64.

Matthew 16: 21-27

Jesus began to make it clear to his disciples that he was destined to go to Jerusalem and suffer grievously at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, to be put to death and to be raised up on the third day. Then, taking him aside, Peter started to remonstrate with him. ‘Heaven preserve you, Lord,’ he said. ‘This must not happen to you.’ But he turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle in my path, because the way you think is not God’s way but man’s.’

Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it. What, then, will a man gain if he wins the whole world and ruins his life? Or what has a man to offer in exchange for his life?

‘For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of his Father with his angels, and, when he does, he will reward each one according to his behaviour.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Final entry of Christ into Jerusalem, is painted by Jean-Léon Gérôme in 1897. It is oil on canvas and is currently located at the Musee Georges-Garret, Vesoul, France.

Jean-Léon Gérôme (11 May 1824 – 10 January 1904) was a French painter and sculptor in the style now known as academicism. The range of his oeuvre included historical painting, Greek mythology, Orientalism, portraits, and other subjects, bringing the academic painting tradition to an artistic climax. He is considered one of the most important painters from this academic period. He was also a teacher with a long list of students.

In 1852, Gérôme received a commission by Alfred Emilien Comte de Nieuwerkerke, Surintendant des Beaux-Arts to the court of Napoleon III, for the painting of a large historical canvas, the Age of Augustus. In this canvas he combines the birth of Christ with conquered nations paying homage to Augustus. Thanks to a considerable down payment, he was able to travel in 1853 to Constantinople, together with the actor Edmond Got. This would be the first of several travels to the East: in 1854 he made another journey to Greece and Turkey and the shores of the Danube, where he was present at a concert of Russian conscripts, making music under the threat of a lash.

In 1853, Gérôme moved to the Boîte à Thé, a group of studios in the Rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs, Paris. This would become a meeting place for other artists, writers and actors. George Sand entertained in the small theatre of the studio the great artists of her time such as the composers Hector Berlioz, Johannes Brahms and Gioachino Rossini and the novelists Théophile Gautier and Ivan Turgenev. In 1854, he completed another important commission of decorating the Chapel of St. Jerome in the church of St. Séverin in Paris. His Last communion of St. Jerome in this chapel reflects the influence of the school of Ingres on his religious works. To the exhibition of 1855 he contributed a Pifferaro, a Shepherd, A Russian Concert, and The Age of Augustus, the Birth of Christ. The last was somewhat confused in effect, but in recognition of its consummate rendering the State purchased it. However the modest painting, A Russian Concert (also called Recreation in the Camp) was more appreciated than his huge canvases.

Gérôme was elected, on his fifth attempt, a member of the Institut de France in 1865. Already a knight in the Légion d’honneur, he was promoted to an officer in 1867. In 1869, he was elected an honorary member of the British Royal Academy. The King of Prussia Wilhelm I awarded him the Grand Order of the Red Eagle, Third Class. His fame had become such that he was invited, along with the most eminent French artists, to the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869.
He was appointed as one of the three professors at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. He started with sixteen students, most who had come over from his own studio. His influence became extensive and he was a regular guest of Empress Eugénie at the Imperial Court in Compiègne.
The theme of his Death of Caesar (1867) was repeated in his historical canvas The Execution of Marshal Ney, that was exhibited at the Salon of 1868, despite official pressure to withdraw it as it raised painful memories.

Gérôme returned successfully to the Salon in 1873 with his painting L’Eminence Grise (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston), a colourful depiction of the main stair hall of the palace of Cardinal Richelieu, popularly known as the Red Cardinal (L’Eminence Rouge), who was France’s de facto ruler under King Louis XIII beginning in 1624. In the painting, François Le Clerc du Trembly, a Capuchin friar dubbed L’Eminence Grise (the Gray Cardinal), descends the ceremonial staircase immersed in the Bible while subjects either bow before him or fix their gaze on him. As Richelieu’s chief adviser, L’Eminence Grise was called “the power behind the throne,” which became the known definition of his title. When he started to protest and show a public hostility to “decadent fashion” of Impressionism, his influence started to wane and he became unfashionable. But after the exhibition of Manet in the Ecole in 1884, he eventually admitted that “it was not so bad as I thought.”

In 1896 Gérôme painted Truth Coming Out of Her Well, an attempt to describe the transparency of an illusion. He therefore welcomed the rise of photography as an alternative to his photographic painting. In 1902, he said “Thanks to photography, Truth has at last left her well.”

Matthew 18:15-20

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘If your brother does something wrong, go and have it out with him alone, between your two selves. If he listens to you, you have won back your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you: the evidence of two or three witnesses is required to sustain any charge. But if he refuses to listen to these, report it to the community; and if he refuses to listen to the community, treat him like a pagan or a tax collector.

‘I tell you solemnly, whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.

‘I tell you solemnly once again, if two of you on earth agree to ask anything at all, it will be granted to you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three meet in my name, I shall be there with them.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Christ as the Saviour of the World by Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519).Painted 1499, oil on walnut. 66 x 46cm.In late 2011, we heard the unexpected news that researchers had identified a long lost Leonardo painting entitled Salvator Mundi (“Saviour of the World”). Previously, this panel was thought to exist only as copies and one detailed, 1650 etching by Wenceslaus Hollar. According to the many Leonardo experts who examined Salvator Mundi during various stages of cleaning, several tangible characteristics stood out immediately:

• The ringlets of hair
• The knot-work crossing the stole
• The right fingers raised to offer a blessing

The fingers were especially significant because, as an expert put it, “All the versions of the ‘Salvator Mundi’ and we’ve got drawings of the drapery and lots of copies, all of them have rather tubular fingers. What Leonardo had done, and the copyists and imitators didn’t pick up, was to get just how the knuckle sort of sits underneath the skin.” In other words, the artist was so well-versed in anatomy that he had studied it — most probably via dissection.

Again, characteristics are not material evidence. To prove that Salvator Mundi is a long lost Leonardo, researchers had to uncover facts. The provenance of the painting, including some lengthy gaps, was pieced together from its time in the collection of Charles II until 1763 (when it was sold at auction), and then from 1900 to the present day. It was compared to two preparatory drawings, housed in the Royal Library at Windsor, that Leonardo made for it. It was also compared to some 20 known copies and found to be superior to all of them. The most compelling evidence was uncovered during the cleaning process, when several pentimenti (alterations by the artist) became apparent, one visible, and the others through infrared imagery. Additionally, the pigments and the walnut panel itself are consistent with other Leonardo paintings.

Leonardo naturally had to deviate just a bit from the traditional formula for a Salvator Mundi painting. For example, note the orb resting in Christ’s left palm. In Roman Catholic iconography, this orb was painted as brass or gold, may have had vague landforms mapped on it, and was topped by a crucifix — hence its Latin name globus cruciger. We know that Leonardo was a Roman Catholic, as were all of his patrons. However, he eschews the globus cruciger for what appears to be a sphere of rock crystal. Lacking any word from Leonardo, we can only theorise. He was constantly trying to tie the natural and spiritual worlds together, and in fact made quite a few drawings of Platonic Solids for Pacioli’s De Divina Proportione. We know, too, that he studied the as-yet-to-be-named science of optics whenever the mood struck him.

Look at the heel of that left hand. It is distorted to the point that Christ appears to have a double-wide heel. This is no mistake, it is the normal distortion one would see through glass or crystal. Or maybe Leonardo was just showing off; he was something of an expert on rock crystal. Whatever his reason, no one had ever painted “the world” over which Christ had dominion like this before.

 

John 3:13-17

Jesus said to Nicodemus:

‘No one has gone up to heaven
except the one who came down from heaven,
the Son of Man who is in heaven;
and the Son of Man must be lifted up
as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert,
so that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.
Yes, God loved the world so much
that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost
but may have eternal life.
For God sent his Son into the world
not to condemn the world,
but so that through him the world might be saved.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: oil on panel. ‘Christ Instructing Nicodemus,’ attributed to Crijn Hendricksz Volmarijn (1604-1645), a painter from the Dutch Golden Age. Crijn was a follower of Caravaggio, and known for his historical allegories.

Matthew 20:1-16

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner going out at daybreak to hire workers for his vineyard. He made an agreement with the workers for one denarius a day, and sent them to his vineyard. Going out at about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the market place and said to them. “You go to my vineyard too and I will give you a fair wage.” So they went. At about the sixth hour and again at about the ninth hour, he went out and did the same. Then at about the eleventh hour he went out and found more men standing round, and he said to them, “Why have you been standing here idle all day?” “Because no one has hired us” they answered. He said to them, “You go into my vineyard too.”

In the evening, the owner of the vineyard said to his bailiff, “Call the workers and pay them their wages, starting with the last arrivals and ending with the first.” So those who were hired at about the eleventh hour came forward and received one denarius each. When the first came, they expected to get more, but they too received one denarius each. They took it, but grumbled at the landowner. “The men who came last” they said “have done only one hour, and you have treated them the same as us though we have done a heavy day’s work in all the heat.” He answered one of them and said, “My friend, I am not being unjust to you; did we not agree on one denarius? Take your earnings and go. I choose to pay the last-comer as much as I pay you. Have I no right to do what I like with my own? Why be envious because I am generous?” Thus the last will be first, and the first last.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Painting of the parable by Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn. , showing the workers being paid that evening. Painted in 1637, oil on panel. It is housed in the State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia.

Matthew 21: 28-32

Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people, ‘What is your opinion? A man had two sons. He went and said to the first, “My boy, you go and work in the vineyard today.” He answered, “I will not go”, but afterwards thought better of it and went. The man then went and said the same thing to the second who answered, “Certainly, sir”, but did not go. Which of the two did the father’s will?’ ‘The first’ they said. Jesus said to them, ‘I tell you solemnly, tax collectors and prostitutes are making their way into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you, a pattern of true righteousness, but you did not believe him, and yet the tax collectors and prostitutes did. Even after seeing that, you refused to think better of it and believe in him.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Painting of John the Baptist, by Bartolomeo Veneto, 16th century. Veneto was an Italian painter who worked in Venice, the Veneto and Lombardy. During his time in Venice, he studied under Gentile Bellini. His best known works are portraits or pictures with portrait-like character. Bartolomeo’s later works, and especially those done on commission in Milan, indicate an influence from the artist Leonardo da Vinci.

 

Matthew 21: 33-43

Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people, ‘Listen to another parable. There was a man, a landowner, who planted a vineyard; he fenced it round, dug a winepress in it and built a tower; then he leased it to tenants and went abroad.

When vintage time drew near he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his servants, thrashed one, killed another and stoned a third. Next he sent some more servants, this time a larger number, and they dealt with them in the same way. Finally he sent his son to them. “They will respect my son” he said. But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, “This is the heir. Come on, let us kill him and take over his inheritance.” So they seized him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.

Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?’ They answered, ‘He will bring those wretches to a wretched end and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will deliver the produce to him when the season arrives.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Have you never read in the scriptures:

It was the stone rejected by the builders
that became the keystone.
This was the Lord’s doing
and it is wonderful to see?

‘I tell you, then, that the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: The Evangelist Matthew Inspired by an Angel, painted by Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn. The painting is housed at the Musée du Louvre, Paris. Rembrandt has the boy whisper something in Matthew’s ear. The boy resembles Rembrandt’s son Titus. This is one of five portraits of apostles Rembrandt made in 1661.

Matthew 22: 1-14

Jesus said to the chief priests and elders of the people: ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a feast for his son’s wedding. He sent his servants to call those who had been invited, but they would not come. Next he sent some more servants. “Tell those who have been invited” he said “that I have my banquet all prepared, my oxen and fattened cattle have been slaughtered, everything is ready. Come to the wedding.” But they were not interested: one went off to his farm, another to his business, and the rest seized his servants, maltreated them and killed them. The king was furious. He despatched his troops, destroyed those murderers and burnt their town. Then he said to his servants, “The wedding is ready; but as those who were invited proved to be unworthy, go to the cross-roads in the town and invite everyone you can find to the wedding.” So these servants went out on to the roads and collected together everyone they could find, bad and good alike; and the wedding hall was filled with guests. When the king came in to look at the guests he noticed one man who was not wearing a wedding garment, and said to him, “How did you get in here, my friend, without a wedding garment?” And the man was silent. Then the king said to the attendants, “Bind him hand and foot and throw him out into the dark, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.” For many are called, but few are chosen.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Jan Luyken (April 16, 1649 – April 5, 1712) was a Dutch poet, illustrator and engraver. He was born and died in Amsterdam, where he learned engraving from his father Kaspar Luyken. This picture ‘invitation to the great banquet’ is taken from Robert Bowyer’s illustrated Bible, which he begun in 1791 and finished in 1795, included 32 engravings by James Fittler in the manner of Old Master paintings. Bowyer also bought prints in France that he incorporated into a later edition known as “Bowyer’s Bible.”

Matthew 22: 15-21

The Pharisees went away to work out between them how to trap Jesus in what he said. And they sent their disciples to him, together with the Herodians, to say, ‘Master, we know that you are an honest man and teach the way of God in an honest way, and that you are not afraid of anyone, because a man’s rank means nothing to you. Tell us your opinion, then. Is it permissible to pay taxes to Caesar or not?’ But Jesus was aware of their malice and replied, ‘You hypocrites! Why do you set this trap for me? Let me see the money you pay the tax with.’ They handed him a denarius, and he said, ‘Whose head is this? Whose name?’ ‘Caesar’s’ they replied. He then said to them, ‘Very well, give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar – and to God what belongs to God.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: The Tribute Money (Italian: Cristo della moneta – literally Christ of the money) is a circa 1516 oil painting by Titian, now held at the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister in Dresden. It depicts Christ and a Pharisee at the moment in the Gospels when Christ is shown a coin and says “Render unto Caesar…” Giorgio Vasari thought the head of Christ the ‘most stupendous and miraculous’ thing painted by Titian and that all artists at the time believed it to be an insuperable achievement.

Matthew 22: 34-40

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees they got together and, to disconcert him, one of them put a question, ‘Master, which is the greatest commandment of the Law?’ Jesus said, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second resembles it: You must love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments hang the whole Law, and the Prophets also.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: The Hundred Guilder Print is an etching by Rembrandt. The etching’s popular name derives from the large sum of money supposedly once paid for an impression. In this work, Rembrandt broke from the long-standing Northern European tradition of ascribing devotional qualities to religious paintings. Instead, Rembrandt depicted Biblical events as tender instances of piety and serenity. The print is reminiscent of many other Christian religious artworks because it clearly focuses on the figure of Jesus in the centre of the scene. It differs, however, in that it is not based on a single biblical story. Through his use of recognisable figures, Rembrandt illustrates various themes and events from Matthew’s Gospel. The wealthy youth seated with his head in his hand recalls Christ’s admonition against amassing excess wealth, and the mothers presenting their babies to be blessed symbolize Christ’s acceptance of all his followers, no matter how individually insignificant. Thus, the etching served an edifying purpose for Rembrandt’s original audience because it presents many religious messages all packed together.
Rembrandt worked on the Hundred Guilder Print in stages throughout the 1640s, and it was the “critical work in the middle of his career”, from which his final etching style began to emerge. He completed it in 1649. Although the print only survives in two states, the first very rare, evidence of much reworking can be seen underneath the final print and many drawings survive for elements of it.

Solemnity of All Saints

Matthew 5: 1-12

Seeing the crowds, he went up the hill. There he sat down and was joined by his disciples. Then he began to speak. This is what he taught them:

How happy are the poor in spirit, theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Happy the gentle, they shall have the earth for their heritage.

Happy those who mourn, they shall be comforted.

Happy those who hunger and thirst for what is right, they shall be satisfied.

Happy the merciful, they shall have mercy shown them.

Happy the pure in heart, they shall see God.

Happy the peacemakers, they shall be called sons of God.

Happy those who are persecuted in the cause of right, theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Happy are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you on my account.

Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven, this is how they persecuted the prophets before you.

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Cosimo Rosselli’s Sermon on the Mount can be found on the northern wall of the Sistine Chapel (part of a series on the life of Jesus), created 1481-1482. In this painting, Jesus is standing in the midst of masses of people. His disciples are huddled close together behind Jesus and on His left. In the background, you can see Jesus as Rabbi and His disciples walking on the road to the Mount. On right side Christ is seen healing a leper. This is commonplace in many paintings where they contain more than one scriptural subject. The beatitudes speak of blessings and happiness that are counter to any kind of culture. People today – just like in Jesus’ day – are searching for happiness. Perhaps Rosselli chose to add Christ healing a leper to his Sermon on the Mount painting because this was a visual demonstration of happiness in action. There is physical happiness portrayed on the right side of the painting in the leper’s healing and there is spiritual happiness portrayed on the left side in Jesus’ sermon.

Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica

John 2: 13-22

Just before the Jewish Passover Jesus went up to Jerusalem, and in the Temple he found people selling cattle and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting at their counters there. Making a whip out of some cord, he drove them all out of the Temple, cattle and sheep as well, scattered the money-changers’ coins, knocked their tables over and said to the pigeon-sellers, ‘Take all this out of here and stop turning my Father’s house into a market’.

Then his disciples remembered the words of scripture: Zeal for your house will devour me.

The Jews intervened and said, ‘What sign can you show us to justify what you have done?’ Jesus answered, ‘Destroy this sanctuary, and in three days I will raise it up’. The Jews replied, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this sanctuary: are you going to raise it up in three days?’

But he was speaking of the sanctuary that was his body, and when Jesus rose from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the scripture and the words he had said.

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: Oil painting (106 x 130cm) entitled ‘Christ Driving the Money Changers from the Temple’ is a 1600 Christian art painting by El Greco. There exist four copies of the painting and also a faithful reproduction in the National Gallery in London, which has recently been considered as authentic by scholars in the field of visual arts. The picture is dominated by the figure of Christ, poised to unleash his whip. On the left are the traders and on the right are the Apostles. In the 16th century the subject of the Purification of the Temple was used as a symbol of the Church’s need to cleanse itself both through the condemnation of heresy and through internal reform. The reliefs in the background allude to the themes of punishment and deliverance. On the left Adam and Eve’s expulsion from Paradise prefigures the Purification of the Temple, and on the right, the Sacrifice of Isaac prefigures Christ’s death as the source of redemption. El Greco painted the subject several times throughout his career, both in Italy and in Spain.

Matthew 25:14-30

Jesus spoke this parable to his disciples: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a man on his way abroad who summoned his servants and entrusted his property to them. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to a third one; each in proportion to his ability. Then he set out.

The man who had received the five talents promptly went and traded with them and made five more. The man who had received two made two more in the same way. But the man who had received one went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

Now a long time after, the master of those servants came back and went through his accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents came forward bringing five more. “Sir”, he said “you entrusted me with five talents; here are five more that I have made.” His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have shown you can be faithful in small things, I will trust you with greater; come and join in your master’s happiness.”

Next the man with the two talents came forward. “Sir,” he said “you entrusted me with two talents; here are two more that I have made.” His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have shown you can be faithful in small things, I will trust you with greater; come and join in your master’s happiness.” Last came forward the man who had the one talent. “Sir,” said he “I had heard you were a hard man, reaping where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered; so I was afraid, and I went off and hid your talent in the ground. Here it is; it was yours, you have it back.” But his master answered him, “You wicked and lazy servant! So you knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered? Well then, you should have deposited my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have recovered my capital with interest. So now, take the talent from him and give it to the man who has the five talents. For to everyone who has will be given more, and he will have more than enough; but from the man who has not, even what he has will be taken away. As for this good-for-nothing servant, throw him out into the dark, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.” ‘

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: The parable of the talents or minas, painted oil on panel (45x55cm), by Willem de Poorter, around 1640. It is located in the Narodni Galerie, Prague. As Jesus drew ever closer to Jerusalem, Messianic expectations increased as people heard Jesus’ teachings and saw healing and conversions such as that of Zacchaeus. But Jesus sought to make his followers understand that the Kingdom would not appear immediately. To that end, he told the Parable of the Minas (variously translated as pieces of money, talents, pounds, etc.) The parable teaches two main lessons: the kingdom will be delayed, and the king will reward or punish in accord with his subjects’ deserts.

Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

Matthew 25:31-46

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, escorted by all the angels, then he will take his seat on his throne of glory. All the nations will be assembled before him and he will separate men one from another as the shepherd separates sheep from goats. He will place the sheep on his right hand and the goats on his left. Then the King will say to those on his right hand, “Come, you whom my Father has blessed, take for your heritage the kingdom prepared for you since the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you made me welcome; naked and you clothed me, sick and you visited me, in prison and you came to see me.” Then the virtuous will say to him in reply, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you; or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and make you welcome; naked and clothe you; sick or in prison and go to see you?” And the King will answer, “I tell you solemnly, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me.” Next he will say to those on his left hand, “Go away from me, with your curse upon you, to the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you never gave me food; I was thirsty and you never gave me anything to drink; I was a stranger and you never made me welcome, naked and you never clothed me, sick and in prison and you never visited me.” Then it will be their turn to ask, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty, a stranger or naked, sick or in prison, and did not come to your help?” Then he will answer, “I tell you solemnly, in so far as you neglected to do this to one of the least of these, you neglected to do it to me.” And they will go away to eternal punishment, and the virtuous to eternal life.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Picture: The Last Judgment (tempera on panel) is a painting by the Renaissance artist Fra Angelico. It was commissioned by the Camaldolese Order for the newly elected abbot, the humanist scholar Ambrogio Traversari. It is dated 1425-1430. It was originally sited in the church of Santa Maria degli Angeli and now is in the museum of San Marco, Florence.
Like most of Fra Angelico’s work, the iconography is standard for the contemporary treatments of the Last Judgement. Among the most common subjects of painting in churches, it is found more often on walls. In the top centre of the picture, Christ sits in judgement on a white throne surrounded by angels, Mary, John, and the Saints. Christ is shown as judge of the living and dead, his left hand pointing down to Hell, his right up to Heaven. On Christ’s right hand is paradise, with angels leading the saved through a beautiful garden into a shining city. In the middle are the broken tombs of the risen dead, come out of their graves to be finally judged. On Christ’s left hand demons drive the damned into Hell, where the wicked are tormented.

 

Sunday Gospel – Year B

Please open the relevant tab each week for the Gospel and picture.

Mark 13: 33-37

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Be on your guard, stay awake, because you never know when the time will come. It is like a man travelling abroad: he has gone from home, and left his servants in charge, each with his own task; and he has told the doorkeeper to stay awake. So stay awake, because you do not know when the master of the house is coming, evening, midnight, cockcrow, dawn; if he comes unexpectedly, he must not find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake!’

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: St Mark – oil on wood painting, dated 1535, by Il Pordenone, byname of Giovanni Antonio de’ Sacchis (c. 1484–1539). Il Pordenone was an Italian painter of the Venetian school, active during the Renaissance

As we begin a new liturgical year, we begin to read the Gospel of St Mark. The lion is Mark’s symbol. The lion derives from Mark’s description of John the Baptist as a “voice of one crying out in the desert” (Mark 1:3), in which artists compared to a roaring lion. Sometimes depicted with wings, this comes from the application of Ezekiel’s vision of four winged creatures (Ezekiel, chapter one) to the evangelists. The lion also symbolises the power of the Evangelist’s word, sometimes winged to symbolise the spiritual elevation, sometimes with a halo, the traditional Christian symbol of holiness. The lion symbol express also the significance of majesty and power, while the book expresses the concepts of wisdom and peace.

The oldest and the shortest of the four Gospels, the Gospel of Mark emphasises Jesus’ rejection by humanity while being God’s triumphant envoy. Probably written for Gentile converts in Rome—after the death of Peter and Paul sometime between A.D. 60 and 70—Mark’s Gospel is the gradual manifestation of a “scandal”: a crucified Messiah. Evidently a friend of Mark (Peter called him “my son”), Peter is only one of the Gospel sources, others being the Church in Jerusalem (Jewish roots) and the Church at Antioch (largely Gentile). Like one other Gospel writer, Luke, Mark was not one of the 12 apostles. We cannot be certain whether he knew Jesus personally. Some hold Mark to be the first bishop of Alexandria, Egypt. Venice, famous for the Piazza San Marco, claims Mark as its patron saint; the large basilica there is believed to contain his remains.

Mark 1: 1-8

The beginning of the Good News about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is written in the book of the prophet Isaiah:

Look, I am going to send my messenger before you;

he will prepare your way.

A voice cries in the wilderness:

Prepare a way for the Lord,

make his paths straight,

and so it was that John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. All Judaea and all the people of Jerusalem made their way to him, and as they were baptised by him in the river Jordan they confessed their sins. John wore a garment of camel-skin, and he lived on locusts and wild honey. In the course of his preaching he said, ‘Someone is following me, someone who is more powerful than I am, and I am not fit to kneel down and undo the strap of his sandals. I have baptised you with water, but he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: ‘St. John the Baptist’ is an oil painting on walnut wood by Leonardo da Vinci. Completed between 1513 and 1516, when the High Renaissance was metamorphosing into Mannerism, it is believed to be his final painting. The original size of the work was 69 x 57cm. It is now exhibited at the Musée du Louvre in ParisFrance.

The painting depicts St. John the Baptist in isolation. St. John is dressed in pelts, has long curly hair, and is smiling in an enigmatic manner which is reminiscent of Leonardo’s famous Mona Lisa. He holds a reed cross in his left hand while his right hand points up toward heaven (like St Anne in Leonardo’s The Virgin and Child with St Anne and St John the Baptist). It is believed that the cross and wool skins were added at a later date by another painter.

The pointing gesture of St. John toward the heavens suggests the importance of salvation through baptism that John the Baptist represents. The work is often quoted by later painters, especially those in the late Renaissance and Mannerist schools. The inclusion of a gesture similar to St John’s would increase the religious

John 1: 6-8, 19-28

A man came, sent by God.
His name was John.
He came as a witness,
as a witness to speak for the light,
so that everyone might believe through him,
He was not the light,
only a witness to speak for the light.

This is how John appeared as a witness. When the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ he not only declared, but he declared quite openly, ‘I am not the Christ.’ ‘Well then,’ they asked, ‘are you Elijah?’ ‘I am not,’ he said. ‘Are you the Prophet?’ He answered, ‘No.’ So they said to him, ‘Who are you? We must take back an answer to those who sent us. What have you to say about yourself?’ So John said, ‘I am, as Isaiah prophesied: a voice that cries in the wilderness: Make a straight way for the Lord.’

Now these men had been sent by the Pharisees, and they put this further question to him, ‘Why are you baptising if you are not the Christ, and not Elijah, and not the prophet?’ John replied, ‘I baptise with water; but there stands among you – unknown to you – the one who is coming after me; and I am not fit to undo his sandal-strap.’ This happened at Bethany, on the far side of the Jordan, where John was baptising.

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: The Preaching of St John, oil on panel (95x 161cm), painted 1566 by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1520 – 1569). The painting is currently in the Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest.

Pieter Brueghel the Elder was an innovative Flemish Renaissance painter and printmaker, known for his sweeping landscapes and peasant scenes. His nickname was “Peasant Brueghel,” as he would often don peasant’s clothing and attend social gatherings and weddings, in order to mingle and interact with the locals, and gain insight and inspiration for his paintings. He also fathered two other prominent Flemish painters, Pieter Brueghel the Younger and Jan Brueghel the Elder.

As a pioneer in Netherlandish genre painting, he portrayed social aspects of 16th century life. Many of his works show the influence of Heironymous Bosch, the Dutch master painter. He also created some of the earliest form of social commentary in his paintings, and reportedly asked while lying on his deathbed to have the most subversive of the paintings burned, in order for his family to avoid political persecution.

Bruegel would often use biblical themes to depict village-life as he knew it. This painting is another fine example. The viewer’s attention is first drawn to the figures in the foreground, then to the river in the background and only then to John the Baptist, wearing a garment of camel hair.

The painting was created when the Iconoclast raged in the Low Countries and Protestant clergymen were touring the country, stopping in places to call for Reformation. This painting may have been inspired by one such meeting.

Luke 1:26-38

The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the House of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. He went in and said to her, ‘Rejoice, so highly favoured! The Lord is with you.’ She was deeply disturbed by these words and asked herself what this greeting could mean, but the angel said to her, ‘Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God’s favour. Listen! You are to conceive and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David; he will rule over the House of Jacob for ever and his reign will have no end.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘But how can this come about, since I am a virgin?’ ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you’ the angel answered ‘and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow. And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God. Know this too: your kinswoman Elizabeth has, in her old age, herself conceived a son, and she whom people called barren is now in her sixth month, for nothing is impossible to God.’ ‘I am the handmaid of the Lord,’ said Mary ‘let what you have said be done to me.’ And the angel left her.

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: The Annunciation, also known as the Cestello Annunciation, is a tempera painting by the Italian Renaissance master Sandro Botticelli. It is housed in the Uffizi Gallery of Florence. The picture was commissioned in 1489 by the church of the Florentine convent of Cestello which is now known as Santa Maria Maddalena de’Pazzi.

By the time Botticelli painted the Annunciation, he had become a very accomplished and recognised painter of altarpieces. At the time he may have been a more recognised painter of altarpieces than of his mythology works as the altarpieces were displayed in public places where a large number of people could view them.

The painting is telling the story of the angel Gabriel finding Mary and telling her that she will be the Virgin Mother of the Christ Child. Gabriel has clearly interrupted Mary reading from the book on the stand on the edge of the picture. Underneath the painting on the original frame of the picture are inscriptions in Latin from this passage of St Luke’s Gospel, telling the story that Botticelli wanted to portray.

There is a planned lack of architectural detail in Boticelli’s painting. This corresponds to the simplicity of the environment for the Cestello Church where the painting is to be displayed. A noteworthy feature in the Annunciation is the way that Botticelli used the space between Gabriel and Mary. The area between them on the floor and the area between their fingers that does not allow them to touch, is significant. That space is showing Gabriel and Mary not touching just as Mary conceived the Christ Child without any physical touch.

Luke 2: 22-40

When the day came for them to be purified as laid down by the Law of Moses, the parents of Jesus took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord – observing what stands written in the Law of the Lord: Every first-born male must be consecrated to the Lord – and also to offer in sacrifice, in accordance with what is said in the Law of the Lord, a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons. Now in Jerusalem there was a man named Simeon. He was an upright and devout man; he looked forward to Israel’s comforting and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death until he had set eyes on the Christ of the Lord. Prompted by the Spirit he came to the Temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the Law required, he took him into his arms and blessed God; and he said:

‘Now, Master,

you can let your servant go in peace,

just as you promised;

because my eyes have seen the salvation

which you have prepared for all the nations to see,

a light to enlighten the pagans

and the glory of your people Israel.’

As the child’s father and mother stood there wondering at the things that were being said about him, Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, ‘You see this child: he is destined for the fall and for the rising of many in Israel, destined to be a sign that is rejected – and a sword will pierce your own soul too – so that the secret thoughts of many may be laid bare.’

There was a prophetess also, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was well on in years. Her days of girlhood over, she had been married for seven years before becoming a widow. She was now eighty-four years old and never left the Temple, serving God night and day with fasting and prayer. She came by just at that moment and began to praise God; and she spoke of the child to all who looked forward to the deliverance of Jerusalem.

When they had done everything the Law of the Lord required, they went back to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. Meanwhile the child grew to maturity, and he was filled with wisdom; and God’s favour was with him.

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: Simeon’s Song of Praise (1631), oil on panel (61 x 48cm), is located in the Mauritshuis Art Museum in the Hague. Rembrandt was 25 years old and still living in Leiden when he made this painting. Mary and Joseph had taken Jesus to the temple to present him to God. The devout Simeon, helped by the Holy Spirit, saw that the infant might very well be the awaited Messiah. He took the child in his arms and praised God. The old man said he now was ready to die, “For mine eyes have seen thy salvation”. In Luke’s Gospel Simeon also speaks of “a light to lighten the Gentiles”. Rembrandt used that by depicting the child as the source of light. The surprised Mary kneels next to Simeon. Joseph is next to her. He holds two pigeons: the sacrifice required for this occasion. The group is situated before the steps that lead to the high priest’s throne.

A little history on art – the presentation of the Lord: Early images concentrated on the moment of meeting with Simeon, typically shown at the entrance to the Temple, and this is continued in Byzantine art and Eastern Orthodox icons to the present day. In the West, beginning in the 8th or 9th century, a different depiction at an altar emerged, where Simeon eventually by the Late Middle Ages came to be shown wearing the elaborate vestments attributed to a Jewish high priest, and conducting a liturgical ceremony surrounded by the family and Anna. Also in the western world, Simeon is more often already holding the infant, or the moment of handover is shown; in Eastern images the Virgin is more likely still to hold Jesus.

Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord

Matthew 2: 1-12

After Jesus had been born at Bethlehem in Judaea during the reign of King Herod, some wise men came to Jerusalem from the east. ‘Where is the infant king of the Jews?’ they asked. ‘We saw his star as it rose and have come to do him homage.’ When King Herod heard this he was perturbed, and so was the whole of Jerusalem. He called together all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, and enquired of them where the Christ was to be born. ‘At Bethlehem in Judaea,’ they told him, ‘for this is what the prophet wrote:

And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,

you are by no means least among the leaders of Judah,

for out of you will come a leader

who will shepherd my people Israel.’

Then Herod summoned the wise men to see him privately. He asked them the exact date on which the star had appeared, and sent them on to Bethlehem. ‘Go and find out all about the child,’ he said ‘and when you have found him, let me know, so that I too may go and do him homage.’ Having listened to what the king had to say, they set out. And there in front of them was the star they had seen rising; it went forward and halted over the place where the child was. The sight of the star filled them with delight, and going into the house they saw the child with his mother Mary, and falling to their knees they did him homage. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh. But they were warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, and returned to their own country by a different way.

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: The Adoration of the Magi is a painting by the Italian painter Gentile da Fabriano. The work, housed in the Uffizi Gallery in FlorenceItaly, is considered his finest work, and has been described as “the culminating work of International Gothic painting”.

The painting was commissioned by the Florentine literate and patron of the arts Palla Strozzi, at the arrival of the artist in the city in 1420. Palla paid 300 florins for the altarpiece or about six times the annual salary of a skilled labourer. Finished in 1423, the painting was placed in the new chapel of the church of Santa Trinita.

The works shows both the international and Sienese schools’ influences on Gentile’s art, combined with the Renaissance novelties he knew in Florence. The panel portrays the path of the three Magi, in several scenes which start from the upper left corner (the voyage and the entrance into Bethlehem) and continue clockwise, to the larger meeting with the Virgin Mary and the newborn Jesus which occupies the lowest part of the picture. All the figures wear splendid Renaissance costumes, brocades richly decorated with real gold and precious stones inserted in the panel. Gentile’s typical attention for detail is also evident in the exotic animals, such as a leopard, a dromedary, some apes and a lion, as well as the magnificent horses and a hound.

The frame is also a work of art, characterised by three cusps with tondoes portraying Christ Blessing (centre) and the Annunciation (with the Archangel Gabriel on the left and the Madonna on the right). The predella has three rectangular paintings with scenes of Jesus’ childhood: the Nativity, the Flight into Egypt and the Presentation at the Temple (the latter a copy, the original being in the Louvre in Paris).

Mark 1: 7-11

In the course of his preaching John the Baptist said, ‘Someone is following me, someone who is more powerful than I am, and I am not fit to kneel down and undo the strap of his sandals. I have baptised you with water, but he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.’

It was at this that Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptised in the Jordan by John. No sooner had he come up out of the water than he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit, like a dove, descending on him. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on you.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: The Baptism of Christ, painted by Francesco Albani. The painting is oil on canvas and resides in the State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg. The Baptism of Christ was painted between 1630 and 1635, in Rome, where the painter resided at the time. During the Baroque period there were a lot of influences on the arts, but the one influence that seems to have the most effect on Francesco Albani’s work is the Council of Trent. The Council of Trent had a large influence on art during the Baroque period as the Catholic Church at the time began defining the Churches doctrine.  The Baptism of Christ is a great example of how an artist created work that followed the doctrine of the Church. The painting depicts a story in the bible, it does not appear to show anything that would be inaccurate to the bible or something that the Church would be opposed to. In accordance with tradition, Albani shows the moment at which the Holy Spirit descended from the sky in the form of a dove and announced ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on you’.

John 1: 35-42

As John stood with two of his disciples, Jesus passed, and John stared hard at him and said, ‘Look, there is the lamb of God.’ Hearing this, the two disciples followed Jesus. Jesus turned round, saw them following and said, ‘What do you want?’ They answered, ‘Rabbi,’ – which means Teacher – ‘where do you live?’ ‘Come and see’ he replied; so they went and saw where he lived, and stayed with him the rest of that day. It was about the tenth hour.

One of these two who became followers of Jesus after hearing what John had said was Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter. Early next morning, Andrew met his brother and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ – which means the Christ – and he took Simon to Jesus. Jesus looked hard at him and said, ‘You are Simon son of John; you are to be called Cephas’ – meaning Rock.

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: Saint John showing Christ to Saint Andrew, oil in canvas, painted by Ottavio Vannini. Vannini (1585 – 1643) was an Italian artist of the Baroque period, active in Florence. The picture is currently in the San Gaetano, Florence, a Baroque church located on the Piazza Antinori. This passage gives us some examples of how Jesus gathers disciples – and notice, Jesus’ disciples do some of that disciple-gathering too. The Synoptic Gospels relate later seaside callings of the fishermen and Levi (Matthew) the tax collector. But John shares an intimate encounter that probably took place at the Jordan where Jesus had just been baptised and proclaimed as the Lamb of God (1:36). Perhaps more than any place in the Bible, this passage illustrates how people come to Christ by personal recommendation of a person they know and respect. This incident seems to take place in Judea. But a number of Galileans have come to John’s “revival meetings.” Perhaps they had all come down from Galilee together to Passover in Jerusalem, and then down to the Jordan to hear John’s message. Many of them probably know each other from Galilee.

Mark 1: 14-20

After John had been arrested, Jesus went into Galilee.

There he proclaimed the Good News from God. ‘The time has come’ he said ‘and the kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent, and believe the Good News.

As he was walking along by the Sea of Galilee he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net in the lake – for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you into fishers of men.’ And at once they left their nets and followed him.

Going on a little further, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John; they too were in their boat, mending their nets. He called them at once and, leaving their father Zebedee in the boat with the men he employed, they went after him.

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: The Vocation of the Apostles is a fresco by the Italian Renaissance painter Domenico Ghirlandaio, located in the Sistine Chapel, Rome. In 1481 a group of Florentine painters left for Rome, where they had been called as part of the reconciliation project between Lorenzo de’ Medici, the ‘de facto’ ruler of Florence, and Pope Sixtus IV. The Florentines started to work in the Sistine Chapel as early as the Spring of 1481, along with Pietro Perugino, who was already there.

The theme of the decoration was a parallel between the Stories of Moses and those of Christ, as a sign of continuity between the Old and the New Testament. Continuity also between the divine law of the Tables and the message of Jesus, who, in turn, chose Peter (the first alleged bishop of Rome) as his successor: this would finally result into a legitimation of the latter’s successors, the Popes of Rome.

The scene of the Vocation shows, above a lake in a wide mountainous valley, the fishermen Peter and Andrew (on the left) in the moment in which they are called by Jesus, who stands on the shore. A few moments later, the two are behind Jesus on the opposite shore (on the right), while the latter calls James and John, who are restoring the nets on their father Zebedee’s boat, in the center of the scene.

In the foreground are Peter and Andrew, already dressed in cloaks with their traditional colours (yellow or orange for Peter, green for Andrew). They are kneeling beside Christ who solemnly blesses them. An original element of the fresco is the presence of a multitude of beholders, portrayed in contemporary clothes. Their faces were those of the Florentine community in Rome, who resided near the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva.

At the left is a white bearded man, perhaps a literate from Constantinople who was also used as model for the St. Jerome in His Study in the church of Ognissanti in Florence. At the center, just behind Jesus, is the portrait of Diotisalvi Neroni, who had taken refuge in Rome after plotting against Piero di Cosimo de’ Medici. Another exile from Constantinople is John Argyropoulos, who appears on the right. Other characters on the right are members of the Tornabuoni family.

Mark 1: 21-28

Jesus and his followers went as far as Capernaum, and as soon as the Sabbath came Jesus went to the synagogue and began to teach. And his teaching made a deep impression on them because, unlike the scribes, he taught them with authority.

In their synagogue just then there was a man possessed by an unclean spirit, and it shouted, ‘What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are: the Holy One of God.’ But Jesus said sharply, ‘Be quiet! Come out of him!’ And the unclean spirit threw the man into convulsions and with a loud cry went out of him. The people were so astonished that they started asking each other what it all meant. ‘Here is a teaching that is new’ they said ‘and with authority behind it: he gives orders even to unclean spirits and they obey him.’ And his reputation rapidly spread everywhere, through all the surrounding Galilean countryside.

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: Christ healing a possessed man in the Capernaum synagogue, an 11th century fresco in the Church of the Benedictine monastery of Stift Lambach, Austria.

 The monastery was founded in Lambach in 1040 by Count Arnold II of Lambach-Wels. His son, Bishop Adalbero of Würzburg (later canonised), changed the monastery into a Benedictine abbey in 1056, which it has been since. During the 17th and 18th centuries a great deal of work in the Baroque style was carried out, much of it by the Carlone family.

The abbey has preserved much of its cultural interest. It contains the oldest extant Romanesque frescoes in Southern Germany and Austria, and the former abbey tavern, has a Baroque façade. The abbey’s Baroque theatre has also been restored to working.

The abbey church was also refurbished in the Baroque style, with an organ by Christoph Egedacher and contains the tomb of Saint Adelbero. The abbey also possesses the medieval St. Adelbero’s Chalice, although it is rarely on view to the public, besides a large collection of sacred art. Since 1625 the abbey has belonged to the Austrian Congregation, which now forms part of the Benedictine Confederation.

Mark 1: 29-39

On leaving the synagogue, Jesus went with James and John straight to the house of Simon and Andrew. Now Simon’s mother-in-law had gone to bed with fever, and they told him about her straightaway. He went to her, took her by the hand and helped her up. And the fever left her and she began to wait on them.

That evening, after sunset, they brought to him all who were sick and those who were possessed by devils. The whole town came crowding round the door, and he cured many who were suffering from diseases of one kind or another; he also cast out many devils, but he would not allow them to speak, because they knew who he was.

In the morning, long before dawn, he got up and left the house, and went off to a lonely place and prayed there. Simon and his companions set out in search of him, and when they found him they said, ‘Everybody is looking for you.’ He answered, ‘Let us go elsewhere, to the neighbouring country towns, so that I can preach there too, because that is why I came.’ And he went all through Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out devils.

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: Christ Healing the Mother of Simon Peter’s Wife, painted in Rome by English painter John Bridges (1818-1854) in 1839. Oil on canvas.

The painting shows the influence of the Nazarenes, a group of pious German and Austrian painters active near Rome during Bridges’ stay there. The Nazarenes had a fascination with Renaissance art of the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. They painted primarily religious subjects filled with classicising motifs. Bridges’ clear and orderly composition, populated by monumental figures, harkens back to works of the High Renaissance.

Mark 1: 40-45

A leper came to Jesus and pleaded on his knees: ‘If you want to’ he said ‘you can cure me.’ Feeling sorry for him, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him. ‘Of course I want to!’ he said. ‘Be cured!’ And the leprosy left him at once and he was cured. Jesus immediately sent him away and sternly ordered him, ‘Mind you say nothing to anyone, but go and show yourself to the priest, and make the offering for your healing prescribed by Moses as evidence of your recovery.’ The man went away, but then started talking about it freely and telling the story everywhere, so that Jesus could no longer go openly into any town, but had to stay outside in places where nobody lived. Even so, people from all around would come to him.            

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: Christ cleansing a leper, painted by Jean-Marie Melchior Doze (1827-1913), in 1864. The painting is oil on canvas, 105cm x 135cm and is located at the Musee des Beaux-Arts, Nimes, France. Jean-Marie Melchior Doze was a French visual artist, several works by the artist have been recently sold at auction in 2011, at Artcurial Briest-Poulain-F. Tajan, France. Many other artists in painting this Gospel reading focus more on depicting the man’s skin disease, while Jean-Marie Melchior Doze illustrated his reverence and humility.

Mark 1: 12-15

The Spirit drove Jesus out into the wilderness and he remained there for forty days, and was tempted by Satan. He was with the wild beasts, and the angels looked after him.

After John had been arrested, Jesus went into Galilee. There he proclaimed the Good News from God. ‘The time has come’ he said ‘and the kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent, and believe the Good News.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: Temptation of Christ (mosaic in Basilica di San Marco). The Patriarchal Cathedral Basilica of Saint Mark (officially known in Italian as the Basilica Cattedrale Patriarcale di San Marco and commonly known as Saint Mark’s Basilica) is the cathedral church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Venice, northern Italy. It is the most famous of the city’s churches and one of the best known examples of Italo-Byzantine architecture. It lies at the eastern end of the Piazza San Marco, adjacent and connected to the Doge’s Palace. Originally it was the chapel of the Doge, and has only been the city’s cathedral since 1807, when it became the seat of the Patriarch of Venice, Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Venice, formerly at San Pietro di Castello. For its opulent design, gold ground mosaics, and its status as a symbol of Venetian wealth and power, from the 11th century the building has been known by the nickname Chiesa d’Oro (Church of gold).

Mark 9: 2-10

Jesus took with him Peter and James and John and led them up a high mountain where they could be alone by themselves. There in their presence he was transfigured: his clothes became dazzlingly white, whiter than any earthly bleacher could make them. Elijah appeared to them with Moses; and they were talking with Jesus. Then Peter spoke to Jesus. ‘Rabbi,’ he said ‘it is wonderful for us to be here; so let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ He did not know what to say; they were so frightened. And a cloud came, covering them in shadow; and there came a voice from the cloud, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved. Listen to him.’ Then suddenly, when they looked round, they saw no one with them any more but only Jesus.

As they came down from the mountain he warned them to tell no one what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. They observed the warning faithfully, though among themselves they discussed what ‘rising from the dead’ could mean.

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: Transfiguration of Christ, painted by Giovanni Bellini in 1487. The painting is oil on wood, 115 x 152 cm, and is currently in the Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte, Naples. This is the second and final version of the subject by Bellini. The first version was executed in 1455. This version differs from the earlier rendering. The event is no longer supernatural, and Mount Tabor is reduced to a slight rise. The afternoon is well advanced: at the left a farmer leads an ox and goat past a monastery on a crag that is already darkening in the evening shadows. Christ stands in the centre of this chilly landscape, his hands and head silhouetted against the shining white clouds. The flanking figures of Moses and Elijah have all the majesty of the Old Testament. Before this group the three apostles have fallen to the ground. A sapling fence moves diagonally across the foreground, and immediately behind it opens a rocky chasm, creating an explicit separation between the observer and the holy event.

John 4: 5-42

Jesus came to the Samaritan town called Sychar, near the land that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well is there and Jesus, tired by the journey, sat straight down by the well.  It was about the sixth hour. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink.’ His disciples had gone into the town to buy food. The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘What? You are a Jew and you ask me, a Samaritan, for a drink?’ – Jews, in fact, do not associate with Samaritans. Jesus replied:

‘If you only knew what God is offering and who it is that is saying to you: Give me a drink, you would have been the one to ask, and he would have given you living water.’

‘You have no bucket, sir,’ she answered ‘and the well is deep: how could you get this living water? Are you a greater man than our father Jacob who gave us this well and drank from it himself with his sons and his cattle?’ Jesus replied:

‘Whoever drinks this water will get thirsty again: but anyone who drinks the water that I shall give will never be thirsty again: the water that I shall give will turn into a spring inside him, welling up to eternal life.’

‘Sir,’ said the woman, ‘give me some of that water, so that I may never get thirsty and never have to come here again to draw water.’ ‘Go and call your husband’ said Jesus to her ‘and come back here.’ The woman answered, ‘I have no husband.’ He said to her, ‘You are right to say, “I have no husband”; for although you have had five, the one you have now is not your husband. You spoke the truth there.’ ‘I see you are a prophet, sir’ said the woman. ‘Our fathers worshipped on this mountain, while you say that Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.’ Jesus said:

‘Believe me, woman, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know; for salvation comes from the Jews.

But the hour will come – in fact it is here already – when true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth: that is the kind of worshipper the Father wants. God is spirit, and those who worship must worship in spirit and truth.’

The woman said to him, ‘I know that Messiah – that is, Christ – is coming; and when he comes he will tell us everything.’ ‘I who am speaking to you,’ said Jesus ‘I am he.’

At this point his disciples returned, and were surprised to find him speaking to a woman, though none of them asked, ‘What do you want from her?’ or, ‘Why are you talking to her?’ The woman put down her water jar and hurried back to the town to tell the people, ‘Come and see a man who has told me everything I ever did; I wonder if he is the Christ?’ This brought people out of the town and they started walking towards him.

Meanwhile, the disciples were urging him, ‘Rabbi, do have something to eat’; but he said, ‘I have food to eat that you do not know about.’ So the disciples asked one another, ‘Has someone been bringing him food?’ But Jesus said:

‘My food is to do the will of the one who sent me, and to complete his work. Have you not got a saying: Four months and then the harvest? Well, I tell you: Look around you, look at the fields; already they are white, ready for harvest!

Already the reaper is being paid his wages, already he is bringing in the grain for eternal life, and thus sower and reaper rejoice together. For here the proverb holds good: one sows, another reaps; I sent you to reap a harvest you had not worked for. Others worked for it; and you have come into the rewards of their trouble.’

Many Samaritans of that town had believed in him on the strength of the woman’s testimony when she said, ‘He told me all I have ever done’, so, when the Samaritans came up to him, they begged him to stay with them. He stayed for two days, and when he spoke to them many more came to believe; and they said to the woman, ‘Now we no longer believe because of what you told us; we have heard him ourselves and we know that he really is the saviour of the world.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: Jesus with the Samaritan woman at the well, Oil on canvas, by Paolo Veronese, 1585. Veronese was an Italian Renaissance painter based in Venice, most famous for large history paintings of religious subjects. With Titian, who was at least a generation older, and Tintoretto, ten years older, he was one of the “great trio that dominated 16th century late Renaissance. Veronese is known as a supreme colourist, and a naturalist style, which was influenced by Titian.

This episode takes place before the return of Jesus to Galilee. The Jews regarded the Samaritans as foreigners and their attitude was often hostile, although they shared many beliefs. The two communities seem to have drifted apart in the post-exilic period. The Gospel of John is favourable to the Samaritans, unlike Matthew’s Gospel which quotes Jesus as telling his followers not to enter any of the cities of the Samaritans. .

In the Gospel of John references to water, as in John 4:15, are traditionally identified as the Water of Life being the Holy Spirit. The passages that comprise John 4:10–26, and relate the episode of the Samaritan woman are sometimes referred to as the “Water of Life Discourse”. The Water of Life Discourse is the second among the seven discourses in the Gospel of John that pair with the seven signs in that Gospel.

In Eastern Orthodox Church tradition, her name at the time of the meeting with Jesus is unknown, though she later received the name Photini in baptism. She is celebrated as a saint. As further recounted in John 4:28-30 and John 4:39-42, she was quick to spread the news of her meeting with Jesus, and through this many came to believe in him. Her continuing witness is said to have brought so many to the Christian faith that she is described as “equal to the Apostles”.

John 3: 14-21

Jesus said to Nicodemus:

‘The Son of Man must be lifted up as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert,

so that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.

Yes, God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son,

so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life.

For God sent his Son into the world not to condemn the world,

but so that through him the world might be saved.

No one who believes in him will be condemned; but whoever refuses to believe is condemned already,

because he has refused to believe in the name of God’s only Son.

On these grounds is sentence pronounced:

that though the light has come into the world men have shown they prefer

darkness to the light because their deeds were evil.

And indeed, everybody who does wrong hates the light and avoids it,

for fear his actions should be exposed; but the man who lives by the truth comes out into the light,

so that it may be plainly seen that what he does is done in God.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: Nicodemus by Henry Ossawa Tanner, 1899, oil on canvas. The painting is situated at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia. Henry Ossawa Tanner (June 21, 1859 – May 25, 1937) was an African-American artist. He was the first African-American painter to gain international acclaim. He moved to Paris in 1891 to study, and decided to stay there, being readily accepted in French artistic circles. 

John 3:16 – God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life –  is one of the most widely quoted verses from the Bible and has been called the most famous Bible verse. It has also been called the “Gospel in a nutshell”, because it is considered a summary of the central theme of traditional Christianity. The verse is part of the New Testament narrative in the third chapter of John in the discussion at Jerusalem between Jesus and Nicodemus, who is called a “ruler of the Jews”. (v.1) After speaking of the necessity of a man being born again before he could “see the kingdom of God”, (v.3) Jesus spoke also of “heavenly things” (v.11-13) and of salvation (v.14-17) and the condemnation (v.18,19) of those that do not believe in Jesus. “(v.14) And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: (v.15) That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:14-15) Note that verse 15 is nearly identical to the latter part of John 3:16.

John 12: 20-33

Among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. These approached Philip, who came from Bethsaida in Galilee, and put this request to him, ‘Sir, we should like to see Jesus.’ Philip went to tell Andrew, and Andrew and Philip together went to tell Jesus.

Jesus replied to them:

‘Now the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you most solemnly, unless a wheat grain falls on the ground and dies, it remains only a single grain; but if it dies, it yields a rich harvest. Anyone who loves his life loses it; anyone who hates his life in this world will keep it for the eternal life. If a man serves me, he must follow me, wherever I am, my servant will be there too. If anyone serves me, my Father will honour him.

Now my soul is troubled. What shall I say: Father, save me from this hour? But it was for this very reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name!’ A voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’

People standing by, who heard this, said it was a clap of thunder; others said, ‘It was an angel speaking to him.’ Jesus answered, ‘It was not for my sake that this voice came, but for yours. ‘Now sentence is being passed on this world; now the prince of this world is to be overthrown. And when I am lifted up from the earth, I shall draw all men to myself.’ By these words he indicated the kind of death he would die.

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: Christ, Son of Man, by Titian – 1553, oil on canvas, 68cm x 62cm, located in the Prado Museum, Madrid.

Tiziano Vecelli (1488 – 1576), known in English as Titian, was an Italian painter, the most important member of the 16th-century Venetian school. He was born in Pieve di Cadore, near Belluno (in VenetoRepublic of Venice). Recognised by his contemporaries as “The Sun Amidst Small Stars” (recalling the famous final line of Dante’s Paradiso), Titian was one of the most versatile of Italian painters, equally adept with portraits, landscape backgrounds, and mythological and religious subjects.

His painting methods, particularly in the application and use of colour, would exercise a profound influence not only on painters of the Italian Renaissance, but on future generations of Western art. During the course of his long life, Titian’s artistic manner changed drastically but he retained a lifelong interest in colour. Although his mature works may not contain the vivid, luminous tints of his early pieces, their loose brushwork and subtlety of tone are without precedent in the history of Western painting. He was noted for his mastery of colour.

Mark 14:1 – 15:47

It was two days before the Passover and the feast of Unleavened Bread, and the chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to arrest Jesus by some trick and have him put to death.  For they said ‘It must not be during the festivities, or there will be a disturbance among the people.’

Jesus was a Bethany in the house of Simon the leper; he was at dinner when a woman came in with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment, pure nard.  She broke the jar and poured the ointment on his head. Some who were there said one another indignantly, ‘Why this waste of ointment? Ointment like this could have been sold for over three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor’: and they were angry with her. But Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone. Why are you upsetting her? What she has done for me is one of the good works. You have the poor with you always, and you can be kind to them whenever you wish, but you will not always have me.  She has done what was in power to do so: she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial.  I tell you solemnly, wherever throughout all the world the Good News is proclaimed, what she has done will be told also, in remembrance of her.’

Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, approached the chief priests with an offer to hand Jesus over to them.  They were delighted to hear it, and promised to give him money; and he looked for a way of betraying him when the opportunity should occur.

On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb was sacrificed, his disciples said to him, ‘Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the passover?’ So he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, ‘Go into the city and you will meet a man carrying a pitcher of water.  Follow him, and say to the owner of the house which enters, “The Master says: Where is my dining room in which I can eat the passover with my disciples?” He will show you a large upper room furnished with couches, all prepared.  Make the preparations for us there.’ The disciples set out and went to the city and found everything as he had told them, and prepared the Passover.

When evening came he arrived with the Twelve.  And while they were at table eating, Jesus said, ‘I tell you solemnly, one of you is about to betray me, one of you eating with me.’ They were distressed and asked him, one after another, ‘Not I, surely?’ He said to them, ‘It is one of the Twelve, one who is dipping into the same dish with me. Yes , the Son of Man is going to his fate, as the scriptures say he will, but alas for that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! Better for that man if he had never been born!’

And as they were eating he took some bread, and when he had said the blessing he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘Take it; this is my body.’ Then he took a cup,  and when he had returned thanks he gave it to them and drank all from it, and he said to them, ‘This is my blood, the blood of the covenant, which is to poured out for many. I tell you solemnly, I shall not drink any more wine until the day I drink the new wine in the kingdom of God.’

After the psalms had been sung they left for the Mount of Olives. And Jesus said to them ‘You will all lose faith, for the scripture says: “I shall strike the shepherd and the sheep will be scattered”.  However after my resurrection I shall go before you  to Galilee.’ Peter said ‘Even if all lose faith, I will not.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘I will tell you  solemnly, this day, this very night, before the cock crows twice, you will have disowned me three times.’ Bit he repeated still more earnestly ‘If I have to die with you, I will never disown you.’ And they all said the same.

They came to a small estate called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Stay here while I pray.’ Then he took Peter and James and John with him.  And a sudden fear came over him, and great distress.  And he said to them, ‘My soul is sorrowful to the point of death.  Wait here, and keep awake.’ And going on a little further he threw himself on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, this hour might pass him by. He said ‘Abba (Father)! Everything is possible for you. Take this cup away from me. But let is be as you, not I, would have it.’ He came back and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, ‘Simon are you asleep? Had you not the strength to keep awake one hour? You should awake, and praying not to be put to the test. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.’ Again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. And once more he came back and found them sleeping, their eyes were so heavy; and they could find no answer for him.  He came back a third time and said to them, ‘You can sleep on now and take your rest. It is all over. The hour has come. Now the Son on Man is to be betrayed in to the hands of sinners.  Get up! Let us go! My betrayer is close at hand already.’

Even while he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, came up with a number of men armed with swords and clubs, sent by the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. Now the traitor had arranged a signal with them. He said ‘The one I kiss, he is the man. Take him in charge and see he is well guarded when you lead him away.’ So when the traitor cam, he went straight up to Jesus and said, ‘Rabbi!’ and kissed him. The others seized him and took him in charge. Then one of the bystanders drew his sword and struck out at the high priest’s servant, and cut off his ear.

Then Jesus spoke, ‘Am I a brigand that you had to set out to capture me with swords and clubs? I was among you teaching in the Temple day after day and you never laid hands on me. But this is to fulfil the scriptures.’ And they all deserted him and ran away. A young an who followed him had nothing on but a linen cloth.  They caught hold of him, but he left the cloth in their hands and ran away naked.

They led Jesus off to the high priest; and all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes assembled there. Peter had followed him at a distance, right into the high priest’s palace, and was sitting with the attendants warming himself at the fire.

The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus on which they might pass the death-sentence.  But they could not find any. Several, indeed, brought false evidence against him, but their evidence was conflicting. Some stood up and submitted this false evidence against him, ‘We heard him, “I am going to destroy this Temple made by human hands, and in three days build another, not made by human hands”.’ But even on this point their evidence was conflicting. The high priest then stood up before the whole assembly and put this question to Jesus, ‘Have you no answer to that? What is this evidence these men are bringing against you’ But he was silent and made no answer at all.  The high priest put a second question to him, ‘Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?’ Jesus said ‘I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming with clouds of heaven.’ The high priest tore his robes, and said, ‘What witnesses have we now? You heard the blasphemy. What is your finding?’ And they all gave their verdict: he deserved to dir.

Some of them started spitting at him and, blindfolding him, began hitting him with their fists and shouting ‘Play the prophet!’ And the attendants rained blows on him.

While Peter was down below in the courtyard, one of the high priest’s servant-girls came up. She saw Peter warming himself there, stared at him and said ‘You too were with Jesus, the man from Nazareth.’ But he denied it saying, ‘I do not know, I do not understand, what you are talking about.’ And he went out into the forecourt.  The servant-girl saw him and again started telling the bystanders, ‘This fellow is one of them.’ But again he denied it. A little later the bystanders themselves said to Peter, ‘You are one of them for sure! Why, you are a Galilean.’ But he started calling curses on himself and swearing, ‘I do not know the man you speak of.’ At that moment the cock crew for the second time, and Peter recalled how Jesus had said to him, ‘Before the cock crows twice, you will have disowned me three times.’ And he burst into tears.

First thin in the morning , the chief priests together with the elders and scribes, in short the whole Sanhedrin, had their plan ready.  They had Jesus bound and took him away and handed him over to Pilate.

Pilate questioned him, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ He answered , ‘It is you who say it.’ And the chief priests brought many accusations against him. Pilate questioned him again, ‘Have you no reply at all? See how many accusations they are bringing against you! But, to Pilate’s amazement, Jesus made no further reply.

At festival time Pilate used to release a prisoner for them, anyone they asked for.  Now a man called Barabbas was then in prison with the rioters who had committed murder during the uprising.  When the crowd went up and began to ask Pilate the customary favour, Pilate answered them, ‘Do you want me release for you the king of the Jews?’ For he realised it was out of jealousy that the chief priests had handed Jesus over. The chief priests, however, had incited the crowd to demand that he should release Barabbas for them instead. Then Pilate spoke again. ‘But in that case, what am I to do with the man you call king of the Jews?’ They shouted back, ‘Crucify him!’ Pilate asked them, ‘Why? What harm has he done?’ But they shouted all the louder, ‘Crucify him!’ So Pilate, anxious to placate the crowd, released Barabbas for them and, having ordered Jesus to be scourged, handed him over to be crucified.

The soldiers led him away to the inner part of the palace, that is, the Praetorium, and called the cohort together. They dressed him up in purple, twisted some thorns into a crown and put it on him. And they began saluting him, ‘Hail, king of the Jews!’ They struck his head with a reed and spat on him; and they went down on their knees to do him homage. And when they had finished making fun of him, they took off the purple and dressed him in his own clothes.

They led him out to crucify him.  They enlisted a passer-by, Simon of Cyrene, father of Alexander and Rufus, who was coming in from the country, to carry his cross.  They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha, which means the place of the skull.

They offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he refused it. Then they crucified him, and shared out his clothing, casting lots to decide what each should get.  It was the third hour when they crucified him.  The inscription giving the charges against read: ‘The King of the Jews’. And they crucified two robbers with him, one on his right and one on his left.

The passers-by jeered at him; they shook their heads and said, ‘Aha! So you would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days! Then save yourself: come down from the cross!’ The chief priests and the scribes mocked him among themselves in the same way. They said ‘He saved others, he cannot save himself. Let the Christ, the king of Israel, come down from the cross now, for us to see it and believe.’ Even those who were crucified with him taunted him.

When the sixth hour came there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’ This means ‘My God, my God, why have you deserted me?’ When some of those who stood by heard this, they said, ‘Listen , he is calling on Elijah .’ Someone ran and soaked a sponge in vinegar and, putting it on a reed, gave it him to drink saying, ‘Wait and see if Elijah will come to take him down.’ But Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last.

And the veil of the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The centurion, who was standing in front of him, had seen how he had died, and he said, ‘In truth this man was a son of God.'<

There were some women watching from a distance. Among them were Mary of Magdala, Mary who was the mother of James the younger and Joset, and Salome. These used to follow him and look after him when he was in Galilee. And there  were many other women there who had come up to Jerusalem with him.

It was now evening, and since it was Preparation Day (that is, the vigil of the sabbath), there cam Joseph of Arimathaea, a prominent member of the Council, who himself lived in the  hope of seeing the kingdom of God, and he boldly went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Pilate, astonished that he should have died so soon, summoned the centurion and enquired if he was already dead. Having been assured of this by the centurion, he granted to corpse to Joseph who bought a shroud, took Jesus down from the cross, wrapped him in the shroud and laid him in a tom which had hewn out of the rock.  He then rolled stone against the entrance to the tomb. Mary of Magdala and Mary the mother of Joset were watching and took note of where he was laid.

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: The Deposition, also known as the Pala Baglione, Borghese Deposition or The Entombment, is an oil painting by the Italian Renaissance painter Raphael. Dated 1507, the painting is in the Galleria Borghese in Rome. It is the central panel of a larger altarpiece. The painting is on wood panel and measures 184 x 176 cm.

Giorgio Vasari, the famous biographer of Italian artists, understood Raphael’s piece as a narrative painting. Having seen the altarpiece in its original setting, Vasari gives a detailed description: In this most divine picture there is a Dead Christ being borne to the Sepulcher, executed with such freshness and such loving care, that it seems to the eye to have been only just painted. In the composition of this work, Raffaello imagined to himself the sorrow that the nearest and most affectionate relatives of the dead one feel in laying to rest the body of him who has been their best beloved, and on whom, in truth, the happiness, honour, and welfare of a whole family have depended. Our Lady is seen in a swoon; and the heads of all the figures are very gracious in their weeping, particularly that of St. John, who, with his hands clasped, bows his head in such a manner as to move the hardest heart in pity. And in truth, whoever considers the diligence, love, art and grace shown by this picture, has great reason to marvel, for it amazes all who behold it, what with the air of the figures, the beauty of the draperies, and in short, the supreme excellence that it reveals in every part.

Looking at the painting formally, the scene depicted is actually neither the Deposition nor the Entombment, but located somewhere in-between. We can determine this through the background: on the right is Mount Calvary, the location of the Crucifixion and Deposition, and on the left is the cave where the Entombment will take place. And so two men, lacking halos, use a piece of linen to carry the dead Christ and it seems as if all the participants in the bearing of the body are in suspended animation. The two men and Christ form very strong diagonals in the shape of a V. Besides the two men carrying the body, we have St. John and Nicodemus behind and to the left and Mary Magdalene holding the hand of Christ. The legs of St. John and Nicodemus do present a distracting problem, especially in the case of Nicodemus because due to the obstruction of the view, it is not clear what he is exactly doing, or what he is exactly looking at.

On the far right, in the other figural group slightly behind the action, are the three Marys supporting the Virgin Mary, who has fainted (a controversial depiction known as the Swoon of the Virgin) most likely due to her overwhelming grief. The way in which the Virgin is kneeling is excessively awkward, with extreme torsion and sharply cut drapery, also known as a figura serpentinata. Though seen in other famous works, her positioning seems to have been directly inspired by the example of Michelangelo’s Doni Tondo, completed only a few years earlier. In terms of colour, Raphael balances his use of strong reds, blues, yellows and greens and he creates subtle contrast in his flesh tones, best seen with the living Mary Magdalene’s holding of the dead Christ’s hand.

John 20: 1-9

It was very early on the first day of the week and still dark, when Mary of Magdala came to the tomb. She saw that the stone had been moved away from the tomb and came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved. ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb’ she said ‘and we don’t know where they have put him.’

So Peter set out with the other disciple to go to the tomb. They ran together, but the other disciple, running faster than Peter, reached the tomb first; he bent down and saw the linen cloths lying on the ground, but did not go in. Simon Peter who was following now came up, went right into the tomb, saw the linen cloths on the ground, and also the cloth that had been over his head; this was not with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in; he saw and he believed. Till this moment they had failed to understand the teaching of scripture, that he must rise from the dead.     

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: The Resurrection of Christ, also called The Kinnaird Resurrection (after a former owner of the painting, Lord Kinnaird), is an oil painting on wood by Raphael. The work is one of the earliest known paintings by the artist, executed between 1499 and 1502. It is probably a piece of an unknown predella, though it has been suggested that the painting could be one of the remaining works of the Baronci altarpiece, Raphael’s first recorded commission (seriously damaged by an earthquake in 1789, fragments of which are today found in museums across Europe). This painting is housed in the São Paulo Museum of Art.

The Kinnaird Resurrection is one of the first preserved works of Raphael in which his natural dramatic style of composition was already obvious, as opposed to the gentle poetic style of his master, Pietro Perugino. The extremely rational composition is ruled by a complex ideal geometry which interlinks all the elements of the scene and gives it a strange animated rhythm, transforming the characters in the painting into co-protagonists in a unique choreography. The painting possesses anesthetic influence from Pinturicchio and Melozzo da Forlì, though the spatial orchestration of the work, with its tendency to movement, shows Raphael’s knowledge of the Florentine artistic milieu of the 16th century.

John 20: 19-31

In the evening of that same day, the first day of the week, the doors were closed in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood among them. He said to them, ‘Peace be with you,’ and showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord, and he said to them again, ‘Peace be with you.

‘As the Father sent me, so am I sending you.’

After saying this he breathed on them and said:

‘Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained.’

Thomas, called the Twin, who was one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. When the disciples said, ‘We have seen the Lord’, he answered, ‘Unless I see the holes that the nails made in his hands and can put my finger into the holes they made, and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe.’ Eight days later the disciples were in the house again and Thomas was with them. The doors were closed, but Jesus came in and stood among them. ‘Peace be with you’ he said. Then he spoke to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; look, here are my hands. Give me your hand; put it into my side. Doubt no longer but believe.’ Thomas replied, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him:

‘You believe because you can see me. Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.’

There were many other signs that Jesus worked and the disciples saw, but they are not recorded in this book. These are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing this you may have life through his name.

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: The Incredulity of Saint Thomas is a painting by the Italian Baroque master Caravaggio, c. 1601–1602. It is housed in the Sanssouci Palace, now a museum, in PotsdamBerlinGermany.

It shows the episode that gave rise to the term “Doubting Thomas” which, formally known as the Incredulity of Thomas, had been frequently represented in Christian art since at least the 5th century, and used to make a variety of theological points. 

In the painting, Thomas’s face shows surprise as Jesus holds his hand and guides it into the wound. The absence of a halo emphasises the corporeality of the risen Christ. The work is in chiaroscuro (strong contrasts between light and dark). This picture is related to Saint Matthew and the Angel (1602) and the Sacrifice of Isaac (1603), all having a model in common. It belonged to Vincenzo Giustiniani before entering the Prussian royal collection, surviving the Second World War intact. A second version of “The Incredulity of Saint Thomas” has been re-discovered in Trieste, Italy in a private

Luke 24: 35-48

The disciples told their story of what had happened on the road and how they had recognised Jesus at the breaking of bread.

They were still talking about all this when Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you!’ In a state of alarm and fright, they thought they were seeing a ghost. But he said, ‘Why are you so agitated, and why are these doubts rising in your hearts? Look at my hands and feet; yes, it is I indeed. Touch me and see for yourselves; a ghost has no flesh and bones as you can see I have.’ And as he said this he showed them his hands and feet. Their joy was so great that they could not believe it, and they stood dumbfounded; so he said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’ And they offered him a piece of grilled fish, which he took and ate before their eyes.

Then he told them, ‘This is what I meant when I said, while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses, in the Prophets and in the Psalms, has to be fulfilled.’ He then opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, ‘So you see how it is written that the Christ would suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that, in his name, repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses to this.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: Supper with candlelight by Matthias Stom, painted around 1635, depicting the “breaking of bread” as the precise moment of the disciples’ recognition. Stom was a Dutch golden age painter considered one of the masters of Utrecht Caravaggism. He spent most of his artistic life in Italy, and 200 of his works have been preserved. Born in Amersfoort but many details of his life are vague. He was a pupil of Gerard van Honthorst in Rome after 1615.

He remained in Rome until 1632, after which he traveled to Naples, where he stayed until 1640. He then moved to Palermo, and delivered paintings for churches in Caccamo and Monreale. It is speculated that he died in Northern Italy, where in 1652 he painted an altar piece for the church in Chiuduno. His son, Mattia Stom (1649–1702), also was a painter.

Stom was influenced by the Baroque painter Caravaggio and his followers, utilizing their mastery of chiaroscuro. His work typically features religious scenes. He is appreciated for his psychology and noted for his “distinctive claylike treatment of flesh”.

John 10: 11-18

Jesus said:

‘I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd is one who lays down his life for his sheep. The hired man, since he is not the shepherd and the sheep do not belong to him, abandons the sheep and runs away as soon as he sees a wolf coming, and then the wolf attacks and scatters the sheep; this is because he is only a hired man and has no concern for the sheep.

I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for my sheep. And there are other sheep I have that are not of this fold, and these I have to lead as well. They too will listen to my voice, and there will be only one flock, and one shepherd.

The Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me; I lay it down of my own free will, and as it is in my power to lay it down, so it is in my power to take it up again; and this is the command I have been given by my Father.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: The Good Shepherd , mosaic in the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, Ravenna, Italy, ca. 425.

The Mausoleum of Galla Placidia is a Roman building in RavennaItaly. It was listed with seven other structures in Ravenna in the World Heritage List in 1996. UNESCO experts describe it as “the earliest and best preserved of all mosaic monuments, and at the same time one of the most artistically perfect”.

The Lunette of Christ as Good Shepherd over the north entrance is representative of Christian art at this time period in late antiquity. Christ is being depicted as more regal than prior depictions of him as the good shepherd. Rather than carrying a lamb over his shoulder, Jesus sits amongst his flock, haloed and robed in gold and purple. The mosaic represents a transition period between the naturalistic depictions of the classical period in art history and the stylised representations of the medieval period. The forms still have three-dimensional bulk, but the shading such as in the folds of the robes is less refined than in the past, and figures are not very grounded. Elements of realism have been sacrificed for a focus on the spiritual elements. Indifference to accurate representation of the world is perhaps epitomised by the anatomically incorrect tails of the sheep.

John 15: 1-8

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that bears no fruit he cuts away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes to make it bear even more. You are pruned already, by means of the word that I have spoken to you. Make your home in me, as I make mine in you. As a branch cannot bear fruit all by itself, but must remain part of the vine, neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches.

Whoever remains in me, with me in him, bears fruit in plenty; for cut off from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is like a branch that has been thrown away – he withers; these branches are collected and thrown on the fire, and they are burnt.

If you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask what you will and you shall get it. It is to the glory of my Father that you should bear much fruit, and then you will be my disciples.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: 16th Century Greek Icon. There are numerous Old Testament passages which refer to Israel as a vine: Ps 80:8–16, Isa 5:1–7, Jer 2:21, Ezek 15:1–8, 17:5–10, 19:10–14, and Hos 10:1. The Old Testament passages which use this symbol appear to regard Israel as faithless to Yahweh and the object of severe punishment. Ezek 15:1–8 in particular talks about the worthlessness of wood from a vine (in relation to disobedient Judah). A branch cut from a vine is worthless except to be burned as fuel. This appears to fit more with the statements about the disciples than with Jesus’ description of himself as the vine.

Ezek 17:5–10 contains vine imagery which refers to a king of the house of David, Zedekiah, who was set up as king in Judah by Nebuchadnezzar. Zedekiah allied himself to Egypt and broke his covenant with Nebuchadnezzar (and therefore also with God), which would ultimately result in his downfall (17:20–21). Ezek 17:22–24 then describes the planting of a cedar sprig which grows into a lofty tree, a figurative description of Messiah. But it is significant that Messiah himself is not described in Ezekiel 17 as a vine, but as a cedar tree. The vine imagery here applies to Zedekiah’s disobedience.

Several authors comment that “parables are noticeably absent from the Gospel of John”. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia article on Parables: “There are no parables in St. John’s Gospel” and according to the Encyclopaedia Britannica article on Gospel of St. John: “Here Jesus’ teaching contains no parables and but three allegories, the Synoptists present it as parabolic through and through.” These sources all suggest that the passage is better described as a metaphor than a parable. However, some writers, referred to the passage by a Latin term that is typically translated into English as a “parable”.

John 15: 9-17

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Remain in my love.

If you keep my commandments you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my own joy may be in you and your joy be complete.

This is my commandment: love one another, as I have loved you. A man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends, if you do what I command you. I shall not call you servants any more, because a servant does not know his master’s business; I call you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have learnt from my Father.

You did not choose me, no, I chose you; and I commissioned you to go out and to bear fruit, fruit that will last; and then the Father will give you anything you ask him in my name. What I command you is to love one another.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: St John, oil painting on canvas, 85 x 240 cm, by Paolo Veronese (1555). Veronese was an Italian Renaissance painter based in Venice, most famous for large history paintings of religious subjects. With Titian, who was at least a generation older, and Tintoretto, ten years older, he was one of the “great trio that dominated Venetian painting of the cinquecento” or 16th-century late Renaissance. Veronese is known as a supreme colourist, and after an early period with Mannerist influence turned to a more naturalist style influenced by Titian. His most famous works are elaborate narrative cycles, executed in a dramatic and colourful style, full of majestic architectural settings and glittering pageantry. His large paintings of biblical feasts, crowded with figures, painted for the refectories of monasteries in Venice and Verona are especially famous, and he was also the leading Venetian painter of ceilings.

Veronese moved to Venice in 1553 after obtaining his first state commission, ceilings in fresco decorating the Sala dei Cosiglio dei Dieci (the Hall of the Council of Ten) and the adjoining Sala dei Tre Capi del Consiglio in the Doge’s Palace, in the new rooms replacing those lost in the fire of 1547. His panel of Jupiter Expelling the Vices for the former is now in the Louvre. He then painted a History of Esther in the ceiling for the church of San Sebastiano (1556–57). It was these ceiling paintings and those of 1557 in the Marciana Library (for which he was awarded a prize judged by Titian and Sansovino) that established him as a master among his Venetian contemporaries. Already these works indicate Veronese’s mastery in reflecting both the subtle foreshortening of the figures of Correggio and the heroism of those by Michelangelo.

The ceiling painting in the sacristy of San Sebastiano, the Coronation of the Virgin, is framed by pictures of the four evangelists sitting, kneeling or reclining, accompanied by their symbols (eagle, ox, lion and angel), and, in their over life-size dimensions, they seem to burst out of the pictorial fields. In the four pictures, the open book is a reference to the subject as writer of the gospel of the same name. This work was executed in a dramatic and colourful Mannerist (Late Renaissance) style, full of majestic architectural settings and glittering pageantry as seen in this painting of St John.

Mark 16: 15-20

Jesus showed himself to the Eleven, and said to them, ‘Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News to all creation. He who believes and is baptised will be saved; he who does not believe will be condemned. These are the signs that will be associated with believers: in my name they will cast out devils; they will have the gift of tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and be unharmed should they drink deadly poison; they will lay their hands on the sick, who will recover.’

And so the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven: there at the right hand of God he took his place, while they, going out, preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word by the signs that accompanied it.

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: The Ascension of Christ, by Dosso Dossi, 16th century. Oil on panel, 128cm x 96cm. Dosso Dossi (c. 1490 – 1542) real name Giovanni di Niccolò de Luteri, was an Italian Renaissance painter who belonged to the Ferrara School of Painting.

Dossi was born in San Giovanni del Dosso, a village in the province of Mantua. His early training and life is not well documented; his father, originally of Trento, was a bursar for the Dukes of Ferrara. He may have had training locally with Lorenzo Costa or in Mantua, where he is known to have been in 1512. By 1514, he would begin three decades of service for dukes Alfonso I and Ercole II d’Este, becoming principal court artist. Dosso worked frequently with his brother Battista Dossi, who had trained in the Roman workshop of Raphael.

Dosso Dossi is known less for his naturalism or attention to design, and more for cryptic allegorical conceits in paintings around mythological themes, a favoured subject for the humanist Ferrarese court. Dossi is also known for the atypical choices of bright pigment for his cabinet pieces. Some of his works have lambent qualities that suggest some of Correggio‘s works. Most of his works feature Christian and Ancient Greek themes and use oil painting as a medium. This painting is typical of many Ascension works at the time, with  upper (Heavenly) and lower (earthly) parts.

Recently, “Portrait of a Youth” at the National Gallery of Victoria, the mysterious portrait of an unknown subject by an unknown painter, has been identified as a portrait of the infamous Lucrezia Borgia by Dosso Dossi.

John 20: 19-23

In the evening of the first day of the week, the doors were closed in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood among them. He said to them, ‘Peace be with you’, and showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord, and he said to them again, ‘Peace be with you.’

‘As the Father sent me, so am I sending you.’

After saying this he breathed on them and said:

‘Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven: for those whose sins you retain, they are retained.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: Pentecost painted by Titian. Oil on canvas, painted approx. 1545, currently in a private collection. Titian was a leading artist of the Italian Renaissance who painted works for Pope Paul III, King Philip II of Spain and Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. Born Tiziano Vecellio, sometime between 1488 and 1490, Titian became an artist’s apprentice in Venice as a teenager. He worked with Sebastiano Zuccato, Giovanni Bellini and Giorgione before branching out on his own. He was soon creating for works for leading members of royalty. Pope Paul III hired Titian to paint portraits of himself and his grandsons.

In 1516, Titian began work on his first major commission for a church called Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari in Venice. He painted “Assumption of the Virgin” (1516-1518) for the church’s high altar, a masterwork that helped establish Titian as one of the leading painters in the area. He was known for his deft use of colour and for his appealing renderings of the human form.

A short time after completing the legendary altarpiece, Titian created “The Worship of Venus” (1518-1519). This mythology-inspired work was just one of several commissioned by Alfonso I d’Este, duke of Ferrara. Over the years, Titian created portraits of leading figures of the day. He painted two works featuring Pope Paul III between 1545 and ’46, and spent six months living at the Vatican while making these paintings. In 1548, he travelled to the court of Charles V, where he painted his portrait as well. In his later career, Titian focused more on religious and mythology works.  His skilful work with colour and pleasing depiction of figures can be seen in the painting ‘Pentecost’.

Matthew 28: 16-20

The eleven disciples set out for Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had arranged to meet them. When they saw him they fell down before him, though some hesitated. Jesus came up and spoke to them. He said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations; baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you. And know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: Holy Trinity by Andrei Rublev. Tempera on wood, 142 x 114 cm. Currently located at the Tretyakoy Gallery, Moscow. Rublev was born in the 1360 and is considered to be the greatest medieval Russian painter of Orthodox icons and frescos. Little information survives about the life of Andrei Rublev. The first mention of Rublev is in 1405 when he decorated icons and frescos for the Cathedral of the Annunciation of the Moscow Kremlin in company with Theophanes the Greek and Prokhor of Gorodets. His name was the last of the list of masters as the junior both by rank and by age. Theophanes was an important Byzantine master who moved to Russia, and is considered to have trained Rublev.

Together with Daniil Cherni he painted the Assumption Cathedral in Vladimir in 1408 as well as the Cathedral of St. Trinity in the Trinity Lavra of St. Sergius between 1425 and 1427. After Daniil’s death, Andrei came to Moscow’s Andronikov Monastery where he painted his last work, the frescoes of the Saviour Cathedral. He is also believed to have painted at least one of the miniatures in the Khitrovo Gospels.

The only work authenticated as entirely his is the icon of the Trinity (c. 1410). It is based on an earlier icon known as the “Hospitality of Abraham” (illustrating Genesis 18). Rublev removed the figures of Abraham and Sarah from the scene, and through a subtle use of composition and symbolism changed the subject to focus on the Mystery of the Trinity. In Rublev’s art two traditions are combined: the highest asceticism and the classic harmony of Byzantine mannerism. The characters of his paintings are always peaceful and calm. After some time his art came to be perceived as the ideal of Eastern Church painting and of Orthodox iconography.

Rublev’s work influenced many artists. The Russian Orthodox Church canonised Rublev as a saint in 1988, celebrating his feast day on 29 January. The liturgical of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America remembers Rublev also on 29 January.

Mark 14: 12-16.22-26

On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb was sacrificed, his disciples said to Jesus, ‘Where do you want us to go and make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?’ So he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, ‘Go into the city and you will meet a man carrying a pitcher of water. Follow him, and say to the owner of the house which he enters, “The Master says: Where is my dining room in which I can eat the Passover with my disciples?” He will show you a large upper room furnished with couches, all prepared. Make the  preparations for us there.’ The disciples set out and went to the city and found everything as he had told them, and prepared the Passover.

And as they were eating he took some bread, and when he had said the blessing he broke it and gave it to them. ‘Take it,’ he said ‘this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, and when he had returned thanks he gave it to them, and all drank from it, and he said to them, ‘This is my blood, the blood of the covenant, which is to be poured out for many. I tell you solemnly, I shall not drink any more wine until the day I drink the new wine in the kingdom of God.’

After psalms had been sung they left for the Mount of Olives.

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci. Painted between 1495-1498, tempera on gesso, pitch and mastic, 460 x 880cm. It is covers an end wall of the dining hall at the monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan.

The Last Supper is a late 15th-century mural painting by Leonardo da Vinci, it is one of the world’s most famous paintings, and one of the most studied, and scrutinised.

The work is presumed to have been commissioned as part of a scheme of renovations to the church and its convent buildings by Leonardo’s patron Ludovico SforzaDuke of Milan. The painting represents the scene of The Last Supper of Jesus with his disciples, as it is told in the Gospel. Due to the methods used, and a variety of environmental factors, very little of the original painting remains today, despite numerous restoration attempts, the last being completed in 1999.

In common with other depictions of The Last Supper from this period, Leonardo seats the diners on one side of the table, so that none of them has his back to the viewer. Most previous depictions excluded Judas by placing him alone on the opposite side of the table from the other eleven disciples and Jesus or placing halos around all the disciples except Judas. Leonardo instead has Judas lean back into shadow. The angles and lighting draw attention to Jesus, whose head is located at the vanishing point for all perspective lines.

The painting contains several references to the number 3, which represents the Christian belief in the Holy Trinity. The Apostles are seated in groupings of three; there are three windows behind Jesus; and the shape of Jesus’ figure resembles a triangle. There may have been other references that have since been lost as the painting deteriorated.

For this work, Leonardo sought a greater detail and luminosity than could be achieved with traditional fresco. He painted The Last Supper on a dry wall rather than on wet plaster, so it is not a true fresco. Because a fresco cannot be modified as the artist works, Leonardo instead chose to seal the stone wall with a double layer of dried plaster. Then, borrowing from panel painting, he added an undercoat of white lead to enhance the brightness of the oil and tempera that was applied on top. This was a method that had been described previously, by Cennino Cennini in the 14th century. However, Cennini had recommended the use of secco for the final touches alone. These techniques were important for Leonardo’s desire to work slowly on the painting, giving him sufficient time to develop the gradual shading or chiaroscuro that was essential in his style.

Mark 4: 26-34

Jesus said to the crowds, ‘This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man throws seed on the land. Night and day, while he sleeps, when he is awake, the seed is sprouting and growing; how, he does not know. Of its own accord the land produces first the shoot, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the crop is ready, he loses no time; he starts to reap because the harvest has come.’

He also said, ‘What can we say the kingdom of God is like? What parable can we find for it? It is like a mustard seed which at the time of its sowing in the soil is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet once it is sown it grows into the biggest shrub of them all and puts out big branches so that the birds of the air can shelter in its shade.’

Using many parables like these, he spoke the word to them, so far as they were capable of understanding it. He would not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything to his disciples when they were alone.

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: engraved by Jan Luyken (April 16, 1649 – April 5, 1712). Luyken was a Dutch poet, illustrator and engraver. He was born and died in Amsterdam, where he learned engraving from his father Kaspar Luyken. This picture is taken from Robert Bowyer’s illustrated Bible, which he begun in 1791 and finished in 1795, which includes 32 engravings by James Fittler in the manner of Old Master paintings. Bowyer also bought prints in France that he incorporated into a later edition known as “Bowyer’s Bible”.

The plant referred to here is generally considered to be black mustard, a large annual plant up to 9 feet (2.7 m) tall, but growing from a proverbially small seed (this smallness is also used to refer to faith in Matthew 17:20 and Luke 17:6). According to rabbinical sources, Jews did not grow the plant in gardens, and this is consistent with Matthew’s description of it growing in a field. Luke tells the parable with the plant in a garden instead; this is presumably recasting the story for an audience outside Judea/Palestine.

The parable suggests the growth of the kingdom of God from tiny beginnings to worldwide size. The Parable of the Leaven shares this theme of large growth from small beginnings. As with the Parable of the Sower, which in Matthew and Mark occurs earlier in the same chapter, the man sowing the seed represents Jesus, and the plant is the Kingdom of God. Jesus could have chosen a genuine tree for the parable, but the mustard plant demonstrates that though the dominion appeared small like a seed during Jesus’ ministry, it would inexorably grow into something large and firmly rooted, which many would find shelter in.

Mark 4: 35-41

With the coming of evening, Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Let us cross over to the other side.’ And leaving the crowd behind they took him, just as he was, in the boat; and there were other boats with him. Then it began to blow a gale and the waves were breaking into the boat so that it was almost swamped. But he was in the stern, his head on the cushion, asleep. They woke him and said to him, ‘Master, do you not care? We are going down!’ And he woke up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Quiet now! Be calm!’ And the wind dropped, and all was calm again. Then he said to them, ‘Why are you so frightened? How is it that you have no faith?’ They were filled with awe and said to one another, ‘Who can this be? Even the wind and the sea obey him.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: The Storm on the Sea of Galilee is a painting from 1633 by the Dutch Golden Age painter Rembrandt van Rijn, oil on canvas, 160 x 127cm. It was in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum of BostonMassachusettsUnited States, prior to being stolen on March 18, 1990. The painting depicts the miracle of Jesus calming the storm on the Sea of Galilee and is Rembrandt’s only seascape painting. In telling a story of a miracle from the Bible, it shows Rembrandt’s depiction of high drama on the sea, something most Dutch of his time could well understand and appreciate.

During the 1630s, just when Rembrandt came to Amsterdam to begin his career in earnest, he painted what many consider his most dramatic works. The Storm on the Sea of Galilee exemplifies this type of work. Rembrandt chose a story from the Bible perhaps to show the seriousness of his artistic intentions. He came to Amsterdam fully intending to become known as an artist of only history paintings and portraits. However, he created this painting using a maritime theme. He demonstrated that he could combine a history painting with a seascape using a story from the New Testament. 

This episode from New Testament would be one familiar to people of Rembrandt’s time and one also, in all likelihood, appreciated by them. However, the dramatic tension instilled in the painting would provide the story with an entirely new and startling interpretation. This example of experimentation and risk-taking by the then twenty-seven-year old Rembrandt distinguished him from his peers and became the hallmark of his artistic progression.

It is during an intense and violent storm that the disciples of Christ became terrified. The small boat upon which they are sailing is about to become engulfed in a wave on the Sea of Galilee. Christ, who is seated at the stern, is awoken and appears to admonish the disciples just as he is about to command the storm to stop. It is this miracle that Rembrandt depicts. The mast of the ship points toward two corners of the painting. This serves to divide the painting into two triangles. In looking at the left triangle, it can be seen that Rembrandt invests in that space certain elements of the event about to occur–the crashing waves, the boat high in the air and several paintings characters in various states of distress. However, he also places a dramatic yellow light that opens hopefully in the distance, drenching the edge of the clouds and the ships mainsail. The right side of the diagonal is darker and more obscured, yet to be bathed in the light, a striking example of Rembrandt’s chiaroscuro style.

In an allegorical sense, the work also illustrates the power of nature and man’s helplessness in its force. Numbered among the twelve disciples were fisherman and sailors; however, in this scene they are powerless and exposed to elements. They can only hang on. One holds his hand over the side while others futilely attempt to steady the boat, the man on the left putting one hand to his hat and the other to the rigging is said to have the face of Rembrandt. It has been theorised that Rembrandt’s point in this is to put himself in the event through his imagination to inspire faith in the Biblical text, affirming its occurrence.

Matthew 16: 13-19

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi he put this question to his disciples, ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say he is John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ ‘But you,’ he said ‘who do you say I am?’ Then Simon Peter spoke up, ‘You are the Christ,’ he said ‘the Son of the living God.’ Jesus replied, ‘Simon son of Jonah, you are a happy man! Because it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven. So I now say to you: You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: Christ Handing the Keys to St. Peter by Pietro Perugino (1481-82), fresco, 335 x 550 cm, Cappella Sistina, Vatican. Pietro Perugino (1446–1523), born Pietro Vannucci, was an Italian Renaissance painter of the Umbrian school, who developed some of the qualities that found classic expression in the High enaissanceRaphael was his most famous pupil.

In about 1480, he was called to Rome by Sixtus IV to paint fresco panels for the Sistine Chapel walls. The frescoes he executed there included Moses and Zipporah (often attributed to Luca Signorelli), the Baptism of Christ, and Delivery of the Keys. The Sistine frescoes were the major high Renaissance commission in Rome. The altar wall was also painted with the Assumption, the Nativity, and Moses in the Bulrushes. These works were later destroyed to make a space for Michelangelo‘s Last Judgement,

After the completion of the Sistine Chapel work in 1486 Perugino, then aged forty, left Rome and by autumn was in Florence. Towards 1506 Pope Julius II had summoned Perugino to paint the Stanza of the Incendio del Borgo in the Vatican City; but he soon preferred a younger competitor, Raphael, who had been trained by Perugino; and Vannucci, after painting the ceiling with figures of God the Father in different glories, in five medallion-subjects, retired from Rome to Perugia from 1512.

Perugino’s last frescoes were painted for the church of the Madonna delle Lacrime in Trevi (1521, signed and dated), the monastery of Sant’Agnese in Perugia, and in 1522 for the church of Castello di Fortignano.

Among his pupils were Raphael, upon whose early work Perugino’s influence is most noticeable, Pompeo Cocchi, Eusebio da San GiorgioMariano di Eusterio, and Giovanni di Pietro (lo Spagna).

Mark 6: 1-6

Jesus went to his home town and his disciples accompanied him. With the coming of the Sabbath he began teaching in the synagogue and most of them were astonished when they heard him. They said, ‘Where did the man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been granted him, and these miracles that are worked through him? This is the carpenter, surely, the son of Mary, the brother of James and Joset and Jude and Simon? His sisters, too, are they not here with us?’ And they would not accept him. And Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is only despised in his own country, among his own relations and in his own house’; and he could work no miracle there, though he cured a few sick people by laying his hands on them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.

The Gospel of the Lord.

Sculpture: Donatello’s Saint Mark (1411–1413) is a marble statue that stands approximately seven feet nine inches in an exterior niche of the Orsanmichele church, FlorenceDonatello was commissioned by the linen weavers’ guild to complete three pieces for the project. St. Mark was the first of his contributions. The niche itself was not of Donatello’s hand, but created by two stone carvers named Perfetto di Giovanni and Albizzo di Pietro

Donatello’s sculpture is notable for its detailed realism, evidence of the artist’s skills. Even the veins of St. Mark’s left hand are visible as he holds a text upon his hip. The  natural pose, is used with Donatello’s St. Mark. The saint has more weight on his left leg, his left knee is bent, and his torso is slightly twisted. The style is much more naturalistic than the symmetry and unrealistic nature of art from the Dark Ages. Also Donatello’s sculpture differs from medieval works in the way that drapery is used, specifically in that St. Mark’s figure is revealed by a realistic draping of linen.

According to Vasari‘s text ‘The Lives of the Artists, written 140 years after the completion of St. Mark, the linen workers’ guild rejected the sculpture because it appeared unnatural when set at street level. This was due to proportion adjustments made for its final resting place in the niche, well above street level. The head and torso were made larger as they would be further away from the viewer. Donatello promised to make adjustments, so he covered the statue with a cloth, set the statue in the niche above the street, and without touching the statue for fifteen days, once again revealed it to the guild. With its location above the viewer, the proportions looked perfect and the linen weaver’s guild accepted the statue.

 

Mark 6: 7-13

Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out in pairs giving them authority over the unclean spirits. And he instructed them to take nothing for the journey except a staff – no bread, no haversack, no coppers for their purses. They were to wear sandals but, he added, ‘Do not take a spare tunic.’ And he said to them, ‘If you enter a house anywhere, stay there until you leave the district. And if any place does not welcome you and people refuse to listen to you, as you walk away shake off the dust from under your feet as a sign to them.’ So they set off to preach repentance; and they cast out many devils, and anointed many sick people with oil and cured them.

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: Jesus and his twelve apostles, fresco, Catacombs of DomitillaRome. The Catacombs of Rome are ancient catacombs, underground burial places under RomeItaly, of which there are at least forty, some discovered only in recent decades. Though most famous for Christian burials, either in separate catacombs or mixed together, people of all the Roman religions are buried in them, beginning in the 2nd century AD, mainly as a response to overcrowding and shortage of land.

The Christian catacombs are extremely important for the art history of early Christian art, as they contain the great majority of examples from before about 400 AD, in fresco and sculpture, as well as gold glass medallions.

Close to the Catacombs of San Callisto are the large and impressive Catacombs of Domitilla (named after St Domitilla), spread over 15 kilometres of underground caves. The Domitilla Catacombs are unique in that they are the oldest of Rome’s underground burial networks, and the only ones to still contain bones. They are also the best preserved and one of the most extensive of all the catacombs. Included in their passages is the above 2nd-century fresco of Jesus and his twelve apostles, one of the Last Supper and other valuable artifacts.

They are the only catacombs that have a subterranean basilica; entrance to the catacombs is achieved through this sunken 4th-century church, at via delle Sette Chiese 280. In the past, the basilica had become unsafe, and was abandoned in the 9th century. It was rediscovered in 1593, and much of it was reconstructed in 1870. At the beginning of 2009, at the request of the Vatican, the Divine Word Missionaries, a Roman Catholic Society of priests and Brothers, assumed responsibility as administrator of St. Domitilla Catacombs.

Mark 6: 30-34

The apostles rejoined Jesus and told him all they had done and taught. Then he said to them, ‘You must come away to some lonely place all by yourselves and rest for a while’; for there were so many coming and going that the apostles had no time even to eat. So they went off in a boat to a lonely place where they could be by themselves. But people saw them going, and many could guess where; and from every town they all hurried to the place on foot and reached it before them. So as he stepped ashore he saw a large crowd; and he took pity on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and he set himself to teach them at some length.

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: Jesus teaches the people by the sea, painted by James Tissot, 1890, resides in the Brooklyn Musuem, New York. Opaque watercolours over graphite on gray wove paper, 17 x 24cm. 

Jacques Joseph Tissot (15 October 1836 – 8 August 1902), anglicised as James Tissot, was a French painter and illustrator. He was a successful painter of Paris society before moving to London in 1871. Paintings by Tissot appealed greatly to wealthy British industrialists during the second half of the 19th-century. During 1872 he earned 94,515 francs, an income normally only enjoyed by those in the echeleons of the upper classes.

In 1885, Tissot had a revival of his Catholic faith, which led him to spend the rest of his life making paintings about Biblical events. Many of his artist friends were skeptical about his conversion, as it conveniently coincided with the French Catholic revival, a reaction against the secular attitude of the French Third Republic. At a time when French artists were working in impressionismpointilism, and heavy oil washes, Tissot was moving toward realism in his watercolors. To assist in his completion of biblical illustrations, Tissot traveled to the Middle East in 1886, 1889, and 1896 to make studies of the landscape and people. His series of 365 gouache (opaque watercolor) illustrations showing the life of Christ were shown to critical acclaim and enthusiastic audiences in Paris (1894–5), London (1896) and New York (1898–9), before being bought by the Brooklyn Museum in 1900. During July 1894, Tissot was awarded the Légion d’honneur, France’s most prestigious medal. Tissot spent the last years of his life working on paintings of subjects from the Old Testament. Although he never completed the series, he exhibited 80 of these paintings in Paris in 1901 and engravings after them were published in 1904.

John 6: 1-15

Jesus went off to the other side of the Sea of Galilee – or of Tiberias – and a large crowd followed him, impressed by the signs he gave by curing the sick. Jesus climbed the hillside, and sat down there with his disciples. It was shortly before the Jewish feast of Passover.

Looking up, Jesus saw the crowds approaching and said to Philip, ‘Where can we buy some bread for these people to eat?’ He only said this to test Philip; he himself knew exactly what he was going to do. Philip answered, ‘Two hundred denarii would only buy enough to give them a small piece each.’ One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said, ‘There is a small boy here with five barley loaves and two fish; but what is that between so many?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Make the people sit down.’ There was plenty of grass there, and as many as five thousand men sat down.

Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and gave them out to all who were sitting ready; he then did the same with the fish, giving out as much as was wanted. When they had eaten enough he said to the disciples, ‘Pick up the pieces left over, so that nothing gets wasted.’ So they picked them up, and filled twelve hampers with scraps left over from the meal of five barley loaves. The people, seeing this sign that he had given, said, ‘This really is the prophet who is to come into the world.’ Jesus, who could see they were about to come and take him by force and make him king, escaped back to the hills by himself.

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: The Miracle of the loaves and fishes, painted in 1624 by Giovanni Lanfranco. The painting is oil on canvas, size 144 x 221cm and resides in the National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin.

Giovanni Lanfranco was born in Terenzo, close to Parma in Italy, in 1582. This was a period when Italian art was less famous than their counterparts in the Netherlands, France and Spain. Yet from all over the European world painters came to Rome to study antique examples and the Baroque style. The Italian painters of that century worked in various towns and more than before travelled in their country, going to where their fame called them. Lanfranco worked with the Carraccis of Bologna in Rome. Lanfranco painted many religious decorations for churches and palaces in Rome. The ‘Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes’ was commissioned for the Blessed Sacrament chapel in the Basilica of Saint Paul Fuori le Mura, outside Rome. Lanfranco made eight canvases for this chapel on the theme of the Eucharist. The scene of the miracle is seen in perspective from below, so the painting was intended to hang high. 

Lanfranco continued the Roman style in which volume was all-important as created by the play of light and shadows. But line and form inherited from the Florentines were still important for him and suited the story that had to be told to the churchgoers. Thus, his figures are clearly delineated as can be seen in the figure of Jesus. The wonderfully bright Jesus stands out against the darker tones of the people who have come to hear the Messiah. Jesus shows the loaves to the people, reassuring them. He towers above all and the view of the devoted faithful in the chapel must have fallen immediately on him. Look at all the detail in which the figures are drawn. All are in a different pose with sometimes theatrical movements of hands and heads. The gestures remain believable however. It is always a tour-de-force in such anecdotal pictures to have the figures move, point, show surprise and agitation, yet keep the gestures natural without too much sentimentality, and to keep them still credible. Lanfranco succeeded in this feat.

Giovanni Lanfranco respected his commissioners. Lanfranco did probably not need to deliver such a lively scene with so many precise details, but he did. There is even a scene within a scene. For an apostle is handing out the fish and the bread to the poor on the right. The miracle happened after the Sermon on the Mount, and Lanfranco referred somewhat to this preaching for he set the right scene on the flank of a hill. This then gave the painter an occasion to add a beautiful landscape of trees.

Lanfranco was a master in creating space. The figures on the left are near the viewer. The scene on the right is more far off. So, the figures on the right are smaller. In this seemingly easy picture, made by a painter who is not that well known, we find a masterpiece of narration, of colour and of space, which fits perfectly the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes.

John 6: 24-35

When the people saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into boats and crossed to Capernaum to look for Jesus. When they found him on the other side, they said to him, ‘Rabbi, when did you come here?’ Jesus answered:

‘I tell you most solemnly, you are not looking for me because you have seen the signs but because you had all the bread you wanted to eat. Do not work for food that cannot last, but work for food that endures to eternal life, the kind of food the Son of Man is offering you, for on him the Father, God himself, has set his seal.’

Then they said to him, ‘What must we do if we are to do the works that God wants?’ Jesus gave them this answer, ‘This is working for God: you must believe in the one he has sent.’ So they said, ‘What sign will you give to show us that we should believe in you? What work will you do? Our fathers had manna to eat in the desert; as scripture says: He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’

Jesus answered:

‘I tell you most solemnly, it was not Moses who gave you bread from heaven, it is my Father who gives you the bread from heaven, the true bread; for the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’

‘Sir,’ they said ‘give us that bread always.’ Jesus answered:

‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never be hungry; he who believes in me will never thirst.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: Early third century fresco depiction of Eucharistic bread and fish, in the Catacombs of St Callixtus, Rome. The catacombs of St. Callixtus are among the greatest and most important of Rome. They originated approx the middle of the second century and are part of a cemeterial complex which occupies an area of 90 acres, with a network of galleries about 12 miles long, in four levels, more than twenty meters deep. In it were buried tens of Martyrs, 16 Popes and very many Christians. They are named after the deacon Callixtus who, at the beginning of the third century, was appointed by Pope Zephyrinus as the administrator of the cemetery and so the catacombs of St. Callixtus became the official cemetery of the Church of Rome.

The underground cemetery includes several areas. The area of the Popes is the most important and venerated crypt of the cemetery, called “the little Vatican” as it was the official burial place of nine popes and, probably, of eight dignitaries of Rome’s 3rd century Church. In the walls you can still see the original inscriptions, in Greek, of five Popes. On four tombstones, near the name of the pope, there is the title of “bishop”, since the Pope was regarded as the head of the Church of Rome, and on two of them there is the Greek abbreviation of MPT for “Martyr”.

The Catacombs has the Crypt of St. Cecilia: the popular patron Saint of Music. Of a noble Roman family, she was martyred in the 3rd c. and entombed where the statue now lies. She was venerated in this crypt for at least five centuries. In 821 her relics were transferred to Trastevere, in the basilica dedicated to her. The statue of St. Cecilia is a copy of the celebrated work sculptured by Stefano Maderno in 1599. The crypt was all covered with mosaics and paintings (beginning of the 9th Century). On the wall, near the statue, we see an ancient painting of St. Cecilia in an attitude of prayer; lower down, in a small niche, is a fresco representing Christ holding a Gospel. On the right side is the figure of St.Urban. On the wall of the shaft is the painting of three martyrs: Polycamus, Sebastian and Quirinus.

Passing through imposing galleries full of loculi, there are five small chambers, truly family tombs, commonly known as the cubicles of the Sacraments, and particularly important for their frescoes. The frescoes can be dated to the beginning of the 3rd century and represent symbolically the sacraments of Baptism and of the Eucharist, including the bread of life as in the picture above.

John 6: 41-51

The Jews were complaining to each other about Jesus, because he had said, ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven.’ ‘Surely this is Jesus son of Joseph’ they said. ‘We know his father and mother. How can he now say, “I have come down from heaven”?’ Jesus said in reply, ‘Stop complaining to each other.

‘No one can come to me unless he is drawn by the Father who sent me, and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets: They will all be taught by God, and to hear the teaching of the Father, and learn from it, is to come to me. Not that anybody has seen the Father, except the one who comes from God: he has seen the Father.

I tell you most solemnly, everybody who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the desert and they are dead; but this is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that a man may eat it and not die. I am the living bread which has come down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: Christ with the Eucharist, Vicente Juan Masip, painted in 1575, 101 × 63 cm. The painting now resides in the Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest. Vicente Juan Masip (also known as Joan de Joanes was a Spanish painter of the Renaissance period. He was one of the main members, and was considered the premier painter of the Valencian school of painters.

His father was Vicente Masip (1475 – 1545), and his son was Vicente Masip Comes (1555-1623), known as Vicent de Joanes, who imitated his style. His two daughters, Dorotea and Margarita, were also painters. His most prominent pupil was Nicolas Borras.

Born in La Font de la Figuera, he is said to have studied his art for some time in Italy due to Sebastiano del Piombo’s influence, with which school his affinities are closest, and he received this influence by the Italian peintures arriving to Valencia. The greater part of his professional life was spent in the city of Valencia, where most of the extant examples of his work are now found. All relate to religious subjects, and are characterised by dignity of conception, accuracy of drawing, beauty of colour, and minuteness of finish. Since his name Macip made him sound like a labourer (macero), he adopted the name of Joan de Joanes, and the heraldry of that family of nobility. He painted a Raphaelesque Holy Family for the sacristy in the Cathedral of Valencia.

He never painted a profane subject, and emulated Luis de Vargas and Fra Angelico, in never painting unless he had received Holy Communion. Painting for him was a solemn exercise, an oratory process, full of prayers and fasts. He never lacked church patronage; the archbishop of Valencia, St. Thomas of Villanova, ordered a set of cartoon panels about the Life of the Virgin to model for some tapestries.

He also painted for the churches of the Jesuits, Dominicans, Minims, Augustinians, Franciscans, and for the churches of San Nicolás, Santa Cruz, Carmen Calzado, St Esteban, Corona, Temple, San Andrés, San Bartolomé and San Miguel de los Reyes.

Luke 1: 39-56

Mary set out and went as quickly as she could to a town in the hill country of Judah. She went into Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. Now as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. She gave a loud cry and said, ‘Of all women you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord? For the moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy. Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.’

And Mary said: ‘My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my spirit exults in God my saviour; because he has looked upon his lowly handmaid. Yes, from this day forward all generations will call me blessed, for the Almighty has done great things for me. Holy is his name, and his mercy reaches from age to age for those who fear him. He has shown the power of his arm, he has routed the proud of heart. He has pulled down princes from their thrones and exalted the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things, the rich sent empty away. He has come to the help of Israel his servant, mindful of his mercy – according to the promise he made to our ancestors – of his mercy to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’

Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then went back home.

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: Assumption of the Virgin Mary was created by Peter Paul Rubens, 490 x 320cm, oil on wood. It was completed in 1626 as an altarpiece for the high altar of the Cathedral of Our Lady, Antwerp, where it remains today.

In the foreground of the picture, we see the apostles, some of whom are opening Mary’s tomb and lifting off the heavy stone that covers it; others are following Our Lady with their eyes with reverential admiration and profound astonishment. Mary is mounting to heaven, surrounded by a troop of angels. At the bottom is the marble tomb, academic in form; next to it kneel two apostles, one bowed over the tomb and putting his head into it to examine it to the bottom, the other with eyes and arms raised to heaven; a third standing up leans forward to convince himself of the reality of the prodigy. Behind the tomb are two apostles, one of whom is lifting off the stone while the other bends his eyes to heaven. Beside them is a woman, also helping to lift off the stone and looking into the aperture. On the left two women on their knees are inspecting with astonishment the flowers and the shroud they have discovered in the tomb. At the top of the picture we see the Virgin ascending into the clouds, with arms extended and eyes turned to heaven; she seems to rise of her own accord rather than by any external force. Around her sport little angels, triumphant and joyful; some bear the train of their queen, others the clouds on which she rests.

It is a very remarkable work, both for its happy composition and its clear interpretation of the subject. On the earth, all is life and movement; the emotions and attitudes of the apostles differ in every case. One and all, they are robust men, who stand out strongly against the pale blue background; their full-toned draperies, arranged in large masses, fall in straight and solid folds. The women are pleasanter in form and painted in more luminous tones. The further we mount into the upper regions, the more delicate become the forms, the fainter the colours, and the more immaterial the figures and draperies. The angels forming the lowest rank of the troop which surrounds Mary are still firm in flesh and outline, and the clouds in which they hover are heavy; higher up, the clouds become less dense and the flesh but shadow, and the winged children are transformed into celestial spirits. By her attitude and expression, Mary is detached from the earth and already belongs to a higher world. Celestial glory radiates around her and she ascends in a supernatural light that falls from the summit of the empyrean.

John 6: 60-69

After hearing his doctrine many of the followers of Jesus said, ‘This is intolerable language. How could anyone accept it?’ Jesus was aware that his followers were complaining about it and said, ‘Does this upset you? What if you should see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh has nothing to offer. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. But there are some of you who do not believe.’

For Jesus knew from the outset those who did not believe, and who it was that would betray him. He went on, ‘This is why I told you that no one could come to me unless the Father allows him.’ After this, many of his disciples left him and stopped going with him.

Then Jesus said to the Twelve, ‘What about you, do you want to go away too?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘Lord, who shall we go to? You have the message of eternal life, and we believe; we know that you are the Holy One of God.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: Saint Peter – as Pope shown with pallium and the keys to heaven. Painted by Peter Paul Rubens in 1612, oil on panel, 107 x 82cm, resides in the Museum del Prado, Madrid.

Rubens made a series of portraits of the apostles, in commission of the Duke of Lerma, all of which are in the Museum del Prado, Madrid. The disciples of Christ are represented in the style the painter used around 1612-1613. These are large figures of forceful appearance and considerable plasticity, contrasting with the dark backgrounds. The use of these human types and the intensely directed light are the result of the painter’s trip to Italy, where he was influenced by the art of Michelangelo. 

The saints are depicted with their most representative attributes in order to facilitate their identification. Those attributes are drawn from a variety of iconographic and literary traditions, which has sometimes led to confusion about their identities. Saint Peter, with the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven, begins the series. He is followed by Saint John, with the goblet with which he was intended to be poisoned, and Saint James, with a pilgrim’s hat and staff, in keeping with Medieval tradition. Saint Andrew and Saint Philip carry their respective martyr’s crosses, the first of which is x-shaped. Saint James the Minor, who was a fuller, holds the tool with which he was killed, and Saint Bartholomew carries the knife with which he was flayed. In that same sense, Saints Mathias, Thomas and Matthew carry diverse weapons alluding to their respective suffering. The series is completed with the representations of Saint Simon and Saint Paul, who carries the sword and Holy Scriptures, symbolising his battle for the Faith and his work spreading the Gospel.

This series was lost during the early seventeenth century, but reappeared in 1746 as part of the collection of Queen Isabel Farnesio at the La Granja Palace.

Mark 7: 1-8, 14-15, 21-23

The Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered round Jesus, and they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with unclean hands, that is, without washing them. For the Pharisees, and the Jews in general, follow the tradition of the elders and never eat without washing their arms as far as the elbow; and on returning from the market place they never eat without first sprinkling themselves. There are also many other observances which have been handed down to them concerning the washing of cups and pots and bronze dishes. So these Pharisees and scribes asked him, ‘Why do your disciples not respect the tradition of the elders but eat their food with unclean hands?’ He answered, ‘It was of you hypocrites that Isaiah so rightly prophesied in this passage of scripture:

This people honours me only with lip-service, while their hearts are far from me. The worship they offer me is worthless, the doctrines they teach are only human regulations.

You put aside the commandment of God to cling to human traditions.’

He called the people to him again and said, ‘Listen to me, all of you, and understand. Nothing that goes into a man from outside can make him unclean; it is the things that come out of a man that make him unclean. For it is from within, from men’s hearts, that evil intentions emerge: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, malice, deceit, indecency, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within and make a man unclean.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: Jesus with the Scribes and Pharisees, painted by James Tissot, between 1886 & 1894, opaque watercolour over graphite on gray wove paper, dimensions 17 x 27cm.

The Discourse on Defilement is an episode in the life of Jesus in the New Testament. It appears in the Gospel of Matthew 15:1–20 and the Gospel of Mark 7:1–23. In the Gospel of Matthew, the Pharisees complain to Jesus that his disciples break the tradition of the elders because they do not wash their hands before eating. And Jesus responds: “Listen and understand. What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him ‘unclean,’ but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him ‘unclean.’”. The Gospel of Mark above has a similar episode in which Jesus explains how a man is defiled by evil that comes out of him: “What comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean.’ For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.’”

 James Tissot, 15 October 1836 – 8 August 1902 was a French painter and illustrator. In 1885, Tissot had a revival of his Catholic faith, which led him to spend the rest of his life making paintings about Biblical events. At a time when French artists were working in impressionism and heavy oil washes, Tissot was moving toward realism in his watercolours. His series of 365 gouache  illustrations showing the life of Christ were shown to critical acclaim and enthusiastic audiences in Paris (1894–5), London (1896) and New York (1898–9), before being bought by the Brooklyn Museum in 1900, where they reside today.

Mark 7: 31-37

Returning from the district of Tyre, Jesus went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, right through the Decapolis region. And they brought him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they asked him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, put his fingers into the man’s ears and touched his tongue with spittle.

Then looking up to heaven he sighed; and he said to him, ‘Ephphatha’, that is, ‘Be opened.’ And his ears were opened, and the ligament of his tongue was loosened and he spoke clearly. And Jesus ordered them to tell no one about it, but the more he insisted, the more widely they published it. Their admiration was unbounded. ‘He has done all things well,’ they said, ‘he makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: Jesus healing a deaf mute, painted by Bartholomeus Breenbergh, 1635. Medium is oil on panel, 90 x 122cm and resides in the Louvre Museum, Paris.

Bartholomeus Breenbergh (1598 – after 1657) was a Dutch Golden Age painter of Italian and Italianate landscapes, in Rome (1619-1630) and Amsterdam (1630-1657).

Breenbergh is first registered as a painter on an archival record in 1619 in Amsterdam, though he possibly was established there earlier. In the same year he left for Rome. There he lived and worked with the Flemish painter Frans van de Kasteele and was heavily influenced by another Fleming resident, the landscape painter Paul Bril. From 1623, however, he came under the spell of Italian landscapes by the somewhat older Cornelis van Poelenburgh — indeed, the works of Breenbergh and van Poelenburgh are sometimes difficult to tell apart. He was also influenced by Nicolaes Moeyaert. Breenbergh in his turn influenced the French landscape-painter Claude Lorrain (who arrived in the city about 1620). In 1620, Breenbergh became one of the founders of the Roman society of Dutch and Flemish painters, the Bentvueghels, among whom he was nicknamed “het fret” (the ferret). In 1630 Breenbergh returned to Amsterdam. In 1633 he married, and received a yearly wage of 60 pounds from the court of King Charles I of Britain. He remained in Amsterdam until his death, where he made popular paintings and etchings of Italian buildings. There he was influenced by the pre-Rembrandtists such as Pieter Lastman and Nicolaes Moeyaert, but he placed their Biblical and mythological scenes in Italian landscapes.

 

Mark 8: 27-35

Jesus and his disciples left for the villages round Caesarea Philippi. On the way he put this question to his disciples, ‘Who do people say I am?’ And they told him. ‘John the Baptist,’ they said, ‘others Elijah; others again, one of the prophets.’ ‘But you,’ he asked, ‘who do you say I am?’ Peter spoke up and said to him, ‘You are the Christ.’ And he gave them strict orders not to tell anyone about him.

And he began to teach them that the Son of Man was destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and to be put to death, and after three days to rise again; and he said all this quite openly. Then, taking him aside, Peter started to remonstrate with him. But, turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said to him, ‘Get behind me, Satan! Because the way you think is not God’s way but man’s.’

He called the people and his disciples to him and said, ‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: Saint Peter painted by Dirck van Baburen, in 1617. The painting is oil on canvas, 165x137cm, and is in a private collection in Switzerland.

This work was a pendant with another canvas (destroyed), depicting Saint Paul, the pair being patron saints of Rome. The two works are noted in the 8 March 1624 inventory of Gianfrancesco Cussida (Archivio Capitolino, Rome), son of Pietro Cussida, a member of the Aragon family from Zaragoza, and Roman diplomat in the service of Phillip III of Spain. The pair of paintings were said to have been in the Rospigliosi collection (Sotheby’s, 2007). Erich Schleier dated the picture to circa 1617, comparing the figure with that of the same saint in the Christ Washing the Feet of the Apostles in the Gemäldegalerie, Berlin.

Dirck van Baburen (c. 1595 – 21 February 1624) was a Dutch painter associated with the Utrecht Caravaggisti. He was born in Wijk bij Duurstede, but his family moved to Utrecht when he was still young.

Dirck van Baburen’s career was short, and only a few of his paintings are known today. He mostly painted religious subjects in Rome, including the San Pietro in Montorio Entombment that is indebted to Caravaggio’s version of the same subject in the Vatican Museums. Baburen also painted a Capture of Christ (Borghese Gallery) for Scipione Borghese and Christ Washing the Feet of the Apostles (GemäldegalerieBerlin) for Vincenzo Giustiniani.

The Utrecht works made between 1621 as 1624, the final years of Baburen’s career, merged the visual characteristics learnt from Caravaggio and Manfredi into genre, mythological and history painting. Prometheus Being Chained by Vulcan (Rijksmuseum,Amsterdam), for example, adapts Caravaggio’s upside-down figure of St. Paul from the Conversion of St. Paul (Santa Maria del Popolo, Rome) for the position of the fallen Prometheus, who was punished for stealing fire from the gods and giving it to mortals.

He was among the first artists to popularise genre subjects such as musicians and cardplayers. One of his best-known works is The Procuress (Museum of Fine ArtsBoston). It depicts a man offering a coin for the services of a lute-player while an old woman, the lady’s procuress, inspects his money. This painting (or a copy) was owned by Johannes Vermeer’s mother-in-law and appears in two of that artist’s works, The Concert (stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston) and Woman Seated at a Virginal (National GalleryLondon). 

Mark 9: 30-37

After leaving the mountain Jesus and his disciples made their way through Galilee; and he did not want anyone to know, because he was instructing his disciples; he was telling them, ‘The Son of Man will be delivered into the hands of men; they will put him to death; and three days after he has been put to death he will rise again.’ But they did not understand what he said and were afraid to ask him.

They came to Capernaum, and when he was in the house he asked them, ‘What were you arguing about on the road?’ They said nothing because they had been arguing which of them was the greatest. So he sat down, called the Twelve to him and said, ‘If anyone wants to be first, he must make himself last of all and servant of all.’ He then took a little child, set him in front of them, put his arms round him, and said to them, ‘Anyone who welcomes one of these little children in my name, welcomes me; and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.’    

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: Christ as the Saviour of the World by Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519). Painted 1499, oil on walnut. 66 x 46cm, in a private collection.

In late 2011, we heard the unexpected news that researchers had identified a long lost Leonardo painting entitled Salvator Mundi (“Saviour of the World”). Previously, this panel was thought to exist only as copies and one detailed, 1650 etching by Wenceslaus Hollar (Bohemian, 1607-1677). The last painting by Leonardo to be authenticated was the Hermitage’s Benois Madonna in 1909.

When the present owners bought it, it was in dreadful shape. The panel on which it is painted had split and someone, at some point, attempted to put it back together with stucco. The panel had also been subjected unsuccessfully to a forced flattening, and then glued to another backing. The worst offenses were crude areas of overpainting, in an attempt to hide the botched panel repair. And then there was the dirt and grime, centuries old. It would have taken a huge, nearly delusional leap of imagination to see a Leonardo lurking underneath the mess, yet that is exactly how the painting’s story concluded.

According to the many Leonardo experts who examined Salvator Mundi during various stages of cleaning, several tangible characteristics stood out immediately:

 The ringlets of hair

The knot-work crossing the stole

The right fingers raised to offer a blessing

The fingers were especially significant because, as an expert put it, “All the versions of the ‘Salvator Mundi’, drawings of the drapery and lots of copies, all of them have rather tubular fingers. What Leonardo had done, and the copyists and imitators didn’t pick up, was to get just how the knuckle sort of sits underneath the skin.” In other words, the artist was so well-versed in anatomy that he had studied it, most probably via dissection.

To prove that Salvator Mundi is a long lost Leonardo, researchers had to uncover facts. The provenance of the painting, including some lengthy gaps, was pieced together from its time in the collection of Charles II until 1763 (when it was sold at auction), and then from 1900 to the present day. It was compared to two preparatory drawings, housed in the Royal Library at Windsor, that Leonardo made for it. It was also compared to some 20 known copies and found to be superior to all of them. The most compelling evidence was uncovered during the cleaning process, when several pentimenti (alterations by the artist) became apparent, one visible, and the others through infrared imagery. Additionally, the pigments and the walnut panel itself are consistent with other Leonardo paintings.

It should also be noted that the way the new owners went about seeking evidence and a consensus earned them the respect of Leonardo experts. Salvator Mundi was given the special treatment by those who cleaned and restored it, even though the owners weren’t certain what they had. And when the time came to begin researching and reaching out to experts, it was done quietly and methodically. The entire process took nearly seven years.

 Leonardo naturally had to deviate just a bit from the traditional formula for a Salvator Mundi painting. For example, note the orb resting in Christ’s left palm. In Roman Catholic iconography, this orb was painted as brass or gold, may have had vague landforms mapped on it, and was topped by a crucifix, hence its Latin name globus cruciger. We know that Leonardo was a Roman Catholic, as were all of his patrons. However, he eschews the globus cruciger for what appears to be a sphere of rock crystal. Lacking any word from Leonardo, we can only theorise. He was constantly trying to tie the natural and spiritual worlds together, and in fact made quite a few drawings of Platonic Solids for Pacioli’s De Divina Proportione. We know, too, that he studied the as-yet-to-be-named science of optics whenever the mood struck him.

Look at the heel of that left hand. It is distorted to the point that Christ appears to have a double-wide heel. This is no mistake, it is the normal distortion one would see through glass or crystal. Or maybe Leonardo was just showing off; he was something of an expert on rock crystal. Whatever his reason, no one had ever painted “the world” over which Christ had dominion like this before.

Mark 9: 38-43, 45, 47-48

John said to Jesus, ‘Master, we saw a man who is not one of us casting out devils in your name; and because he was not one of us we tried to stop him.’ But Jesus said, ‘You must not stop him: no one who works a miracle in my name is likely to speak evil of me. Anyone who is not against us is for us.

‘If anyone gives you a cup of water to drink just because you belong to Christ, then I tell you solemnly, he will most certainly not lose his reward.

‘But anyone who is an obstacle to bring down one of these little ones who have faith, would be better thrown into the sea with a great millstone round his neck. And if your hand should cause you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter into life crippled, than to have two hands and go to hell, into the fire that cannot be put out. And if your foot should cause you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter into life lame, than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye should cause you to sin, tear it out; it is better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell where their worm does not die nor their fire go out.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: St Mark the Evangelist, painted by Andrea Mantegna (1431-1506) in 1450. Tempera on Canvas, 82x64cm, currently residing in the Städel, an art museum in Frankfurt am Main, with one of the most important collections in Germany.

Andrea Mantegna was an Italian painter, and a student of Roman archeology. Like other artists of the time, Mantegna experimented with perspective, e.g., by lowering the horizon in order to create a sense of greater monumentality. His flinty, metallic landscapes and somewhat stony figures give evidence of a fundamentally sculptural approach to painting. He also led a workshop that was the leading producer of prints in Venice before 1500.

His first work, now lost, was an altarpiece for the church of Santa Sofia in 1448. The same year Mantegna was called, together with Nicolò Pizolo, to work with a large group of painters entrusted with the decoration of the Ovetari Chapel in the transept of the church of the Eremitani. It is probable, however, that before this time some of the pupils of Squarcione, including Mantegna, had already begun the series of frescoes in the chapel of S. Cristoforo, in the church of Sant’Agostino degli Eremitani, today considered his masterpiece. After a series of coincidences, Mantegna finished most of the work alone, though Ansuino, who collaborated with Mantegna in the Ovetari Chapel, brought his style in the Forlì school of painting. The now censorious Squarcione carped about the earlier works of this series, illustrating the life of St James; he said the figures were like men of stone, and had better have been coloured stone-colour at once.

The sketch of the St. Stephen fresco survived and is the earliest known preliminary sketch which still exists to compare to the corresponding fresco. In the preliminary sketch, the perspective is less developed and closer to a more average viewpoint however. Despite the authentic look of the monument, it is not a copy of any known Roman structure. Mantegna also adopted the wet drapery patterns of the Romans, who derived the form from the Greek invention, for the clothing of his figures, although the tense figures and interactions are derived from Donatello.

Among the other early Mantegna frescoes are the two saints over the entrance porch of the church of Sant’Antonio in Padua, 1452, and an altarpiece of San Luca Altarpiece from 1453, with St. Luke and other saints for the church of S. Giustina, now in the Brera Gallery in Milan (1453). As the young artist progressed in his work, he came under the influence of Jacopo Bellini, father of the celebrated painters Giovanni Bellini and Gentile Bellini, and of a daughter Nicolosia. In 1453 Jacopo consented to a marriage between Nicolosia and Mantegna.

Mark 10: 2-16

Some Pharisees approached Jesus and asked, ‘Is it against the law for a man to divorce his wife?’ They were testing him. He answered them, ‘What did Moses command you?’ ‘Moses allowed us’ they said ‘to draw up a writ of dismissal and so to divorce.’ Then Jesus said to them, ‘It was because you were so unteachable that he wrote this commandment for you. But from the beginning of creation God made them male and female. This is why a man must leave father and mother, and the two become one body. They are no longer two, therefore, but one body. So then, what God has united, man must not divide.’ Back in the house the disciples questioned him again about this, and he said to them, ‘The man who divorces his wife and marries another is guilty of adultery against her. And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another she is guilty of adultery too.’

People were bringing little children to him, for him to touch them. The disciples turned them away, but when Jesus saw this he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. I tell you solemnly, anyone who does not welcome the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’ Then he put his arms round them, laid his hands on them and gave them his blessing.

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: Jesus Christ with the Children, painted by Carl Heinrich Bloch, 1870. The painting resides in the Frederikborg Palace in Copenhagen, oil on copper.

Carl Heinrich Bloch (May 23, 1834 – February 22, 1890) was a Danish painter. He was born in Copenhagen, Denmark and studied with Wilhelm Marstrand at the Royal Danish Academy of Art there. Bloch’s parents wanted their son to enter a respectable profession – an officer in the Navy. This, however, was not what Carl wanted. His only interest was drawing and painting, and he was consumed by the idea of becoming an artist. He went to Italy to study art, passing through the Netherlands, where he became acquainted with the work of Rembrandt, which became a major influence on him. Carl Bloch met his wife, Alma Trepka, in Rome, where he married her on May 31, 1868. They were happily married until her early death in 1886.

His early work featured rural scenes from everyday life. From 1859 to 1866, Bloch lived in Italy, and this period was important for the development of his historical style. His first great success was the exhibition of his “Prometheus Unbound” in Copenhagen in 1865. After the death of Marstrand, he finished the decoration of the ceremonial hall at the University of Copenhagen.

In a New Year’s letter from 1866 to Bloch, H. C. Andersen wrote the following: “What God has arched on solid rock will not be swept away!” Another letter from Andersen declared “Through your art you add a new step to your Jacob-ladder into immortality.” In a final ode, from a famous author to a famous artist, H.C. Andersen said “Write on the canvas; write your seal on immortality. Then you will become noble here on earth.”

He was then commissioned to produce 23 paintings for the Chapel at Frederiksborg Palace. These were all scenes from the life of Christ which have become very popular as illustrations. The originals, painted between 1865 and 1879, are still at Frederiksborg Palace. The altarpieces can be found at Holbaek, Odense, Ugerloese and Copenhagen in Denmark, as well as Loederup, Hoerup, and Landskrona in Sweden.

Carl Bloch died on February 22, 1890. His death came as “an abrupt blow for Nordic art” according to an article by Sophus Michaelis. Michaelis stated that “Denmark has lost the artist that indisputably was the greatest among the living.” Kyhn stated in his eulogy at Carl Bloch’s funeral that “Bloch stays and lives.” A prominent Danish art critic, Karl Madsen, stated that Carl Bloch reached higher toward the great heaven of art than all other Danish art up to that date.

Mark 10: 17-30

Jesus was setting out on a journey when a man ran up, knelt before him and put this question to him, ‘Good master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: You must not kill; You must not commit adultery; You must not steal; You must not bring false witness; You must not defraud; Honour your father and mother.’ And he said to him, ‘Master, I have kept all these from my earliest days.’ Jesus looked steadily at him and loved him, and he said, ‘There is one thing you lack. Go and sell everything you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ But his face fell at these words and he went away sad, for he was a man of great wealth.

Jesus looked round and said to his disciples, ‘How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!’ The disciples were astounded by these words, but Jesus insisted, ‘My children,’ he said to them, ‘how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.’ They were more astonished than ever. ‘In that case’ they said to one another, ‘who can be saved?’ Jesus gazed at them. ‘For men’ he said, ‘it is impossible, but not for God: because everything is possible for God.'<

Peter took this up. ‘What about us?’ he asked him. ‘We have left everything and followed you.’ Jesus said, ‘I tell you solemnly, there is no one who has left house, brothers, sisters, father, children or land for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not be repaid a hundred times over, houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and land – not without persecutions – now in this present time and, in the world to come, eternal life.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: Christ and the rich young ruler, painted 1889 by Heinrich Hoffmann. The painting was purchased by John D Rockefeller Jr and now resides at the Riverside Church in New York.

This painting illustrates a story from Mark where a wealthy young man approaches Jesus and asks Him what he must do to inherit eternal life. Christ gestures toward an impoverished woman and man and invites the man to sell all he has, give it to the poor, and follow Him. The young man is richly dressed with refined features, testifying of his life of wealth and ease. The contrast between rich and poor, pleasure and misery, spiritual and worldly is paramount in this painting. 

However, it is the detail of the sympathetic head of Christ that has captured the imagination of millions of Christian viewers. It has been reproduced perhaps more than any other image of the Saviour. The success of many of Hofmann’s paintings is his ability to offer such empathetic emotion in his figures. Hofmann successfully portrays a mixture of regret and compassion, capturing the great love of the Saviour as He invites the young man to sacrifice personal desires to follow Him. 

Heinrich Hofmann (March 19, 1824 – June 23, 1911) was a German painter of the late 19th to early 20th century. He was the uncle of the German painter Ludwig von Hofmann. He was born in Darmstadt and died in Dresden. He is best known for his many paintings depicting the life of Jesus Christ.

Heinrich Hofmann grew up in a family that harboured a deep interest in art. His father, advocate Heinrich Karl Hofmann (1795–1845) painted in watercolors, his mother Sophie Hofmann, née Volhard (1798–1854) gave lessons in art before she married, and his four brothers all showed artistic talent. Heinrich, however, was the only one for whom art was not only a profession but the center of his life.

He travelled to the Netherlands and France to intensify his studies of art. In 1846, Hofmann visited the Academy of Art in Antwerp. After passing a longer period of time in Munich he returned to Darmstadt in 1848, and at that time, he began an intensive phase of painting portraits. The young artist found that the political activities of his family opened many doors to influential persons of the time. This afforded him the opportunity to create two portraits of Heinrich von Gagern and one of Justus von Liebig (this portrait is now in the possession of Queen Elizabeth II). In 1853, Hofmann returned to Darmstadt, and in the beginning of 1854, his beloved mother died. He was deeply moved by her death and it inspired him to paint his first large religious work: Burial of Christ.

In fall of 1854, he started on a journey to Italy. He was deeply impressed by artwork of AntiquityChristianity and the Renaissance. Not long after his arrival in Rome, he was introduced to Peter von Cornelius and frequently paid him a visit. When he began his masterpiece The Arrest of Jesus in 1854, this work awakened the interest of Cornelius and for 4 years he accompanied Hofmann with his counsel and his constructive criticism. In 1858 the painting was finished and acquired by the Grand Duchy Art Gallery in Darmstadt.

In 1858, Hofmann returned to Darmstadt and in the following year he married Elisabeth Werner. Now another period of painting portraits began. In addition Hofmann created a large altarpiece for the church in Obermörlen (Hesse): “Madonna with Christ Child and apostles Paul and Peter”. Some time later an altarpiece for Væggerløse Church (Denmark) was painted: “The Resurrected Christ”.

In 1862, Hofmann and his wife moved to Dresden. More and more he devoted himself to the genre of religious paintings. In 1870, Heinrich Hofmann was appointed successor of Professor Johann Carl Baehr of the Academy of Art in Dresden whose honourable member he already was. In 1872, King Johann bestowed on him the Great Golden Medal and later he received the Albrecht-Medal from King Albert.

Mark 10: 35-45

James and John, the sons of Zebedee, approached Jesus. ‘Master,’ they said to him, ‘we want you to do us a favour.’ He said to them, ‘What is it you want me to do for you?’ They said to him, ‘Allow us to sit one at your right hand and the other at your left in your glory.’ ‘You do not know what you are asking’ Jesus said to them. ‘Can you drink the cup that I must drink, or be baptised with the baptism with which I must be baptised?’ They replied, ‘We can.’ Jesus said to them, ‘The cup that I must drink you shall drink, and with the baptism with which I must be baptised you shall be baptised, but as for seats at my right hand or my left, these are not mine to grant; they belong to those to whom they have been allotted.’

When the other ten heard this they began to feel indignant with James and John, so Jesus called them to him and said to them, ‘You know that among the pagans their so-called rulers lord it over them, and their great men make their authority felt. This is not to happen among you. No; anyone who wants to become great among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants to be first among you must be slave to all. For the Son of Man himself did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’     

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: Fresco in the Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi, painted by Pietro Lorenzetti, between 1310-1329. Pietro Lorenzetti was an Italian painter, active between c.1306 and 1345. Together with his younger brother Ambrogio, he introduced naturalism into Sienese art. In their artistry and experiments with three-dimensional and spatial arrangements, the brothers foreshadowed the art of the RenaissanceMany of his religious works may still be seen in churches and museums in the Tuscan towns of ArezzoAssisi, and Siena

His masterwork is a fresco decoration of the lower church of Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi, where he painted a series of large scenes depicting the Son of Man. The massed figures in these pieces display emotional interactions, unlike many prior depictions which appear to be iconic agglomerations, as if independent figures had been glued onto a surface, with no compelling relationship to one another. The narrative influence of Giotto’s frescoes in the Bardi and Peruzzi Chapels in Santa Croce (Florence) and the Arena Chapel (Padua) can be seen in these and other works of the lower church. The Lorenzetti brothers and their contemporary competitor from Florence, Giotto, but also his followers Bernardo Daddi and Maso di Banco, seeded the Italian pictorial revolution that extracted figures from the gilded ether of Byzantine iconography into pictorial worlds of towns, land, and air. Sienese iconography, generally more mystical and fantastic than that of the more naturalistic Florentines, sometimes resembles a modern surrealist landscape.

Son of Man came to serve refers to a specific episode in the New Testament. In the Gospel of Matthew 20:20–28 and the Gospel of Mark 10:35–45Jesus explains that he “came as Son of Man to give his life as ransom”. The ransom paid by the Son of man is an element of a common doctrine of atonement in Christianity. In the Gospel of Mark 10:35–45, this episode takes place shortly after Jesus predicts his death. The identification of Jesus with the Son of Man, in the context of the Book of Daniel (7:13–14), places the death of Jesus and the ransom he pays at a higher level of prominence than other prophets and martyrs, even his contemporary John the Baptist

Mark 10: 46-52

As Jesus left Jericho with his disciples and a large crowd, Bartimaeus (that is, the son of Timaeus), a blind beggar, was sitting at the side of the road. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout and to say, ‘Son of David, Jesus, have pity on me.’ And many of them scolded him and told him to keep quiet, but he only shouted all the louder, ‘Son of David, have pity on me.’ Jesus stopped and said, ‘Call him here.’ So they called the blind man. ‘Courage,’ they said, ‘get up; he is calling you.’ So throwing off his cloak, he jumped up and went to Jesus. Then Jesus spoke, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ ‘Rabbuni,’ the blind man said to him, ‘Master, let me see again.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your faith has saved you.’ And immediately his sight returned and he followed him along the road.

The Gospel of the Lord.

Sculpture:  “Jesus healing blind Bartimaeus” by Johann Heinrich Stöver, 1861. St John’s Church, Erbach, Rheingau, Hesse, Germany. Johann Heinrich Stöver was a Dutch, 19th century, sculptor, born 1829, in Amsterdam. Stöver lived in Rome from 1852 to 1872. In 1856 he exhibited a group depicting Christ Curing a Blind Man. This exquisite 19th century Italian marble sculpture The gestures is masterfully carved. The work is signed “Stöver Romae 1859” on the reverse. He also has a statue of an “Allegory of Hope” and a “Blessing Jesus Christ” at St John’s Church, Erbach, Rheingau, Hesse, Germany.

Each of the three synoptic gospels tells of Jesus healing the blind near Jericho, as he passed through that town, shortly before his passionMark  tells only of a man named Bartimaeus (literally “Son of Timaeus”) being present, as Jesus left Jericho, making him one of the few named people to be miraculously cured by JesusMatthew 20:29-34 is a similar account of two blind men being healed outside of Jericho, but gives no names. Luke 18:35-43 tells of one unnamed blind man, but seems to place the event instead as when Jesus approached Jericho. The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges asserts a reconciliation of the gospel accounts by observing two Jerichos—Old Jericho and New Jericho—meaning that whether Jesus encountered the blind on the way in to Jericho or the way out of Jericho depends on which Jericho was in the individual writer’s perspective as Jesus went between the Jerichos.

These men together would be the second of two healings of blind men on Jesus’ journey from the start of his travels from Bethsaida (in Mark 8:22-26) to Jerusalem, via Jericho. It is possible, though not certain, that Bartimaeus heard about the first healing, and so knew of Jesus’ reputation.

Vernon K. Robbins emphasises that the healing of blind Bartimaeus in Mark 10:46-52 is the last of Jesus’ healings in Mark and serves a transitional function as it links Jesus’ teaching about the suffering, dying, and rising of the Son of Man in Mark 8-10 with Jesus’ Son of David activity in Jerusalem.  Robbins states that the pericope also brings the Markan healing tradition to a climax in a story that blends the Markan emphasis on the disciples’ inability to understand the nature of Jesus’ messiahship (their blindness) with the necessity to follow Jesus into Jerusalem, where he embodies suffering-dying kingship in a form that makes him recognisable to Gentiles as Son of God.

Solemnity of All Saints

Matthew 5: 1-12

Seeing the crowds, he went up the hill. There he sat down and was joined by his disciples. Then he began to speak. This is what he taught them:

How happy are the poor in spirit, theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Happy the gentle, they shall have the earth for their heritage.

Happy those who mourn, they shall be comforted.

Happy those who hunger and thirst for what is right, they shall be satisfied.

Happy the merciful, they shall have mercy shown them.

Happy the pure in heart, they shall see God.

Happy the peacemakers, they shall be called sons of God.

Happy those who are persecuted in the cause of right, theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Happy are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you on my account.

Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven, this is how they persecuted the prophets before you.

The Gospel of the Lord

Picture: The Forerunners of Christ with Saints and Martyrs, painted 1423-24, egg tempera on wood, 32 x 64cm, by Fra Angelico. It resides in the National Gallery, London. The three rows on the painting represent the various precursors of Christ, male martyrs (with palms) and female saints.

This, along with four other panels showing respectively, ‘Christ Glorified in the Court of Heaven’‘The Virgin Mary with the Apostles and Other Saints’‘The Dominican Blessed’ and another panel of ‘The Dominican Blessed’, formed thepredella, or lower section, of the high altarpiece of San Domenico at Fiesole, near Florence. This was the church of Fra Angelico’s own Dominican friary. The predella shows the most elaborate depiction of the Court of Heaven in the Collection. Christ stands in the centre surrounded by angels, saints and martyrs.

The church of San Domenico was dedicated in 1435, and Fra Angelico’s picture was probably in place on the high altar by that time. The main panel was modified by Lorenzo di Credi around 1501. This and the painted pilaster are still in the church. Fra Angelico (born Guido di Pietro; 1395 – 1455) was an Early Italian Renaissance painter described as having “a rare and perfect talent”. He was known to contemporaries as Fra Giovanni da Fiesole (Brother John of Fiesole) and Fra Giovanni Angelico (Angelic Brother John). In modern Italian he is called il Beato Angelico (Blessed Angelic One); the common English name Fra Angelico means the “Angelic friar”.

In 1982 Pope John Paul II proclaimed his beatification, in recognition of the holiness of his life, thereby making the title of “Blessed” official.  He is listed in the Roman Martyrology as Beatus Ioannes Faesulanus, cognomento Angelicus—”Blessed Giovanni of Fiesole, known as ‘the Angelic’ “.

The earliest recorded document concerning Fra Angelico dates from October 17, 1417 when he joined a religious confraternity at the Carmine Church, still under the name of Guido di Pietro. This record also reveals that he was already a painter, a fact that is subsequently confirmed by two records of payment to Guido di Pietro in January and February 1418 for work done in the church of Santo Stefano del Ponte. The first record of Angelico as a friar dates from 1423, when he is first referred to as Fra Giovanni, following the custom of those entering a religious order of taking a new name. He was a member of the Dominican community at Fiesole. Fra, a contraction of frater (from the Latin), is a conventional title for a friar.

Fra Angelico initially received training as an illuminatorSan Marco in Florence holds several manuscripts that are thought to be entirely or partly by his hand. The painter Lorenzo Monaco may have contributed to his art training, and the influence of the Sienese school is discernible in his work. He had several important charges in the convents he lived in, but this did not limit his art, which very soon became famous. The first paintings of this artist were an altarpiece and a painted screen for the Carthusian Monastery of Florence; none such exist there now.

Between 1418 and 1436 he was at the convent of Fiesole where he also executed a number of frescoes for the church, and the Altarpiece, deteriorated but restored. The predella of the Altarpiece remains intact in the National Gallery, London which is a superb example of Fra Angelico’s ability, showing Christ in Glory, surrounded by more than 250 figures, including beatified Dominicans.

Mark 12: 38-44

In his teaching Jesus said, ‘Beware of the scribes who like to walk about in long robes, to be greeted obsequiously in the market squares, to take the front seats in the synagogues and the places of honour at banquets; these are the men who swallow the property of widows, while making a show of lengthy prayers. The more severe will be the sentence they receive.’

He sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the treasury, and many of the rich put in a great deal. A poor widow came and put in two small coins, the equivalent of a penny. Then he called to his disciples and said to them, ‘I tell you solemnly, this poor widow has put more in than all who have contributed to the treasury; for they have all put in money they had over, but she from the little she had has put in everything she possessed, all she had to live on.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

Mosaic: The Widow’s Mite, resides in the Basilica di Sant’Apollinare Nuovo, Ravenna, Italy,  6th century.

The Basilica of Sant’ Apollinare Nuovo is a basilica church in RavennaItaly. It was erected by Ostrogoth King Theodoric the Great as his palace chapel during the first quarter of the 6th century. This Arian church was originally dedicated in 504 AD to “Christ the Redeemer”.

It was reconsecrated in 561 AD, under the rule of the Byzantine emperor Justinian I, under the new name “Sanctus Martinus in Coelo Aureo” (“Saint Martin in Golden Heaven”). Suppressing the Arian cult, the church was dedicated to Saint Martin of Tours, a foe of Arianism. According to legend, Pope Gregory the Great ordered that the mosaics in the church be blackened, as their golden glory distracted worshipers from their prayers. The basilica was renamed again in 856 AD when relics of Saint Apollinaris were transferred from the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare in Classe because of the threat posed by frequent raids of pirates from the Adriatic Sea.

On the upper band of the left lateral wall are 13 small mosaics, depicting Jesus’ miracles and parables; and on the right wall are 13 mosaics depicting the Passion and Resurrection. They describe the parts of the Bible that were read aloud in the church during Lent under the rule of Theodoric the Great. On the left, Jesus is always depicted as young, beardless man, dressed as a Roman Emperor. On the right, Jesus is depicted with a beard. For the Arians, this emphasised that Jesus grew older and became a “man of sorrows”, as spoken of by the prophet Isaiah. These mosaics are separated by decorative mosaic panels depicting a shell-shaped niche with a tapestry, cross, and two doves. These mosaics were executed by at least two artists.

The next row of mosaics are a scheme of haloed saints, prophets and evangelists, sixteen on each side. The figures are executed in a Hellenistic-Roman tradition and show a certain individuality of expression as compared to the other figures in the basilica. Each individual depicted holds a book, in either scroll or codex format, and, like many of the other figures throughout the basilica, each of their robes has a mark or symbol in it. These mosaics alternate with windows. They were executed in the time of Theodoric.

The entrance of the church is preceded by a marble portico built in the 16th century. Next to the church, on the right side of the portico, stands a round bell tower dating from the 9th or 10th century.

When the UNESCO inscribed the church on the World Heritage List, its experts pointed out that “both the exterior and interior of the basilica graphically illustrate the fusion between the western and eastern styles characteristic of the late 5th to early 6th century. This is one of the most important buildings from the period of crucial cultural significance in European religious art”.

Some art historians claim that one of the mosaics contains the first depiction of Satan in western art. In the mosaic, a blue angel appears to the left hand side of Jesus behind three goats (mentioned in St Matthew’s account of Judgement Day).

 

Mark 13: 24-32

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘In those days, after the time of distress, the sun will be darkened, the moon will lose its brightness, the stars will come falling from heaven and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory; then too he will send the angels to gather his chosen from the four winds, from the ends of the world to the ends of heaven.

‘Take the fig tree as a parable: as soon as its twigs grow supple and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. So with you when you see these things happening: know that he is near, at the very gates. I tell you solemnly, before this generation has passed away all these things will have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

‘But as for that day or hour, nobody knows it, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son; no one but the Father.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: The Siege and Destruction of Jerusalem, painted by David Roberts. 1850, oil on canvas, 1356mm x 1965mm.

The Olivet Discourse  is a biblical passage found in the Synoptic Gospels. It is also known as the “Little Apocalypse” because it includes Jesus’ descriptions of the end times, the use of apocalyptic language, and Jesus’ warning to his followers that they will suffer tribulation and persecution before the ultimate triumph of the Kingdom of God. The Olivet discourse is the last of the Five Discourses of Matthew and occurs just before the narrative of Jesus’ passion beginning with the Anointing of Jesus. In the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, Jesus spoke this discourse to his disciples privately on the Mount of Olives opposite the Temple. In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus taught over a period of time in the Temple and stayed at night on the Mount of Olives. The discourse is widely believed by scholars to contain material delivered on a variety of occasions.

Some believe the passage largely refers to the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and the events leading up to it, although there are also references to events following this. This is one reason why scholars date the Gospel of Mark to the period just before, or just after, the events of the year 70.

It is unclear whether the tribulation Jesus describes is a pastpresent or future event. In each of the three gospel accounts, the sermon contains a number of statements which at first glance seem predictive of future events. However, modern Christian interpretation diverges as to the meaning of the additional topics in the discourse. Many evangelical Christian interpreters say the passages refer to the Second Coming of Jesus. They disagree whether Jesus describes the signs that accompany his return.

The picture is a reproduction of a rare lost oil painting titled Jerusalem by the Romans Under the Command of Titus, A.D. 70 by David Roberts, a member of Britain’s Royal Academy. The original, dating from the mid-19th century, was sold at auction in 1961 to an Italian art dealer in London. The painting made its way to Rome and was sold shortly thereafter, but there is no record of the transaction.

The original lithograph from which this picture is reproduced is owned by the Jerusalem Historical Society.  Its president, author and journalist J.S. Peeples, has authored a book titled The Destruction of Jerusalem.  He began a search for the original painting after he saw a damaged lithographic reproduction in Texas. The 1850 lithograph, measuring 27.5 inches by 42 inches, was taken from the original oil painting, which was an incredible 7 by 12 feet.

David Roberts, a Scottish-born artist, rose from poverty to become one of the most popular painters of the 19th century. He travelled extensively in the Middle East in 1839, creating well over 250 paintings and drawings beautifully depicting majestic and historic scenes of this ancient land. His pictures of the Holy Land were his most famous; they catapulted him to his first great success as an artist.

Many art collectors and critics consider The Siege and Destruction of Jerusalem to be the finest work of the prolific Roberts. When it premiered in London it won unanimous acclaim from critics. But the painting disappeared in 1854, reappearing only briefly at the 1961 sale at Christie’s auction house.

Since Peeples began his search for the missing original, he has located two other lithographic reproductions, which, like the one he first stumbled across, were made by 19th-century Belgian platemaker Louis Haghe. Haghe was considered the premier lithographer of that time.

From these well-preserved lithographs and with the help of scientists from the Xerox Corporation’s Digital Imaging Technology Center in Rochester, New York, the Jerusalem Historical Society has launched an effort to create a reproduction that will match as closely as possible the original luster and colour of the Haghe print.

 

John 18: 33-37

‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ Pilate asked. Jesus replied, ‘Do you ask this of your own accord, or have others spoken to you about me?’ Pilate answered, ‘Am I a Jew? It is your own people and the chief priests who have handed you over to me: what have you done?’ Jesus replied, ‘Mine is not a kingdom of this world; if my kingdom were of this world, my men would have fought to prevent my being surrendered to the Jews. But my kingdom is not of this kind.’ ‘So you are a king then?’ said Pilate. ‘It is you who say it’ answered Jesus. ‘Yes, I am a king. I was born for this, I came into the world for this: to bear witness to the truth; and all who are on the side of truth listen to my voice.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: Jesus before Pilate, painted between 1308-11, by Duccio di Buoninsegna,  tempera on wood, 50 x 57 cm. It resides in the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, Siena.

Pilate, on learning that Jesus belonged to the jurisdiction of Herod, sent the prisoner to the king to be judged by him. After questioning Jesus and treating him with ridicule and contempt, Herod sent him back to the Roman governor dressed in white robe. Action proceeds from the bottom upwards; in the lower scene a servant is holding out to Christ the robe which in the upper scene he is already wearing. Although placed in different architectural surroundings (the governor’s palace present in the last compartment on the lower row appears again), the arrangement of the two scenes is almost identical, both in the distribution of the characters and in their movements. Christ, gazing with extreme sadness at the onlooker, is withdrawn in total silence. Herod anticipates and repeats (Pilate’s First Interrogation of Christ) the position of Pilate where the solemn movement gives a rather static effect. The king’s throne with steps, its basic structure embellished and adorned, is more ornate than the governor’s simple wooden seat.

Duccio di Buoninsegna  (1255-1319) was an Italian painter, active in the city of Siena in TuscanyHe is considered to be the father of Sienese painting and along with a few others the founder of Western art. He was hired throughout his life to complete many important works in government and religious buildings around Italy. Duccio is credited with creating the painting style of Trecento and the Sienese school, and contributed significantly to the Sienese Gothic style.

Only two of Duccio’s surviving works can be securely dated. Both were major public commissions: the “Rucellai Madonna” (Galleria degli Uffizi), commissioned in April 1285 by the Compagnia del Laudesi di Maria Vergine for a chapel in the church of Santa Maria Novella in Florence, and the Maestà commissioned for this high altar painting of Siena Cathedral in 1308 and completed by June 1311.

His known works are on wood panel, painted in egg tempera and embellished with gold leaf. Different from his contemporaries and artists before him, Duccio was a master of tempera and managed to conquer the medium with delicacy and precision. Duccio’s style was similar to Byzantine art in some ways, with its gold backgrounds and familiar religious scenes but also different and more experimental. Duccio’s paintings are warm with colour, and inviting. His pieces held a high level of beauty with delicate details, sometimes inlaid with jewels and almost ornamental fabrics. Duccio was also noted for his complex organisation of space. Duccio began to break down the sharp lines of Byzantine art, and soften the figures. He used modelling (playing with light and dark colours) to reveal the figures underneath the heavy drapery; hands, faces, and feet became more rounded and three-dimensional.

Duccio was also one of the first painters to put figures in architectural settings. He began to explore and investigate depth and space. He also had a refined attention to emotion, not seen in other painters at this time. With this he flirts with naturalism but his paintings are still awe inspiring.

 

Sunday Gospel – Year C

Please open the relevant tab each week for the Gospel and picture.

Luke 21: 25-28, 34-36

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘There will be signs in the sun and moon and stars; on earth nations in agony, bewildered by the clamour of the ocean and its waves; men dying of fear as they await what menaces the world, for the powers of heaven will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand erect, hold your heads high, because your liberation is near at hand.

‘Watch yourselves, or your hearts will be coarsened with debauchery and drunkenness and the cares of life, and that day will be sprung on you suddenly, like a trap. For it will come down on every living man on the face of the earth. Stay awake, praying at all times for the strength to survive all that is going to happen, and to stand with confidence before the Son of Man.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: St Luke, painted 1453-54, 177cm x 230cm, located in Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan. The picture is part of the San Lucas Altarpiece, also known as the San Lucas Polyptych, is a polyptych panel painting by Northern Italian Renaissance painter Andrea Mantegna. The altarpiece is a polyptych panel painting featuring 12 figures each in his or her own arch. The seven figures in the top row flank the central figure of Jesus Christ. The five beneath flank Saint Luke pictured above.

On August 10, 1453, Mantegna signed a contract to paint the work for the monastery of Santa Giustina in Padua. In return for 50 ducats, Mantegna agreed to complete the work, providing paints with which to depict the figures and the azzurro todesco (a blue pigment derived from copper) with which to inlay them. The work was completed within that or the following year. 

Andrea Mantegna (1431 – 1506) an Italian painter, was a student of Romanarcheology, and son-in-law of Jacopo Bellini. Like other artists of the time, Mantegna experimented with perspective, e.g., by lowering the horizon in order to create a sense of greater monumentality. His flinty, metallic landscapes and somewhat stony figures give evidence of a fundamentally sculptural approach to painting. He also led a workshop that was the leading producer of prints in Venice before 1500.

Mantegna was born in Isola di Carturo, close to Padua (then part of the Republic of Venice), second son of a carpenter, Biagio. At the age of eleven he became the apprentice of Francesco SquarcionePaduan painter. Squarcione, whose original vocation was tailoring, appears to have had a remarkable enthusiasm for ancient art, and a faculty for acting. Like his famous compatriot Petrarca, Squarcione was something of a fanatic for ancient Rome: he travelled in Italy, and Greece, amassing antique statues, reliefs, vases, etc., forming a collection of such works, then making drawings from them himself, and throwing open his stores for others to study. All the while, he continued undertaking works on commission for which his pupils no less than himself were made available.

At the time, Mantegna was said to be a favorite pupil. Squarcione taught him Latin and instructed him to study fragments of Roman sculpture. The master also preferred forced perspective, the lingering results of which may account for some of Mantegna’s later innovations. Among early Mantegna frescoes are the two saints over the entrance porch of the church of Sant’Antonio in Padua, 1452, and this altarpiece of San Luca Altarpiece from 1453, with St. Luke and other saints now in Milan (1453). As the young artist progressed in his work, he came under the influence of Jacopo Bellini, father of the celebrated painters Giovanni Bellini and Gentile Bellini.

Luke 3: 1-6

In the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar’s reign, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judaea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of the lands of Ituraea and Trachonitis, Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, during the pontificate of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah, in the wilderness. He went through the whole Jordan district proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the sayings of the prophet Isaiah:

A voice cries in the wilderness: Prepare a way for the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley will be filled in, every mountain and hill be laid low, winding ways will be straightened and rough roads made smooth. And all mankind shall see the salvation of God.

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: St John the Baptist preaching, painted oil on canvas, 1665 by Mattia Preti. 218cm x 171cm, it is located in the Fine Arts Museum in San Francisco, USA.

Mattia Preti (24 February 1613 – 3 January 1699) was an Italian Baroque artist who worked in Italy and Malta. He was also a member of the Order of Saint John.

Born in the small town of Taverna in Calabria, Preti was called Il Cavalier Calabrese (the Calabrian Knight) after he was accepted into the Order of St. John (Knights of Malta) in 1660. His early apprenticeship is said to have been with the “Caravaggist” Giovanni Battista Caracciolo, which may account for his lifelong interest in the style of Caravaggio.

1630, Preti joined his brother Gregorio (also a painter), in Rome, where he became familiar with the techniques of Caravaggio and his school as well as with the work of GuercinoRubensGuido Reni, and Giovanni Lanfranco. In Rome, he painted fresco cycles in the churches of Sant’Andrea della Valle and San Carlo ai Catinari. Between 1644 and 1646, he spent time in Venice, but remained based in Rome until 1653, returning later in 1660-61. He painted frescoes for the church of San Biagio at Modena (1651–2) and participated in the fresco decoration of the Palazzo Pamphilj in Valmontone.

1653-1660, he worked in Naples, where he was influenced by another major painter of his era, Luca Giordano. One of Preti’s masterpieces were a series of large frescoes, ex-votos of the plague (which were painted on seven city gates but have since been lost to the ravages of time), depicting the Virgin or saints delivering people from the plague. Preti also won a commission to supervise the construction, carving, and gilding for the nave and transept of San Pietro a Maiella.

Having been made a Knight of Grace in the Order of St John, he visited the order’s headquarters in Malta in 1659 and spent most of the remainder of his life there. Preti transformed the interior of St. John’s Co-Cathedral in Valletta, with a huge series of paintings on the life and martyrdom of St. John the Baptist (1661–1666). In Malta one also can find many paintings of Preti in private collections and in parish churches.

Luke 3: 10-18

When all the people asked John, ‘What must we do?’ he answered, ‘If anyone has two tunics he must share with the man who has none, and the one with something to eat must do the same.’ There were tax collectors too who came for baptism, and these said to him, ‘Master, what must we do?’ He said to them, ‘Exact no more than your rate.’ Some soldiers asked him in their turn, ‘What about us? What must we do?’ He said to them, ‘No intimidation! No extortion! Be content with your pay!’

A feeling of expectancy had grown among the people, who were beginning to think that John might be the Christ, so John declared before them all, ‘I baptise you with water, but someone is coming, someone who is more powerful than I am, and I am not fit to undo the strap of his sandals; he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing-fan is in his hand to clear his threshing-floor and to gather the wheat into his barn; but the chaff he will burn in a fire that will never go out.’ As well as this, there were many other things he said to exhort the people and to announce the Good News to them.   

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: Saint John the Baptist pointing to Christ, painted 1655, oil on canvas by Bartolome Esteban Murillo. 271cm x 185cm it can be located at the Art Institute of Chicago, USA.

One of the most popular artists of his time, Bartolome Esteban Murillo was a Spanish baroque painter, best known for his religious works, as well as realistic depictions of the everyday life of his times. His early work was influenced by the painters Zubaran, Jusepe de Ribera, and Alonzo Cano, who all held a realistic approach to painting, a technique which was adapted by Murillo. His work was characterised by both realism and tenebrism, or the contrast of light and shade, which he combined to make soft forms full of rich colours. His later works evolved into a polished style that fed the tastes of the Bourgeois and aristocrats of his day, and he received many commissions for them. 

He also received many important commissions from the religious orders of the Franciscans and the confraternities in Seville and Andalusia. The themes that therefore gave him the greatest success were religious, being the Virgin and the Child and the Immaculate Conception.

In his lifetime, Murillo had a great number of pupils and followers, and in 1660, he founded the Academia de Bellas Artes in Seville, Spain. Until the 19th century, he was the only Spanish artist widely known in the European world, and his work was subsequently imitated, ensuring his fame throughout Spain and in Europe.

Luke 1: 39-44

Mary set out and went as quickly as she could to a town in the hill country of Judah. She went into Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. Now as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. She gave a loud cry and said, ‘Of all women you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord? For the moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy. Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.’  

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: The Annunciation painted by Paolo de Matteis, oil on canvas 1712. 207cm x 179cm, it is located in Saint Louis Art Museum, Missouri, USA.

The white lily in the angel’s hand is symbolic of Mary’s purity in Marian art. The Blessed Virgin Mary has been one of the major subjects of Christian ArtCatholic Art and Western Art for many centuries. Literally hundreds of thousands of pieces of Marian art in the Catholic Church covering a range of Marian artistic topics have been produced, from masters such as Michelangelo and Botticelli to humble peasant artists. Although Marian art items may at times be viewed from an artistic perspective and sold at auctions, or discussed from an academic viewpoint in the context of art history, from a religious viewpoint they form part of the very fabric of Roman Catholic Marian culture through their emotional impact on the veneration of the Blessed Virgin.

Paolo de Matteis (also known as Paolo de’ Matteis; 9 February 1662 – 26 January 1728) was an Italian painter. He was born in Cilento near Salerno, and died in Naples. He trained with Francesco di Maria in Naples, then with Luca Giordano. He served in the employ of the Spanish Viceroy of Naples. From 1702 to 1705, de’ Matteis worked in Paris, Calabria, and Genoa. In Genoa, he painted an Immaculate Conception with St. Jerome Appearing to St. Sevrio. Returning to Naples, he painted decorative schemes for Neapolitan churches, including the vault of the chapel of San Ignatius in the church of Gesù Nuovo in Naples. He also painted an Assumption of the Virgin for the Abbey at Monte Cassino. Between 1723–1725, de’ Matteis lived in Rome, where he received a commission from Pope Innocent XIII

He had as pupils Ignacio de OliveiraBernardes Peresi, and members of the Sarnelli family including Francesco,  Gennaro,  Giovanni, and Antonio Sarnelli. Others who were his pupils were Giuseppe Mastroleo,  Giovanni Pandozzi, and Nicolas de Filippis.

 

Luke 2: 41-52

Every year the parents of Jesus used to go to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up for the feast as usual. When they were on their way home after the feast, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem without his parents knowing it. They assumed he was with the caravan, and it was only after a day’s journey that they went to look for him among their relations and acquaintances. When they failed to find him they went back to Jerusalem looking for him everywhere.

Three days later, they found him in the Temple, sitting among the doctors, listening to them, and asking them questions; and all those who heard him were astounded at his intelligence and his replies. They were overcome when they saw him, and his mother said to him, ‘My child, why have you done this to us? See how worried your father and I have been, looking for you.’ ‘Why were you looking for me?’ he replied. ‘Did you not know that I must be busy with my Father’s affairs?’ But they did not understand what he meant.

He then went down with them and came to Nazareth and lived under their authority. His mother stored up all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom, in stature, and in favour with God and men.      

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: The Finding of the Saviour in the Temple (1860) is a painting by William Holman Hunt. Oil on canvas (141cm x 86cm), it is located at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. Intended as anethnographically accurate version of the subject traditionally known as “Christ Among the Doctors“, an illustration of the child Jesus debating the interpretation of the scripture with learned rabbis. The passage illustrated is from the Gospel of Luke, 2:41.

Hunt depicts the moment at which Mary and Joseph find Jesus, while the rabbis in the temple are reacting in various contrasting ways to his discourse, some intrigued, others angry or dismissive. This depiction of contrasting reactions is part of the tradition of the subject, as evidenced in Albrecht Dürer‘s much earlier version. Hunt would also have known Bernardino Luini‘s version of the subject in the National Gallery. At the time this was ascribed to Leonardo da Vinci.

Obsessed with the idea of revitalising religious art by emphasising ethnographical accuracy combined with detailed Biblical symbolism, Hunt had travelled to the Middle East to create the picture, using local people as models and studying ancient Judaic customs and rituals. Progress on the painting was delayed by difficulties with models, and eventually Hunt postponed it to work on another project, The Scapegoat. He eventually completed it in 1860, back in England. His friend Frederic George Stephens wrote a pamphlet containing a detailed explanation of the content and the characters. It was then shown in a series of popular travelling exhibitions at which visitors could buy the pamphlet and subscribe to an engraved reproduction. These were organised by the dealer Ernest Gambart, and proved a great financial success.

Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord

Matthew 2: 1-12

After Jesus had been born at Bethlehem in Judaea during the reign of King Herod, suddenly some wise men came to Jerusalem from the east asking, ‘Where is the infant king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose and have come to do him homage.’

When King Herod heard this he was perturbed, and so was the whole of Jerusalem. He called together all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, and enquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him,

‘At Bethlehem in Judaea, for this is what the prophet wrote: And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, you are by no means the least among the leaders of Judah, for from you will come a leader who will shepherd my people Israel.’

Then Herod summoned the wise men to see him privately. He asked them the exact date on which the star had appeared and sent them on to Bethlehem with the words, ‘Go and find out all about the child, and when you have found him, let me know, so that I too may go and do him homage.’

Having listened to what the king had to say, they set out. And suddenly the star they had seen rising went forward and halted over the place where the child was. The sight of the star filled them with delight, and going into the house they saw the child with his mother Mary, and falling to their knees they did him homage. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh. But they were given a warning in a dream not to go back to Herod, and returned to their own country by a different way.

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: The Adoration of the Magi is a painting by the Italian Renaissance master Sandro Botticelli, dating from 1475 or 1476. Tempera on panel, 111 x 134cm. It is housed in the Uffizi of Florence. Botticelli was commissioned to paint at least seven versions of The Adoration of the Magi.

The Adoration of the Magi theme was popular in Renaissance Florence. The work was commissioned by Gaspare di Zanobi del Lama, a banker of humble origins and dubious morality connected to the House of Medici, for his chapel in the church of Santa Maria Novella (now destroyed). In the scene are present numerous characters among which are several members of the Medici familyCosimo de’ Medici (the Magus kneeling in front of the Virgin, described by Vasari as “the finest of all that are now extant for its life and vigour”), his sons Piero (the second Magus kneeling in the centre with the red mantle) and Giovanni (the third Magus), and his grandsons Giuliano and Lorenzo. The three Medici portrayed as Magi were all dead at the time the picture was painted, and Florence was effectively ruled by Lorenzo.

‘In his Lives’ Vasari describes the Adoration in the following way: “The beauty of the heads in this scene is indescribable, their attitudes all different, some full-face, some in profile, some three-quarters, some bent down, and in various other ways, while the expressions of the attendants, both young and old, are greatly varied, displaying the artist’s perfect mastery of his profession. Sandro further clearly shows the distinction between the suites of each of the kings. It is a marvellous work in colour, design and composition.”

Del Lama is portrayed as the old man on the right with white hair and a light blue robe looking and pointing at the observer. In the picture is also present Botticelli’s alleged self-portrait, as the blond man with yellow mantle on the far right. The attention to details, such as the garments rendering, show the acquisition by the Florentine artist of the influences from the Flemish school at this point of his career.

Luke 3: 15-16, 21-22

A feeling of expectancy had grown among the people, who were beginning to think that John might be the Christ, so John declared before them all, ‘I baptise you with water, but someone is coming, someone who is more powerful than I am, and I am not fit to undo the strap of his sandals; he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire.’

Now when all the people had been baptised and while Jesus after his own baptism was at prayer, heaven opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily shape, like a dove, And a voice came from the heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests with you.’           

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: Baptism of the Christ fresco, by Giotto di Bondone. Located in the Scrovegni Chapel (Cappella degli Scrovegni, also known as the Arena Chapel), a church in PaduaVenetoItaly. It contains a fresco cycle by Giotto, completed about 1305, that is one of the most important masterpieces of Western art.

Giotto di Bondone (1266 – 1337), was an Italian painter and architect from Florence in the late Middle Ages. He is generally considered the first in a line of great artists who contributed to the Renaissance. Giotto’s contemporary, the chronicler Giovanni Villani, wrote that Giotto was “the most sovereign master of painting in his time, who drew all his figures and their postures according to nature. And he was given a salary by the Comune of Florence in virtue of his talent and excellence.”

The late-16th century biographer Giorgio Vasari describes Giotto as making a decisive break with the prevalent Byzantine style and as initiating “the great art of painting as we know it today, introducing the technique of drawing accurately from life, which had been neglected for more than two hundred years.”

Giotto’s masterwork is the decoration of the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua, completed around 1305. This fresco cycle depicts the life of the Virgin and the life of Christ. It is regarded as one of the supreme masterpieces of the Early Renaissance. That Giotto painted the Arena Chapel and that he was chosen by the Comune of Florence in 1334 to design the new campanile (bell tower) of the Florence Cathedral are among the few certainties of his biography. Almost every other aspect of it is subject to controversy: his birthdate, his birthplace, his appearance, his apprenticeship, the order in which he created his works, whether or not he painted the famous frescoes at Assisi, and his burial place.

John 2: 1-11

There was a wedding at Cana in Galilee. The mother of Jesus was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited. When they ran out of wine, since the wine provided for the wedding was all finished, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’ Jesus said, ‘Woman, why turn to me? My hour has not come yet.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ There were six stone water jars standing there, meant for the ablutions that are customary among the Jews: each could hold twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants. ‘Fill the jars with water,’ and they filled them to the brim. ‘Draw some out now’ he told them ‘and take it to the steward.’ They did this; the steward tasted the water, and it had turned into wine. Having no idea where it came from – only the servants who had drawn the water knew – the steward called the bridegroom and said, ‘People generally serve the best wine first, and keep the cheaper sort till the guests have had plenty to drink; but you have kept the best wine till now.’

This was the first of the signs given by Jesus: it was given at Cana in Galilee. He let his glory be seen, and his disciples believed in him.

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: The Marriage of Cana, painted by Gerard David, 1500. Oil on panel, 100cm x 128cm, resides in the Louvre Museum. 

Gerard David (1460 –1523) was an Early Netherlandish painter and manuscript illuminator known for his brilliant use of colour. Only a bare outline of his life survives, although some facts are known. He may have been the “Meester gheraet van brugghe” who became a master of the Antwerp guild in 1515. He was very successful in his lifetime and ran two workshops, in Antwerp and Bruges. His reputation diminished in the 17th century until he was rediscovered in the 19th century.

He was born in Oudewater, now located in the province of Utrecht. His year of birth is approximate as 1460 on the basis that he looks to be around 50 years in the 1509 self-portrait found in his “Virgin among the Virgins”. He spent his mature career in Bruges, where he was a member of the painters’ guild. Upon the death of Hans Memling in 1494, David became Bruges’ leading painter. He moved to Bruges in 1483, where he had formed his early style under Albert van Oudewater, and joined the guild of St Luke at Bruges in 1484. He became dean of the guild in 1501, and in 1496 married Cornelia Cnoop, daughter of the dean of the goldsmiths‘ guild. He died on 13 August 1523 and was buried in the Church of Our Lady at Bruges.

David had been completely forgotten when in the early 1860s he was rescued from oblivion by William Henry James Weale, whose researches in the archives of Bruges brought to light the main facts of the painter’s life and led to the reconstruction of David’s artistic personality, beginning with the recognition of David’s only documented work, the Virgin Among Virgins at Rouen.

David’s surviving work mainly consists of religious scenes. They are characterised by an atmospheric, timeless, and almost dream like serenity, achieved through soft, warm and subtle colourisation, and masterful handling of light and shadow. He is innovative in his recasting of traditional themes and in his approach to landscape, which was then only an emerging genre in northern European painting. His ability with landscape can be seen in the detailed foliage of his Triptych of the Baptism.

Today most view him as a master colourist, and a painter who according to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, worked in a “progressive, even enterprising, mode, casting off his late medieval heritage and proceeding with a certain purity of vision in an age of transition.”

Other works for which David is best known are the altarpieces painted before his visit to Antwerp: the Marriage of St Catherine at the National Gallery, London; the triptych of the Madonna Enthroned and Saints of the Brignole-Sale collection in Genoa; the Annunciation of the Sigmaringen collection; and above all, the Madonna with Angels and Saints, which he donated to the Carmelite Nuns of Sion at Bruges, and which is now in the Rouen museum.

Luke 1: 1-4, 4:14-21

Seeing that many others have undertaken to draw up accounts of the events that have taken place among us, exactly as these were handed down to us by those who from the outset were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word, I in my turn, after carefully going over the whole story from the beginning, have decided to write an ordered account for you, Theophilus, so that your Excellency may learn how well founded the teaching is that you have received.

Jesus, with the power of the Spirit in him, returned to Galilee; and his reputation spread throughout the countryside. He taught in their synagogues and everyone praised him.

He came to Nazara, where he had been brought up, and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day as he usually did. He stood up to read, and they handed him the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Unrolling the scroll he found the place where it is written:

The spirit of the Lord has been given to me, for he has anointed me. He has sent me to bring the good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives and to the blind new sight, to set the downtrodden free, to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour.

He then rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the assistant and sat down. And all eyes in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to speak to them, ‘This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: St Luke, completed in 1621 by Guido Reni (4 November 1575 – 18 August 1642) an Italian painter of high-Baroque style. Oil on canvas, 78cm x 65cm, located at Bob Jones University, Greenville, SC, USA.

Born in Bologna into a family of musicians, Guido Reni was the son of Daniele Reni and Ginevra de’ Pozzi. As a child of nine, he was apprenticed under the Bolognese studio of Denis Calvaert. Soon after, he was joined in that studio by Albani and Domenichino. By late 1601, Reni and Albani had moved to Rome to work with the teams led by Annibale Carracci in fresco decoration of the Farnese Palace. After a few year sojourn in Bologna, he returned to Rome to become one of the premier painters during the papacy of Paul V (Borghese). From 1607–1614, he was one of the painters patronised by the Borghese family.

Reni’s frescoed ceiling of the large central hall of garden palace, Casino dell’Aurora located in the grounds of the Palazzo Pallavicini-Rospigliosi, is considered his masterpiece. The casino was originally a pavilion commissioned by Cardinal Scipione Borghese; the rear portion overlooks the Piazza Montecavallo and Palazzo del Quirinale. The massive fresco is framed in quadri riportati and depicts Apollo in his Chariot preceded by Dawn (Aurora) bringing light to the world. The work is restrained in classicism. During Reni’s years in Rome, two among Rome’s most important and noble families were the Barberini and the Pamphilj; considering that Pope Urban VIII (Maffeo Barberini, 1568-1644) was a member of the former family, while among the cardinals was a member of the latter one, Giovanni Battista Pamphilj. The two families were in rather bad relations, and the reason for such friction was their constant quest for temporal power.

In 1618, Reni traveled to Naples to complete a commission to paint a ceiling in a chapel of the San Gennaro. However, in Naples, the other local prominent painters, including CorenzioCaracciolo and Ribera, were vehemently resistant to competitors, and according to rumour, conspired to poison or otherwise harm Reni (as may have befallen Domenichino in Naples after him). He passed briefly by Rome, but left that city abruptly, during the pontificate of Urban VIII, after being reprimanded by Cardinal Spinola.

Luke 4:21-30

Jesus began to speak in the synagogue, ‘This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen.’ And he won the approval of all, and they were astonished by the gracious words that came from his lips.

They said, ‘This is Joseph’s son, surely?’ But he replied,’ No doubt you will quote me the saying, “Physician, heal yourself” and tell me, “We have heard all that happened in Capernaum, do the same here in your own countryside.” ‘ And he went on, ‘I tell you solemnly, no prophet is ever accepted in his own country.

‘There were many widows in Israel, I can assure you, in Elijah’s day, when heaven remained shut for three years and six months and a great famine raged throughout the land, but Elijah was not sent to any one of these: he was sent to a widow at Zarephath, a Sidonian town. And in the prophet Elisha’s time there were many lepers in Israel, but none of these was cured, except the Syrian, Naaman.’

When they heard this everyone in the synagogue was enraged. They sprang to their feet and hustled him out of the town; and they took him up to the brow of the hill their town was built on, intending to throw him down the cliff, but he slipped through the crowd and walked away.

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: Christ Pantokrator, mosaic, can be found in Cefalu Cathedral. The Cathedral-Basilica of Cefalù, (Duomo di Cefalù) is a Roman Catholic church in CefalùSicilyItaly.

The cathedral, dating from 1131, was commenced in the Norman style, the island of Sicily having been conquered by the Normans in 1091. According to tradition, the building was erected after a vow made to the Holy Saviour by the King of Sicily, Roger II, after he escaped from a storm to land on the city’s beach. The fortress-like character of the building, which, seen from a distance, rises as a huge bulk above its medieval town, may in part reflect the vulnerability of the site to attack from the sea. It also made a powerful statement of the Norman presence.

The Cathedral was built in an area of ancient and continuing population, as attested by the findings of a Roman road and a Palaeo-Christian mosaic. Construction began in 1131, the apse mosaics begun in 1145 and the sarcophagi that Roger II provided for his tomb and that of his wife were put in place the same year.

The famous façade is characterised by the presence of two large Norman towers, with mullioned windows, each surmounted by a small spire added in the 15th century. Each spire is different: one has a square plan surrounded by flame-shaped merlons, the latter symbolising the Papal authority and the mitre; the other has an octagonal plan and Ghibelline merlons, symbolizing the Royal and the temporal power.

The interior of the cathedral is on the Latin cross plan, divided into a nave and two aisles by arcades of antique columns: fourteen in pink granite and two in cipolin. The bases and capitals are from the 2nd century AD. Two large capitals supporting the triumphal arch of the nave were probably made by an Apulian workshop in the mid-12th century.

It was probably planned that the entire church should be decorated in mosaic, but it was only completed in the presbyterium area. It still covers the apse and some half of the side walls. Roger II brought masters in the technique of mosaic from Constantinople. They adapted their traditional Byzantine decorative art to an architectural structure that was of Northern European origin.

The dominant figure of the decorative scheme is the bust of the Christ Pantokrator, portrayed with a hand raised in Benediction on the semi-dome of the apse. In his left hand he carries the Gospels, in which can be read, in Greek and Latin: “I am the light of the world, who follows me will not wander in the darkness but will have the light of life”.

The chief figure of The Christ Pantokrator is clothed in blue, given a great luminosity by the background of gold tiles. The work is of the highest order, having great elegance in the draping of the robes and sensitivity in the face and gestures. It is considered the finest Byzantine mosaic in Italy and comparable to other fine Late Byzantine work from Constantinople.

The Byzantine mosaic decoration was completed before 1170. The lower part and the side walls of the presbyterium were completed only in the 17th century, covering preceding paintings of which scarce traces remain today.

Luke 5:1-11

Jesus was standing one day by the Lake of Gennesaret, with the crowd pressing round him listening to the word of God, when he caught sight of two boats close to the bank. The fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats – it was Simon’s – and asked him to put out a little from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat.

When he had finished speaking he said to Simon, ‘Put out into deep water and pay out your nets for a catch.’ ‘Master,’ Simon replied, ‘we worked hard all night long and caught nothing, but if you say so, I will pay out the nets.’ And when they had done this they netted such a huge number of fish that their nets began to tear, so they signalled to their companions in the other boats to come and help them; when these came, they filled the two boats to sinking point.

When Simon Peter saw this he fell at the knees of Jesus saying, ‘Leave me, Lord; I am a sinful man.’ For he and all his companions were completely overcome by the catch they had made; so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were Simon’s partners. But Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid; from now on it is men you will catch.’ Then, bringing their boats back to land, they left everything and followed him.

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: The Miraculous Draught of Fishes, painted 1515 by Raphael. Body colour over charcoal underdrawing on paper, mounted on canvas, 319cm x 399cm.  Located at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino (April 6, 1483 – April 6, 1520), known as Raphael), an Italian painter and architect of the High Renaissance. His work is admired for its clarity of form, ease of composition, and visual achievement of the Neoplatonic ideal of human grandeur. Together with Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, he forms the traditional trinity of great masters of that period.

Raphael was enormously productive, running an unusually large workshop and, despite his death at 37, leaving a large body of work. Many of his works are found in the Vatican Palace, where the frescoed Raphael Rooms were the central, and the largest, work of his career. The best known work is The School of Athens in the Vatican Stanza della Segnatura. After his early years in Rome much of his work was executed by his workshop from his drawings, with considerable loss of quality. He was extremely influential in his lifetime, though outside Rome his work was mostly known from his collaborative printmaking. After his death, the influence of his great rival Michelangelo was more widespread until the 18th and 19th centuries, when Raphael’s more serene and harmonious qualities were again regarded as the highest models. His career falls naturally into three phases and three styles, first described by Giorgio Vasari: his early years in Umbria, then a period of about four years (1504–1508) absorbing the artistic traditions of Florence, followed by his last hectic and triumphant twelve years in Rome, working for two Popes and their close associates.

One of his most important papal commissions was the Raphael Cartoons (now in the Victoria and Albert Museum), a series of 10 cartoons, of which seven survive, for tapestries with scenes of the lives of Saint Paul and Saint Peter, for the Sistine Chapel. The cartoons, including the one above, were sent to Brussels to be woven in the workshop of Pier van Aelst. It is possible that Raphael saw the finished series before his death—they were probably completed in 1520. He also designed and painted the Loggie at the Vatican, a long thin gallery then open to a courtyard on one side, decorated with Roman-style grottesche. He produced a number of significant altarpieces, including The Ecstasy of St. Cecilia and the Sistine Madonna. His last work, on which he was working up to his death, was a large Transfiguration, which together with Il Spasimo shows the direction his art was taking in his final years—more proto-Baroque than Mannerist.

Luke 4:1-13

Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit through the wilderness, being tempted there by the devil for forty days. During that time he ate nothing and at the end he was hungry. Then the devil said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to turn into a loaf.’ But Jesus replied, ‘Scripture says: Man does not live on bread alone.’

Then leading him to a height, the devil showed him in a moment of time all the kingdoms of the world and said to him, ‘I will give you all this power and the glory of these kingdoms, for it has been committed to me and I give it to anyone I choose. Worship me, then, and it shall all be yours.’ But Jesus answered him, ‘Scripture says:

You must worship the Lord your God, and serve him alone.’

Then he led him to Jerusalem and made him stand on the parapet of the Temple. ‘If you are the Son of God’, he said to him ‘throw yourself down from here, for scripture says: He will put his angels in charge of you to guard you, and again: They will hold you up on their hands in case you hurt your foot against a stone.’

But Jesus answered him, ‘It has been said: You must not put the Lord your God to the test.’

Having exhausted all these ways of tempting him, the devil left him, to return at the appointed time.

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: Temptation of Christ, 1525, tempera colours, gold paint, and gold leaf on parchment(17cm x 12cm), painted by 16th century master illuminator Simon Bening‘s depicting of the devil approaching Jesus with a stone to be turned into bread. Located Bruges, Belgium.

Simon Bening (c. 1483 – 1561) was a Flemish miniaturist, generally regarded as the last major artist of the Netherlandish tradition. Bening, born either in Ghent , was trained by his father, illuminator Alexander Bening, in the family workshop in Ghent. He travelled between Ghent and Bruges and became a member of the guild of San John and Saint Luke in Bruges as an illuminator in 1508. He made his own name after moving to Bruges in about 1510, where he had lived since. From 1517 until 1555 he is listed regularly in the guild’s annual accounts. Three times (1524, 1536, 1546) Bening served as a dean of the calligraphers, booksellers, illuminators and bookbinders in the Guild of Saint John and Saint Luke.

Bening specialised in book of hours, but by his time these were produced only for royal or very rich patrons. He also created genealogical tables and portable altarpieces on parchment. Many of his finest works are Labours of the Months for books of Hours which are largely small scale landscapes, at that time a nascent genre of painting. In other respects his style is relatively little developed beyond that of the years before his birth, but his landscapes serve as a link between the 15th century illuminators and Peter Brueghel. His self-portrait and other portraits equally are early examples of the portrait miniature.

He produced books for German rulers, like Cardinal Albrecht of Brandenburg, and royalty like Emperor Charles V and Don Fernando, the Infante of Portugal. Robert de Clercq, abbot of the Cistercian monastery of Ter Duinen (“Les Dunes”) at Koksijde, near Bruges, commissioned a Benedictional from him sometime between 1519 and 1529. Bening portrayed the abbot in a colourful Crucifixion scene.

Luke 9:28-36

Jesus took with him Peter and John and James and went up the mountain to pray. As he prayed, the aspect of his face was changed and his clothing became brilliant as lightning. Suddenly there were two men there talking to him; they were Moses and Elijah appearing in glory, and they were speaking of his passing which he was to accomplish in Jerusalem. Peter and his companions were heavy with sleep, but they kept awake and saw his glory and the two men standing with him. As these were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, ‘Master, it is wonderful for us to be here; so let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ – He did not know what he was saying. As he spoke, a cloud came and covered them with shadow; and when they went into the cloud the disciples were afraid. And a voice came from the cloud saying, ‘This is my Son, the Chosen One. Listen to him.’ And after the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. The disciples kept silence and, at that time, told no one what they had seen.

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: Mosaic of the Transfiguration, 12th century, located at Saint Catherine’s MonasteryMount Sinai.

Saint Catherine’s Monastery, lies on the Sinai Peninsula, at the mouth of a gorge at the foot o of Mount Sinai, in the city of Saint Catherine in Egypt‘s South Sinai Governorate. The monastery is Greek Orthodox  and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Built between 548 and 565, the monastery is one of the oldest working Christian monasteries in the world. The site contains the world’s oldest continually operating library, possessing many unique books including the Syriac Sinaiticus and, until 1859, the Codex Sinaiticus. A small town with hotels and swimming pools, called Saint Katherine City, has grown around the monastery.

According to tradition, Catherine of Alexandria was a Christian martyr sentenced to death on the wheel. When this failed to kill her, she was beheaded. According to tradition, angels took her remains to Mount Sinai. Around the year 800, monks from the Sinai Monastery found her remains.

Although it is commonly known as Saint Catherine’s, the monastery’s full official name is the Sacred Monastery of the God-Trodden Mount Sinai. The patronal feast of the monastery is the Transfiguration. The monastery has become a favourite site of pilgrimage.

The monastery library preserves the second largest collection of early codices and manuscripts in the world, outnumbered only by the Vatican Library. It contains Greek, Arabic, Coptic, Hebrew, Georgian, and Aramaic texts.

In May 1844 and February 1859, Constantin von Tischendorf visited the monastery for research and discovered theCodex Sinaiticus, dating from the 4th Century, at the time the oldest almost completely preserved manuscript of the Bible. The finding from 1859 left the monastery in the 19th century for Russia, in circumstances that had been long disputed. But in 2003 Russian scholars discovered the donation act for the manuscript signed by the Council of Cairo Metochion and Archbishop Callistratus on 13 November 1869. The monastery received 9000 rubles as a gift from TsarAlexander II of Russia. The Codex was sold by Stalin in 1933 to the British Museum and is now in the British Library, London, where it is on public display. Prior to September 1, 2009, a previously unseen fragment of Codex Sinaiticus was discovered in the monastery’s library.

In February 1892, Agnes Smith Lewis identified a palimpsest in St Catherine’s library that became known as the Syriac Sinaiticus and is still in the Monastery’s possession. Agnes and her sister Margaret Dunlop Gibson returned with a team of scholars that included J. Rendel Harris, to photograph and transcribe the work in its entirety. As the manuscript predates the Codex Sinaiticus, it became crucial in understanding the history of the New Testament.

The most important manuscripts have since been filmed or digitized, and so are accessible to scholars. A team of imaging scientists and scholars from the USA and Europe is using spectral imaging techniques developed for imaging the Archimedes Palimpsest to study more than one hundred palimpsests in the monastery library.

The complex houses irreplaceable works of art: mosaics, the best collection of early icons in the world, many in encaustic, as well as liturgical objects, chalices and reliquaries, and church buildings. The large icon collection begins with a few dating to the 5th (possibly) and 6th centuries, which are unique survivals, the monastery having been untouched by Byzantine iconoclasm, and never sacked. The oldest icon on an Old Testament theme is also preserved there. A project to catalogue the collections has been ongoing since the 1960s. The monastery was an important centre for the development of the hybrid style of Crusader art, and still retains over 120 icons created in the style, by far the largest collection in existence. Many were evidently created by Latins, probably monks, based in or around the monastery in the 13th century.

Luke 13:1-9

Some people arrived and told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with that of their sacrifices. At this he said to them, ‘Do you suppose these Galileans who suffered like that were greater sinners than any other Galileans? They were not, I tell you. No; but unless you repent you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen on whom the tower at Siloam fell and killed them? Do you suppose that they were more guilty than all the other people living in Jerusalem? They were not, I tell you. No; but unless you repent you will all perish as they did.’

He told this parable: ‘A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came looking for fruit on it but found none. He said to the man who looked after the vineyard, “Look here, for three years now I have been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and finding none. Cut it down: why should it be taking up the ground?” “Sir,” the man replied “leave it one more year and give me time to dig round it and manure it: it may bear fruit next year; if not, then you can cut it down.” ‘

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: The Tower of Siloam, painted by James Tissot, 1886, resides in the Brooklyn Musuem, New York. Opaque watercolours over graphite on gray wove paper, 24 x 15cm.

Jacques Joseph Tissot (15 October 1836 – 8 August 1902), anglicised as James Tissot, was a French painter and illustrator. He left Paris for London in 1871. He was a successful painter of Paris society before moving to London in 1871.

Paintings by Tissot appealed greatly to wealthy British industrialists during the second half of the 19th-century. During 1872 he earned 94,515 francs, an income normally only enjoyed by those in the echeleons of the upper classes.

In 1885, Tissot had a revival of his Catholic faith, which led him to spend the rest of his life making paintings about Biblical events. Many of his artist friends were skeptical about his conversion, as it conveniently coincided with the French Catholic revival, a reaction against the secular attitude of the French Third Republic. At a time when French artists were working in impressionismpointilism, and heavy oil washes, Tissot was moving toward realism in his watercolors. To assist in his completion of biblical illustrations, Tissot travelled to the Middle East in 1886, 1889, and 1896 to make studies of the landscape and people. His series of 365 gouache (opaque watercolour) illustrations showing the life of Christ were shown to critical acclaim and enthusiastic audiences in Paris (1894–5), London (1896) and New York (1898–9), before being bought by the Brooklyn Museum in 1900. During July 1894, Tissot was awarded the Légion d’honneur, France’s most prestigious medal. Tissot spent the last years of his life working on paintings of subjects from the Old Testament. Although he never completed the series, he exhibited 80 of these paintings in Paris in 1901 and engravings after them were published in 1904.

Luke 15:1-3,11-32

The tax collectors and the sinners were all seeking the company of Jesus to hear what he had to say, and the Pharisees and the scribes complained. ‘This man’ they said ‘welcomes sinners and eats with them.’ So he spoke this parable to them:

‘A man had two sons. The younger said to his father, “Father, let me have the share of the estate that would come to me.” So the father divided the property between them. A few days later, the younger son got together everything he had and left for a distant country where he squandered his money on a life of debauchery.

‘When he had spent it all, that country experienced a severe famine, and now he began to feel the pinch, so he hired himself out to one of the local inhabitants who put him on his farm to feed the pigs. And he would willingly have filled his belly with the husks the pigs were eating but no one offered him anything. Then he came to his senses and said, “How many of my father’s paid servants have more food than they want, and here am I dying of hunger! I will leave this place and go to my father and say: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as one of your paid servants.” So he left the place and went back to his father.

‘While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with pity. He ran to the boy, clasped him in his arms and kissed him tenderly. Then his son said, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son.” But the father said to his servants “Quick! Bring out the best robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the calf we have been fattening, and kill it; we are going to have a feast, a celebration, because this son of mine was dead and has come back to life; he was lost and is found.” And they began to celebrate.

‘Now the elder son was out in the fields, and on his way back, as he drew near the house, he could hear music and dancing. Calling one of the servants he asked what it was all about. “Your brother has come” replied the servant “and your father has killed the calf we had fattened because he has got him back safe and sound.” He was angry then and refused to go in, and his father came out to plead with him; but he answered his father, “Look, all these years I have slaved for you and never once disobeyed your orders, yet you never offered me so much as a kid for me to celebrate with my friends. But, for this son of yours, when he comes back after swallowing up your property – he and his women – you kill the calf we had been fattening.”

‘The father said, “My son, you are with me always and all I have is yours. But it was only right we should celebrate and rejoice, because your brother here was dead and has come to life; he was lost and is found.” ‘

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: Return of the Prodigal Son, painted 1608-1611 by Leonello Spada. Oil on canvas painting (160cm x 119cm) located in the Louvre Museum, Paris.

Leonello Spada  (1576 –1622) was an Italian painter of the Baroque period, active in Rome and his native city of Bologna, where he became known as one of the followers of Caravaggio.

He first apprenticed with painter Cesare Baglioni. By the early 17th century, Spada was active, together with Girolamo Curti, as a member of a team specializing in decorative quadratura painting in Bologna. His early independent canvases reflect a mannerist style akin to the Bolognese Denis Calvaert. In 1604 he made an unsuccessful bid for the commission to decorate the sacristy of the Basilica of Santa Maria di Loreto. By then he had already gravitated to the Carracci Academy, having contributed to the decorations for the funeral of Agostino Carracci in 1603. His earliest surviving major painting, the altarpiece of the Virgin and Saints Dominic & Francis Interceding with Christ(1604), shows that he had modeled his style on that of Ludovico Carracci. He frequently collaborated with other students of Ludovico, especially Francesco Brizio and remained in Bologna until 1607. Spada’s figurative style gradually became more robust, as shown by the Miraculous Draught of Fishes (1607).

Whether Spada either met or became an assistant of Caravaggio, like Manfredi, is unclear. The biographer Malvasia makes plain in his Felsina pittrice his distaste for Caravaggio, and apparently describes Spada and Caravaggio as equally “dissolute” and “precipitous”; and there are suggestions that for Caravaggio, Spada was a man “close to his heart”, Malvasia also tells the story of Spada posing for Caravaggio’s ‘’Death of John the Baptist’’: afraid that Spada might flee and, that without a model the painting would be incomplete, Caravaggio imprisoned him in a room until he had finished. However, it is unclear if Spada ever encountered Caravaggio in Rome. Spada supposedly was in Rome after 1608-9, when Caravaggio had fled to Malta. Malvasia suggests the Spada followed Caravaggio to Malta. This is possible since Spada himself painted frescoes in the Magisterial palace of Valleta in 1609-1610; but Caravaggio again had fled to Sicily by 1608, thus their overlap in Malta must have been short. The dark violence of a painting such as the Cain Killing Abel (Museo di Capodimonte) and his derivative realism Musical Concert garnered him in Bologna, the maligning appellation of “scimmia del Caravaggio” (ape of Caravaggio).

But this, as much of Spada’s output, may not reflect a gathered flame of inspiration but a pale reflection, a mimicry of the harsh passion, which when linked to his Carraci upbringing leads to a weakened pastiche. Leonello Spada is known to have made many copies of other painters.

He painted a large canvas for the Basilica of San Domenico in Bologna, depicting St Dominic Burning the Books of the Heretics, (1616). The Ghiara frescoes in Reggio Emilia are perhaps his masterpiece and demonstrate a return to Carraccian models, along with other works of this fruitful period include the Return of the Prodigal Son (above).

John 8:1-11

Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. At daybreak he appeared in the Temple again; and as all the people came to him, he sat down and began to teach them.

The scribes and Pharisees brought a woman along who had been caught committing adultery; and making her stand there in full view of everybody, they said to Jesus, ‘Master, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery, and Moses has ordered us in the Law to condemn women like this to death by stoning. What have you to say?’ They asked him this as a test, looking for something to use against him. But Jesus bent down and started writing on the ground with his finger. As they persisted with their question, he looked up and said, ‘If there is one of you who has not sinned, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.’ Then he bent down and wrote on the ground again. When they heard this they went away one by one, beginning with the eldest, until Jesus was left alone with the woman, who remained standing there. He looked up and said, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ ‘No one, sir,’ she replied. ‘Neither do I condemn you,’ said Jesus ‘go away, and don’t sin any more.’

The Gospel of the Lord

Picture: The Woman taken in Adultery painted by Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, 1621, oil on canvas, 99cm x 123cm. Located at the Dulwich picture Gallery, London.

Giovanni Francesco Barbieri (1591-1666), known as Guercino or ‘squint-eyed’ after he developed a squint as a result of a childhood accident, was largely self-taught and became the leading painter in Bologna from the 1640s. The Woman taken in Adultery, with its bold, fluid brushwork, powerful chiaroscuro and inventive composition, is characteristic of the artist’s early work before he travelled to Rome in 1621 and came under the more classicising influence of Guido Reni (1575-1642).

The story of the adulteress is recorded in Saint John’s Gospel and describes how a woman was saved from being stoned to death by Christ’s words: ‘Whichever of you is free from sin shall cast the first stone at her.’ Guercino as a master storyteller captures this pivotal moment just as Christ is about to speak, not through overt or emphatic expression, but through the subtle drama created by an interchange of glances and hand gestures. The hands themselves carry the thrust of the story; the juxtaposition of the soldier’s tight fist against the adulteress’s own pale hands folded in submission illustrates with poetic directness her extreme vulnerability, while the confused mesh of fingers held up by the Pharisee are dismissed by the open and clear indication of Jesus’s single pointing finger.

Guercino’s early work is celebrated today for such visual understatement, an approach to storytelling which rather than creating distance between his images and his viewers with an idealised scene, draws them into the composition by depicting what appears to be a fleeting, unposed moment. The artist here expresses great empathy with the adulteress and emphasises above all her humanity. Although she and her captors are pushed up against the picture plane to evoke the claustrophobia of the moment, her bent head casts her eyes in shadow, granting her a sense of quiet dignity. 

Luke 22:14-23:56

When the hour came Jesus took his place at the table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, ‘I have longed to eat this passover with you before I suffer; because, I tell you, I shall not eat it again until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.’

Then, taking the cup, he gave thanks to them and said, ‘Take this and share it among you, because from now on, I tell you, I shall not drink wine until the kingdom of God comes.’

Then he took some bread, and when he had given thanks, broke and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body which will be given for you; do this as a memorial of me.’ He did the same with the cup after supper, and said, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood which will be poured out of you.

‘And yet, here with me on the tables is the hand of the man who betrays me. The Son of Man does indeed go to his fate even as it has been decreed, but alas for that man by whom he is betrayed!’ And they began to ask one another which of them it could be who was to do this thing.

A dispute arose also between them about which should be reckoned the greatest, but he said to them, ‘Among pagans it is the kings who lord it over them, and those who have authority over them are given the Benefactor. This must not happen with you. No; the greatest among you must behave as if he were the youngest, the leader as if he were the one who serves. For who is the greater: the one at the table or the one who serves? The one at the table, surely? Yet here I am among you as the one who serves!

‘You are the men who have stood by me faithfully in my trials; and now I confer a kingdom on you, just as my Father conferred one on me: you will eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and will sit on the thrones to judge the twelve tribes of Israel.

‘Simon, Simon! Satan, you must know, has got his wish to sift you all like wheat; but I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail, and once you have recovered, you in your turn must strengthen your brothers.’ He answered, ‘Lord, I would be ready to go to prison with you, and to death.’ Jesus replied, ‘I tell you, Peter, by the time the cock crows today you will have denied three times that you know me.’

He said to them, ‘When I sent you out without purse or haversack or sandals, were you short of anything?’ They answered, ‘No’. He said to them, ‘But now if you have a purse, take it: if you have a haversack, do the same; if you have no sword, sell your cloak and buy one, because I tell you these words of scripture have to be fulfilled in me: He let himself be taken for a criminal. Yes, what scripture says about me is even now reaching its fulfilment.’ They said, ‘Lord, there are two swords here now.’ He said to them, ‘That is enough!’

He then left the upper room to make his way as usual to the Mount  of Olives, with the disciples following. When the reached the place he said to them, ‘Pray not to be put to the test.’

Then he withdrew from them, about a stone’s throw away, and knelt down and prayed, saying, ‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me, nevertheless, let your will be mine.’ Then the angel appeared to him, coming from heaven to give him strength. In his anguish he prayed even more earnestly, and his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood.

When he rose from the prayer he went to his disciples and found them sleeping for sheer grief. He said to them, ‘Why are you asleep? Get up and pray not to be put to the test.’

He was still speaking when a number of men appeared, and at the head of them the man called Judas, one of the Twelve, who went up to Jesus to kiss him. Jesus said ‘Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?’ His followers, seeing what was happening, said, ‘Lord, shall we use our swords?’ And one of them struck out at the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear. But at this Jesus spoke. ‘Leave off! That will do!’ And touching the man’s ear he healed him.

Then Jesus spoke to the chief priests and captains of the Temple guard and elders who had come for him. He said, ‘Am I a brigand that you had to set out with swords and clubs? When I was among you in the Temple day after day you never moved to lay hands on me. But this is your hour;. This is the reign of darkness.’

They seized him and then led him away, and they took him to the high priest’s house. Peter followed at a distance. They had lit a fire in the middle of the courtyard and peter sat down among them, and as he was sitting there by the blaze a servant-girl saw him, peered at him, and said, ‘This person was with him too.’ But he denied it, saying, ‘Woman, I do not know him.’ Shortly afterwards someone else saw him and said, ‘ You are another of them.’ But Peter replied, ‘I am not my friend.’ About an hour later another man insisted, saying, ‘This fellow was certainly with him. Why, he is a Galilean.’ Peter said, ‘My friend, I do not know what you are talking about.’ At that instant, while he was still speaking, the cock crew, and the Lord turned and looked straight at Peter, and peter remembered what the Lord had said to him, ‘Before the cock crows today, you will have disowned me three times.’ And he went outside and wept bitterly.

Meanwhile the men who guarded Jesus were mocking and beating him. They blindfolded him and questioned him, saying, ‘Play the prophet. Who hit you then?’ And they continued heaping insults on him. When day broke there was a meeting of the elders of the people, attended by the chief priests and scribes. He was brought before their council, and they said to him, ‘If you are the Christ, tell us,’ He replied, ‘If I tell you, you will not believe me, and if I question you, you will not answer. But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the Power of God.’ Then they all said, ‘So you are the Son of God then?’ He answered, ‘It is you who say I am.’ They said, ‘What need of witnesses have we now? We have heard it for ourselves from his own lips.’ The whole assembly then rose, and they brought him before Pilate.

They began their accusation by saying, ‘We found this man inciting our people to revolt, opposing payment of tribute to Caesar, and claiming to be Christ, a king.’ Pilate put to him this question, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ He replied, ‘It is you who say it.’ Pilate then said to the chief priests and the crowd, ‘I find no case against this man,’ But they persisted, ‘He is inflaming the people with this teaching all over Judaea; it has come all the way from Galilee, where he started, down to here.’ When Pilate heard this, he asked if the man were a Galilean; and finding that he came under Herod’s  jurisdiction he passed him over to Herod who was also in Jerusalem at that time.

Herod was delighted to see Jesus; he had heard about him and had been delighted for a long time to set eyes on him; moreover, he was hoping to see some miracles worked by him. So he questioned him at some length; but without getting any reply. Meanwhile the chief priests and the scribes were there, violently pressing their accusations. Then Herod, together with his guards, treated him with contempt and made fun of him; he put a rich cloak on him and sent him back to Pilate. And though Herod and Pilate had been enemies before, they were reconciled that same day.

Pilate then summoned the chief priests and the leading men and the people. He said, ‘You brought this man before me as a political agitator. Now I have gone into the matter myself in your presence and found no case against the man in respect of all the charges you bring against him. Nor has Herod either, since he sent him back to us. As you can see, the man has done nothing that deserves death, so I shall have him flogged and then let him go.’ But as one man they howled, ‘Away with him! Give us Barrabas!’ This man had been thrown into prison for causing a riot in the city and for murder.

Pilate was anxious to set Jesus free and addressed them again, but they shouted back, ‘Crucify him! Crucify him!’ And for the third time he spoke to them, ‘Why? What harm has this man done? I have found no case against him that deserves death, so I shall have him punished and then let him go.’ But they kept on shouting at the tops o their voices, demanding that he should be crucified. And their shouts were growing louder.

Pilate then gave his verdict: their demand was to be granted. He released the man they asked for, who had been imprisoned for rioting and murder, and handed Jesus over to them to deal with as they pleased.

As they were leading him away they  seized on a man, Simon from Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, and made him shoulder the cross and carry it behind him Jesus, Large numbers of people followed him, and of women too, who mourned and lamented to him. But Jesus turned to them and said, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep rather for yourselves and for your children. For the days will surely come when people will say, “:Happy are those who are barren, the wombs that have never borne, the breasts that have never suckled!” Then they will begin to say to the mountains, “Fall on us!”; to the hills, “Cover us!” For if men use the green wood like this, what will happen when it is dry?’ Now with him they were also leading out two other criminals to be executed.

When they reached the place called The Skull, they crucified him there and the two criminals also, one on the right, the other on the left. Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing.’ Then they cast lots to share out his clothing.

The people stayed there watching him. As for the leaders, they jeered at him, saying ‘He saved others, let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.’ The soldiers mocked him too and when they approached to offer him vinegar they said, ‘If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself.’ Above him there was an inscription: ‘This is the King of the Jews.’

One of the criminals hanging there abused him, saying ‘Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us as well.’ But the other spoke up and rebuked him. ‘Have you no fear of God at all? You got the same sentence as he did. But in our case we deserved it: we are paying for what we did. But this man has done nothing wrong. Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ He replied, ‘Indeed, I promise you, today you will be with me in paradise.’

It was now about the sixth hour and, with the sun eclipsed, a darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour. The veil of the Temple was torn right down the middle; and when Jesus had cried out in a loud voice, he said, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’ With these words he breathed his last.

When the centurion saw what had taken place, he gave praise to God and said, ‘This was a great and good man.’ And when all the people who had gathered for the spectacle saw what had happened, they went home beating their breasts.

All his friends stood at a distance; so also did the women who had accompanied him from Galilee, and they saw all this happen.

Then a member of the council arrived, an upright and virtuous man named Joseph. He had not consented to what the others had planned and carried out. He came from Arimathaea, a Jewish town, and lived in the hope of seeing the kingdom of God. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. He then took it down, wrapped it in a shroud and put him in a tomb which was hewn in stone in which no one had yet been laid. It was Preparation Day and the Sabbath was imminent.

Meanwhile the women who had come from Galilee with Jesus were following behind. They took note of the tomb and of the position of the body.

Then they returned and prepared spices and ointments. And on the Sabbath day they rested, as the Law required.

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: The Last Supper, painted by Dieric Bouts between 1464 & 1467. Oil on panel, 180cmx 150cm, located at St Peter’s Church, Leuven, Belguim.

Dieric Bouts (born 1415 –1475) was an Early Netherlandish painter. Bouts was born in Haarlem and was mainly active in Leuven (Louvain), where he was city painter from 1468. He is first documented in Leuven in 1457 and worked there until his death in 1475.

Bouts was among the first northern painters to demonstrate the use of a single vanishing point (as illustrated in his Last Supper). His work has a certain primitive stiffness of drawing, and his figures are often disproportionately long and angular, but his pictures are highly expressive, well designed and rich in colour, with especially good landscape backgrounds.

Bouts’ earliest work is the Triptych of the Virgin’s Life in the Prado (Madrid), dated to about 1445. The Deposition Altarpiece in Granada (Capilla Real) probably also dates to this period, around 1450–60. A dismembered canvas altarpiece—now in the Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique (Brussels), the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles), National Gallery (London), Norton Simon Museum (Pasadena), and a Swiss private collection—with the same dimensions as the Altarpiece of the Holy Sacrament may belong to this period. The Louvre Lamentation (Pietà) is another early work.

The Last Supper is the central panel of Altarpiece of the Holy Sacrament, commissioned from Bouts by the Leuven Confraternity of the Holy Sacrament in 1464. All of the central room’s orthogonals (lines imagined to be behind and perpendicular to the picture plane that converge at a vanishing point) lead to a single vanishing point in the center of the mantelpiece above Christ’s head. However the small side room has its own vanishing point, and neither it nor the vanishing point of the main room falls on the horizon of the landscape seen through the windows. The Last Supper is the second dated work (after Petrus Christus‘ Virgin and Child Enthroned with St. Jerome and St. Francis in Frankfurt, dated 1457) to display an understanding of Italian linear perspective.

Scholars also have noted that Bouts’s Last Supper was the first Flemish panel painting to depict the Last Supper. In this central panel, Bouts did not focus on the biblical narrative itself but instead presented Christ in the role of a priest performing the consecration of the Eucharistic host from the Catholic Mass. This contrasts strongly with other Last Supper depictions, which often focused on Judas‘s betrayal or on Christ’s comforting of John. Bouts also added to the complexity of this image by including four servants (two in the window and two standing), all dressed in Flemish attire. Although once identified as the artist himself and his two sons, these servants are most likely portraits of the confraternity’s members responsible for commissioning the altarpiece. The Last Supper was the central part of the altarpiece in the St. Peter’s Church, Leuven.

John 20:1-9

It was very early on the first day of the week and still dark, when Mary of Magdala came to the tomb. She saw that the stone had been moved away from the tomb and came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved. ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb’ she said ‘and we don’t know where they have put him.’

So Peter set out with the other disciple to go to the tomb. They ran together, but the other disciple, running faster than Peter, reached the tomb first; he bent down and saw the linen cloths lying on the ground, but did not go in. Simon Peter who was following now came up, went right into the tomb, saw the linen cloths on the ground, and also the cloth that had been over his head; this was not with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in; he saw and he believed. Till this moment they had failed to understand the teaching of scripture, that he must rise from the dead.

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: Resurrection of Christ and Women at the Tomb, painted by artist Fra Angelico, 1440-1442. A fresco painting, 181 x 151cm. Located in the Gallery of Convento di San Marco, Florence. 

Fra Angelico (1395 –1455) was an Early  painter described by Vasari in his Lives of the Artists as having “a rare and perfect talent”.

He was known to contemporaries as Fra Giovanni da Fiesole (Brother John of Fiesole) and Fra Giovanni Angelico (Angelic Brother John). In modern Italian he is called il Beato Angelico (Blessed Angelic One); the common English name Fra Angelico means the “Angelic friar”.

In 1982 Pope John Paul II proclaimed his beatification in recognition of the holiness of his life, thereby making the title of “Blessed” official. Vasari wrote of Fra Angelico that “it is impossible to bestow too much praise on this holy father, who was so humble and modest in all that he did and said and whose pictures were painted with such facility and piety.

In 1436 Fra Angelico was one of a number of the friars from Fiesole who moved to the newly built Friary of San Marco in Florence. This was an important move which put him in the centre of artistic activity of the region and brought about the patronage of one of the wealthiest and most powerful members of the city’s governing authority, or “Signoria”, who had a large cell (later occupied by Savonarola) reserved for himself at the friary in order that he might retreat from the world. It was, according to Vasari, at Cosimo’s urging that Fra Angelico set about the task of decorating the monastery, including the magnificent Chapter House fresco, the often-reproduced Annunciation at the top of the stairs to the cells, the Maesta with Saints and the many smaller devotional frescoes depicting aspects of the Life of Christ that adorn the walls of each cell.

In 1439 he completed one of his most famous works, the San Marco Altarpiece at Florence. The result was unusual for its time. Images of the enthroned Madonna and Child surrounded by saints were common, but they usually depicted a setting that was clearly heavenlike, in which saints and angels hovered about as divine presences rather than people. But in this instance, the saints stand squarely within the space, grouped in a natural way as if they were able to converse about the shared experience of witnessing the Virgin in glory. Paintings such as this, known as Sacred Conversations, were to become the major commissions of Giovanni BelliniPerugino and Raphael.

In 1440, he started the fresco above. On the left, St Dominic in meditation. The three women on the right were painted by Benozzo Gozzoli who that time was an apprentice in the workshop of Fra Angelico. He collaborated in the pictorial decoration of the Dominican convent of San Marco, Florence. The figures are arranged with simple formality, and yet it would be wrong to think there was a lack of sophistication: Fra Angelico is intent only on his subject, and he does not distract the viewer with unnecessary details. The grace and dignity of the women does not conceal their grief; they turn for some explanation to the figure of the angel who should, by its nature, be physically insubstantial but instead has a sort of reassuring solidity and authority. Dominic prays, head bowed and eyes lowered. The Risen Christ watches over them all.

John 20:19-31

In the evening of that same day, the first day of the week, the doors were closed in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood among them. He said to them, ‘Peace be with you,’ and showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord, and he said to them again, ‘Peace be with you.

‘As the Father sent me, so am I sending you.’

After saying this he breathed on them and said:

‘Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained.’

Thomas, called the Twin, who was one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. When the disciples said, ‘We have seen the Lord’, he answered, ‘Unless I see the holes that the nails made in his hands and can put my finger into the holes they made, and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe.’ Eight days later the disciples were in the house again and Thomas was with them. The doors were closed, but Jesus came in and stood among them. ‘Peace be with you’ he said. Then he spoke to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; look, here are my hands. Give me your hand; put it into my side. Doubt no longer but believe.’ Thomas replied, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him:

‘You believe because you can see me. Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.’

There were many other signs that Jesus worked and the disciples saw, but they are not recorded in this book. These are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing this you may have life through his name.

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: The Maesta Altarpiece – The Incredulity of St.Thomas, painted 1308-11 by Duccio di Buoninsegna. Located in the Museo Dell’Opera Del Duomo, Siena, Italy.  Tempera on wood, 56cm x 51cm.

Duccio di Buoninsegna  (1255-1319) was an Italian painter, active in the city of Siena in Tuscany, where he was born, in the late 13th and early 14th centuries. He is considered to be the father of Sienese painting and along with a few others the founder of Western art. He was hired throughout his life to complete many important works in government and religious buildings around Italy. Duccio is credited with creating the painting style of Trecento and the Sienese school, and contributed significantly to the Sienese Gothic style.

Only two of Duccio’s surviving works can be securely dated. Both were major public commissions: the “Rucellai Madonna” (Galleria degli Uffizi), commissioned in April 1285 by the Compagnia del Laudesi di Maria Vergine for a chapel in the church of Santa Maria Novella in Florence, and the Maestà commissioned for this high altar painting of Siena Cathedral in 1308 and completed by June 1311.

His known works are on wood panel, painted in egg tempera and embellished with gold leaf. Different from his contemporaries and artists before him, Duccio was a master of tempera and managed to conquer the medium with delicacy and precision. Duccio’s style was similar to Byzantine art in some ways, with its gold backgrounds and familiar religious scenes but also different and more experimental. Duccio’s paintings are warm with colour, and inviting. His pieces held a high level of beauty with delicate details, sometimes inlaid with jewels and almost ornamental fabrics. Duccio was also noted for his complex organisation of space. Duccio began to break down the sharp lines of Byzantine art, and soften the figures. He used modelling (playing with light and dark colours) to reveal the figures underneath the heavy drapery; hands, faces, and feet became more rounded and three-dimensional.

Duccio was also one of the first painters to put figures in architectural settings. He began to explore and investigate depth and space. He also had a refined attention to emotion, not seen in other painters at this time. With this he flirts with naturalism but his paintings are still awe inspiring.

John 21: 1-19

Jesus showed himself again to the disciples. It was by the Sea of Tiberias, and it happened like this: Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee and two more of his disciples were together. Simon Peter said, ‘I’m going fishing.’ They replied, ‘We’ll come with you.’ They went out and got into the boat but caught nothing that night.

It was light by now and there stood Jesus on the shore, though the disciples did not realise that it was Jesus. Jesus called out, ‘Have you caught anything, friends?’ And when they answered, ‘No’, he said, ‘Throw the net out to starboard and you’ll find something.’ So they dropped the net, and there were so many fish that they could not haul it in. The disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord.’ At these words ‘It is the Lord’, Simon Peter, who had practically nothing on, wrapped his cloak round him and jumped into the water. The other disciples came on in the boat, towing the net and the fish; they were only about a hundred yards from land.

As soon as they came ashore they saw that there was some bread there, and a charcoal fire with fish cooking on it. Jesus said, ‘Bring some of the fish you have just caught.’ Simon Peter went aboard and dragged the net to the shore, full of big fish, one hundred and fifty-three of them; and in spite of there being so many the net was not broken. Jesus said to them, ‘Come and have breakfast.’ None of the disciples was bold enough to ask, ‘Who are you?’; they knew quite well it was the Lord. Jesus then stepped forward, took the bread and gave it to them, and the same with the fish. This was the third time that Jesus showed himself to the disciples after rising from the dead.

After the meal Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these others do?’ He answered, ‘Yes Lord, you know I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ A second time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ He replied, ‘Yes, Lord, you know I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Look after my sheep.’ Then he said to him a third time, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter was upset that he asked him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ and said, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep.

‘I tell you most solemnly, when you were young you put on your own belt and walked where you liked; but when you grow old you will stretch out your hands, and somebody else will put a belt round you and take you where you would rather not go.’

In these words he indicated the kind of death by which Peter would give glory to God. After this he said, ‘Follow me.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: The Miraculous Draught of Fishes, painted 1545 by Jacopo Bassano. Oil on Canvas, 144cm x 244cm, it resides in the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC.

This painting, which came to light in 1989, is a major addition to the work of Jacopo Bassano. One of the four leading mid–to–late 16th–century Venetian painters, Jacopo is less well–known than are his contemporaries Titian, Veronese, and Tintoretto. Only with the exhibition of his work in his native town of Bassano del Grappa in 1992 did the artist finally get the recognition he deserves. Aside from the quality and variety of his production, Bassano had the most extraordinary development of any 16th–century Venetian master except Titian. After modest beginnings, Bassano’s work exploded into greatness with a series of pictures dating from the 1540s, which demonstrated his true measure as an artist. He overcame his provincial isolation and kept abreast of artistic trends by studying prints by or after other masters such as Raphael. Bassano’s mannerist compositions of the 1540s and 1550s, with their rich colour and animated figures, gave way to the expressive lighting and more genre–like character of the works of the 1560s. Thereafter, Bassano’s art increasingly emphasized figures of peasants and their animals. With their dark tonality, flickering brushwork, and somber mood, the best of his late pictures approach Rembrandt.

As we learn from the painter’s account book, The Miraculous Draught of Fishes was ordered in April 1545 by the Venetian governor of Bassano, Pietro Pizzamano. Returning to Venice later that same year, the patron took his picture with him, where, in 1547, Titian copied it for the background of an altarpiece he painted. In The Miraculous Draught of Fishes Jacopo typically drew on a print source for the composition—Ugo da Carpi’s chiaroscuro woodcut of the same subject. The print in turn reproduces (in reverse) Raphael’s great tapestry cartoon of The Miraculous Draught of Fishes of 1515, which, with the other cartoons in the series, is now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Though relying here, as elsewhere, on a visual source, Jacopo nevertheless transformed the print he took as a point of departure. The aesthetic appeal of The Miraculous Draught of Fishes lies in the way the brilliant hues of rose red, ocher, and green are set off against the broad expanse of blue water. Jacopo’s colourful tableau, extending across the width of the canvas, has an almost vertiginous effect, in which the play of gestures and expressions of Christ, Peter, and Andrew on the left contrasts with the denser grouping of Zebedee and his sons James and John on the right. Uniting the two groups of apostles is the dramatic form of Andrew’s billowing cape, a signature motif of the artist. Bassano further enlivened the composition through the careful observation of nature, reflected in Zebedee’s oaring, the fish struggling in the net, and the view of his native town in the upper right.

 

John 10: 27-30

Jesus said: ‘The sheep that belong to me listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life; they will never be lost and no one will ever steal them from me. The Father who gave them to me is greater than anyone, and no one can steal from the Father. The Father and I are one.’           

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: Good Shepherd in catacomb of Priscilla (Second half of the 3rd century).

The Catacomb of Priscilla on the Via Salaria in Rome, Italy, is situated in what was a quarry in Roman times. This quarry was used for Christian burials from the late 2nd century through the 4th century. Some of the walls and ceilings display fine decorations illustrating Biblical scenes. The Catacombs of Priscilla are believed to be named after Priscilla, a member of the gens Acilia and who was probably the wife of the Consul Acilius who became a Christian and was killed on the orders of Domitian. They contain a number of wall paintings of saints and early Christian symbols, such as the painting reproduced in Giovanni Gaetano Bottari‘s folio of 1754, where the Good Shepherd is depicted as feeding the lambs, with a crowing cock on His right and left hand.

Particularly notable is the “Greek Chapel” (Capella Greca), a square chamber with an arch which contains 3rd century frescoes generally interpreted to be Old and New Testament scenes, including the Fractio Panis. Above the apse is a Last Judgment. New, and somewhat controversial research has begun to suggest that the scenes traditionally interpreted as the deuterocanonical story of Susannah (Dn 13) may actually be scenes from the life of a prestigious Christian woman of the 2nd century AD. Near this are figures of the Madonna and Child and the Prophet Isaiah, also dating from the early 3rd century.

The Priscilla catacombs contain the oldest known Marian paintings, from the early third century. Mary is shown with Jesus on her lap. The catacomb also has a depiction of the Annunciation.

The catacomb of Priscilla, mentioned in all the ancient liturgical and topographic sources, has its modern entrance on the Via Salaria through the cloister of the monastery of the Benedictines of Priscilla. The Catacombs of Priscilla is divided into three principal areas: anarenarium, a cryptoportico from a large Roman villa, and an underground burial area of the noble Roman family Acilius Glabrio.

On account of the fact that seven early popes and many martyrs were buried in the cemetery, it was known as the “Queen of the Catacombs” in antiquity. Two popes were buried in the Catacomb of Priscilla: Pope Marcellinus (296 – 304) and Pope Marcellus I (308 – 309).

Alleged relics of Popes Sylvester I, Stephen I, and Dionysius were exhumed and enshrined beneath the high altar of San Martino ai Monti(founded as Santi Silvestro e Martino ai Monti), in the Esquiline area of Rome. Pope Sylvester I was likely originally buried in San Martino ai Monti, although some sources say his remains were transferred there. An unidentified papal sarcophagus discovered during the demolition of Old Saint Peter’s Basilica was attributed to Sylvester I and moved to Nonantola Abbey, near the altar that contains the remains of Pope Adrian III. Other sources describe a combination of Sylvester I and Vigilius in an altar in St. Peter’s.

John 13: 31-35

When Judas had gone Jesus said:

‘Now has the Son of Man been glorified, and in him God has been glorified. If God has been glorified in him, God will in turn glorify him in himself, and will glorify him very soon.

My little children, I shall not be with you much longer. I give you a new commandment: love one another; just as I have loved you, you also must love one another. By this love you have for one another, everyone will know that you are my disciples.’         

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: The New Commandment (Farewell Discourse), part of the Maesta by Duccio di Buoninsegna, painted between 1308 and 1311. Tempera on wood, 50cm x 53cm This piece is preserved in the State Archives of Siena, Italy.

The Maestà of Duccio is an altarpiece composed of many individual paintings commissioned by the city of Siena in 1308 from the artist Duccio di Buoninsegna. The front panels make up a large enthroned Madonna and Child with saints and angels, and a predella of the Childhood of Christ with prophets. The reverse has the rest of a combined cycle of the Life of the Virgin and the Life of Christ in a total of forty-three small scenes; several panels are now dispersed or lost. The base of the panel has an inscription that reads (in translation): “Holy Mother of God, be thou the cause of peace for Siena and life to Duccio because he painted thee thus.”  Though it took a generation for its effect truly to be felt, Duccio’s Maestà set Italian painting on a course leading away from the hieratic representations of Byzantine art towards more direct presentations of reality. The painting was installed in the cathedral of Siena on 9 June 1311. One person who witnessed this event wrote:

And on that day when it was brought into the cathedral, all workshops remained closed, and the bishop commanded a great host of devoted priests and monks to file past in solemn procession. This was accompanied by all the high officers of the Commune and by all the people; all honorable citizens of Siena surrounded said panel with candles held in their hands, and women and children followed humbly behind. They accompanied the panel amidst the glorious pealing of bells after a solemn procession on the Piazza del Campo into the very cathedral; and all this out of reverence for the costly panel… The poor received many alms, and we prayed to the Holy Mother of God, our patron saint, that she might in her infinite mercy preserve this our city of Siena from every misfortune, traitor or enemy.

Besides the Virgin Mary and the Baby Jesus, saints depicted in the painting include John the Evangelist (to the left of the throne); Saint PaulCatherine of AlexandriaJohn the Baptist (to the right of the throne); Saint Peter; and Saint Agnes. In the foreground are Siena’s various patron saintsSaint AnsanusSaint SabinusSaint Crescentius; and Saint Victor.

The altarpiece remained in place until 1711, when it was dismantled in order to distribute the pieces between two altars.The five-meter high construction was dismantled and sawn up, and the paintings damaged in the process. Partial restoration took place in 1956. The dismantling also led to pieces going astray, either being sold, or simply unaccounted for. Extant remains of the altarpiece not at Siena are divided among several other museums.

John 14: 23-29

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘If anyone loves me he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we shall come to him and make our home with him. Those who do not love me do not keep my words. And my word is not my own: it is the word of the one who sent me. I have said these things to you while still with you; but the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all I have said to you. Peace I bequeath to you, my own peace I give you, a peace the world cannot give, this is my gift to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. You heard me say: I am going away, and shall return. If you loved me you would have been glad to know that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. I have told you this now before it happens, so that when it does happen you may believe.’             

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: Stained glass window by Gian Lorenzo Bernini – Dove of the Holy Spirit, 1660, above the Throne of St. Peter, St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican.

At St Peter’s Basilica, Bernini made a special throne out of bronze, to hold an ancient wood and ivory throne that had been at the basilica for more than 500 years. It is called the Cattedra Petri or “throne of St. Peter”. The bronze throne, with the old wooden throne inside it, is held up high at the end of the basilica, by four important saints who are called “Doctors of the Church” because they were all great writers and teachers. The statues are made of bronze. They are Saints Ambrose and Augustine for the Church of Rome and Saints Athanasius and John Chrysostum for the Orthodox Church. Above the chair is a window which is made not from glass but thin translucent stone called alabaster. The Dove of the Holy Spirit is in the middle of the window with rays of light spreading out into the basilica through a sculpture of golden clouds and angels. Bernini designed this to look like a window into Heaven. There was a great celebration when the chair was put in place on January 16, 1666.

Gian Lorenzo Bernini, 7 December 1598 – 28 November 1680, was an Italian sculptor and architect. A major figure in the world of architecture, he was the leading sculptor of his age, credited with creating the Baroque style of sculpture. As one scholar has commented, “What Shakespeare is to drama, Bernini may be to sculpture: the first pan-European sculptor whose name is instantaneously identifiable with a particular manner and vision, and whose influence was inordinately powerful…” In addition, he was a painter (mostly small canvases in oil) and a man of the theatre: he wrote, directed and acted in plays (mostly Carnival satires), also designing stage sets and theatrical machinery, as well as a wide variety of decorative art objects including lamps, tables, mirrors, and even coaches. As architect and city planner, he designed both secular buildings and churches and chapels, as well as massive works combining both architecture and sculpture, especially elaborate public fountains and funerary monuments and a whole series of temporary structures (in stucco and wood) for funerals and festivals.

Bernini possessed the ability to depict dramatic narratives with characters showing intense psychological states, but also to organize large-scale sculptural works which convey a magnificent grandeur. His skill in manipulating marble ensured that he would be considered a worthy successor of Michelangelo, far outshining other sculptors of his generation, including his rivals, François Duquesnoy and Alessandro Algardi. His talent extended beyond the confines of sculpture to a consideration of the setting in which it would be situated; his ability to synthesize sculpture, painting, and architecture into a coherent conceptual and visual whole has been termed by the art historian Irving Lavin the “unity of the visual arts”. In addition, a deeply religious man, working in Counter Reformation Rome, Bernini used light both as an important theatrical and metaphorical device in his religious settings, often using hidden light sources that could intensify the focus of religious worship or enhance the dramatic moment of a sculptural narrative.

Bernini was also a leading figure in the emergence of Roman Baroque architecture along with his contemporaries, the architect Francesco Borromini and the painter and architect Pietro da Cortona. Early in their careers they had all worked at the same time at the Palazzo Barberini, initially under Carlo Maderno and, following his death, under Bernini. Later on, however, they were in competition for commissions, and fierce rivalries developed, particularly between Bernini and Borromini. Despite the arguably greater architectural inventiveness of Borromini and Cortona, Bernini’s artistic pre-eminence, particularly during the reigns of popes Urban VIII (1623–44) and Alexander VII (1655–65), meant he was able to secure the most important commissions in the Rome of his day, the various massive embellishment projects of the newly finished St. Peter’s Basilica, completed under Pope Paul V with the addition of Maderno’s nave and facade and finally re-consecrated by Pope Urban VIII on November 18, 1626, after 150 years of planning and building. Bernini’s design of the Piazza San Pietro in front of the Basilica is one of his most innovative and successful architectural designs. Within the basilica he is also responsible for the Baldacchino, the decoration of the four piers under the cupola, the Cathedra Petri (Throne of St. Peter) in the apse, the chapel of the Blessed Sacrament in the right nave, and the decoration (floor, walls and arches) of the new nave.

During his long career, Bernini received numerous important commissions, many of which were associated with the papacy. At an early age, he came to the attention of the papal nephewCardinal Scipione Borghese, and in 1621, at the age of only twenty-three, he was knighted by Pope Gregory XV. Following his accession to the papacy, Urban VIII is reported to have said, “It is a great fortune for you, O Cavaliere, to see Cardinal Maffeo Barberini made pope, but our fortune is even greater to have Cavalier Bernini alive in our pontificate.” Although he did not fare so well during the reign of Innocent X, under Alexander VII, he once again regained pre-eminent artistic domination and continued to be held in high regard by Clement IX.

Bernini and other artists fell from favour in later neoclassical criticism of the Baroque. It is only from the late nineteenth century that art historical scholarship, in seeking an understanding of artistic output in the cultural context in which it was produced, has come to recognise Bernini’s achievements and restore his artistic reputation. The art historian Howard Hibbard concludes that, during the seventeenth century, “there were no sculptors or architects comparable to Bernini”.

Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord

Luke 24: 46-53

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘You see how it is written that the Christ would suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that, in his name, repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses to this.

‘And now I am sending down to you what the Father has promised. Stay in the city then, until you are clothed with the power from on high.’

Then he took them out as far as the outskirts of Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. Now as he blessed them, he withdrew from them and was carried up to heaven. They worshipped him and then went back to Jerusalem full of joy; and they were continually in the Temple praising God.

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: The Ascension by Rembrandt, Part of Rembrandt’s Passion Cycle for Frederick Henry, Prince of Orange. Painted 1636, oil on canvas, 93cm x 69cm. It is currently located at Alte Pinakothek, Munich, Germany.

Rembrandt received a commission from the court in about 1628 through Constantijn Huygens, secretary to the Prince of Orange, for five paintings of the Passion of Christ. The series started with the Raising of the Cross and Descent from the Cross. He was hired to create small versions of Rubens famous altarpieces in Antwerp, the Raising of the Cross and the Descent from the Cross. Huygens asked Rembrandt to produce paintings less than one-twenty-fifth the size of the Rubenses. It must also have been agreed between Huygens and Rembrandt that the artist would inset himself into the composition of the Descent from the Cross as one of the followers of Christ who eased the body to the ground.

The two paintings, finished in 1633 are plainly modelled on Rubens’s versions of those subjects. When they were delivered in 1633, a new commission followed, for three more paintings of scenes from the Passion of Christ, The Entombment, The Resurrection and The Ascension. The first to be delivered, early in 1636, was The Ascension, the last in iconographic order. If in the Raising and Descent Rembrandt had vied with Rubens, in the Ascension he had moved back in time to the Venetian master Titian. In a composition based on one of Titian’s most famous works, the Assumption of the Virgin in the Church of Frari in Venice, Rembrandt created an image of earth, sky, and heaven, with mortals taking leave of a divine creature being raised by angels to the Godhead itself.

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, 15 July 1606 – 4 October 1669, was a Dutch painter and etcher. He is generally considered one of the greatest painters and printmakers in European art and the most important in Dutch history. His contributions to art came in a period of great wealth and cultural achievement that historians call the Dutch Golden Age when Dutch Golden Age painting, although in many ways antithetical to the Baroque style that dominated Europe, was extremely prolific and innovative, and gave rise to important new genres in painting.

Having achieved youthful success as a portrait painter, Rembrandt’s later years were marked by personal tragedy and financial hardships. Yet his etchings and paintings were popular throughout his lifetime, his reputation as an artist remained high, and for twenty years he taught many important Dutch painters. Rembrandt’s greatest creative triumphs are exemplified especially in his portraits of his contemporaries, self-portraits and illustrations of scenes from the Bible. His self-portraits form a unique and intimate biography, in which the artist surveyed himself without vanity and with the utmost sincerity.

In his paintings and prints he exhibited knowledge of classical iconography, which he molded to fit the requirements of his own experience; thus, the depiction of a biblical scene was informed by Rembrandt’s knowledge of the specific text, his assimilation of classical composition, and his observations of Amsterdam‘s Jewish population. Because of his empathy for the human condition, he has been called “one of the great prophets of civilization.”

Solemnity of Pentecost Sunday

John 20:19-23

In the evening of the first day of the week, the doors were closed in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood among them. He said to them, ‘Peace be with you’, and showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord, and he said to them again, ‘Peace be with you.

‘As the Father sent me, so am I sending you.’

After saying this he breathed on them and said:

‘Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven: for those whose sins you retain, they are retained.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: Pentecost by Jean II Restout , painted 1732, oil on canvas. The painting is 465 x 778cm and is located in the Musée du Louvre, Paris.

Jean Restout came of a family of painters and did many religious and mythological pictures, and worked for a time for Frederick the Great. This enormous canvas, a masterpiece of 18th-century religious painting, once adorned the refectory (dining room) of the Abbey of Saint-Denis outside Paris. With its exaggerated view from below and the extreme perspective of the rows of columns to the left and right, the work is reminiscent of Baroque ceiling paintings.

Jean II Restout (26 March 1692 – 1 January 1768) was a French painter, whose late baroque classicism rendered his altarpieces, such as the Death of Saint Scholastica an “isolated achievement” that ran counter to his rococo contemporaries.

Jean Restout was born in Rouen, the son of Jean I Restout and Marie M. Jouvenet, sister and pupil of the then well-known painter Jean Jouvenet.

In 1717, the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture having elected him a member on his work for the Prix de Rome, he remained in Paris, instead of proceeding to Italy, exhibited at all the salons, and filled successively every post of academical distinction. His works, chiefly altar-pieces (Louvre Museum), ceilings and designs for Gobelin tapestries, were engraved by Charles-Nicolas CochinDrevet and others.

His son, Jean-Bernard Restout (1732–1797), won the Prix de Rome in 1758, and on his return from Italy was received into the Academy; but his refusal to comply with rules led to a quarrel with that body. Roland appointed him keeper of the Garde Meuble, but this piece of favour nearly cost him his life during the Terror.

 

Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

John 16:12-15

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘I still have many things to say to you but they would be too much for you now. But when the Spirit of truth comes he will lead you to the complete truth, since he will not be speaking as from himself but will say only what he has learnt; and he will tell you of the things to come. He will glorify me, since all he tells you will be taken from what is mine.

Everything the Father has is mine; that is why I said: All he tells you will be taken from what is mine.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: Pope St Clement Adoring the Trinity painted by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, between 1737 & 1738. Oil on canvas, 488 x 256 cm, it resides at the Alte Pinakothek, Munich.

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, born 5 March 1696, was an Italian painter and printmaker from the Republic of Venice. He was prolific, and worked not only in Italy, but also in Germany and Spain.

Giovan Battista Tiepolo, together with Giambattista PittoniCanalettoGiovan Battista PiazzettaGiuseppe Maria Crespi and Francesco Guardi forms the traditional great Old Masters of that period.

Successful from the beginning of his career, he has been described by Michael Levey as “the greatest decorative painter of eighteenth-century Europe, as well as its most able craftsman.”

Born in Venice, he was the youngest of six children of Domenico and Orsetta Tiepolo. In 1710 he became a pupil of Gregorio Lazzarini, a successful painter with an eclectic style. He was, though, at least equally strongly influenced by his study of the works of other contemporary artists such as Sebastiano Ricci and Giovanni Battista Piazzetta and those of his Venetian predecessors.

Some major commissions came from the patrician Dolfin family. Dioniso Dolfin, the Archbishop of Udine in Friuli employed him to decorate a chapel in the cathedral at Udine, and then to paint another cycle depicting episodes from the lives of Abraham and his descendants from the book of Genesis at his archiepiscopal palace (the “Arcivescovado”) (completed 1726–1728). Despite their elevated subject matter, they are bright in colour, and light-hearted in mood: Michael Levey describes the paintings at the palace as “a shimmering set of tableaux, full of wit and elegance.  Tiepolo used a much cooler palette than previous Venetian painters, in order to create a convincing effect of daylight. His first masterpieces in Venice were a cycle of ten enormous canvases painted to decorate a large reception room of Ca’ Dolfin on the Grand Canal of Venice (ca. 1726–1729), depicting battles and triumphs from the history of ancient Rome.

These early masterpieces, innovative amongst Venetian frescoes for their luminosity, brought him many commissions. He painted canvases for churches such as that of Verolanuova (1735–1740), for the Scuola dei Carmini (1740–1747), and the Chiesa degli Scalzi (1743–1744; now destroyed) in Cannaregio, a ceiling for the Palazzi Archinto and Casati-Dugnani in Milan (1731), the Colleoni Chapel in Bergamo (1732–1733), a ceiling for the Gesuati (Santa Maria del Rosario) in Venice of St. Dominic Instituting the Rosary (1737–1739), Palazzo Clerici, Milan (1740), decorations for Villa Cordellini at Montecchio Maggiore (1743–1744) and for the ballroom of the Palazzo Labia in Venice (now a television studio), showing the Story of Cleopatra (1745–1750).

By 1750, Tiepolo’s reputation was firmly established throughout Europe.

Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi)

Luke 9:11-17

Jesus made the crowds welcome and talked to them about the kingdom of God; and he cured those who were in need of healing.

It was late afternoon when the Twelve came to him and said, ‘Send the people away, and they can go to the villages and farms round about to find lodging and food; for we are in a lonely place here.’ He replied, ‘Give them something to eat yourselves.’ But they said, ‘We have no more than five loaves and two fish, unless we are to go ourselves and buy food for all these people.’ For there were about five thousand men. But he said to his disciples, ‘Get them to sit down in parties of  about fifty.’ They did so and made them all sit down. Then he took the five loaves and the two fish, raised his eyes to heaven, and said the blessing over them; then he broke them and handed them to his disciples to distribute among the crowd. They all ate as much as they wanted, and when the scraps remaining were collected they filled twelve baskets.            

The Gospel of the Lord.

 Picture: Jesus feeding a crowd with 5 loaves of bread and two fish by Bernardo Strozzi. Painted early 1600s, oil on canvas, located in the Pushkin Museum, Moscow, Russia.

Bernardo Strozzi (c. 1581 – August 2, 1644) was a prominent and prolific Italian Baroque painter born and active mainly in Genoa, and also active in Venice.

Strozzi was born in Genoa. He was probably not related to the Florentine Strozzi family.

In 1598, at the age of 17, he joined a Capuchin monastery, a reform branch of the Franciscan order. When his father died c. 1608, he left the order to care for his mother, earning their living with his paintings, which were often influenced by Franciscan teachings, for example his Adoration of the Shepherds (c. 1615). In 1625, he was charged with illegally practicing as a painter. When his mother died c. 1630, Bernardo was pressured in court by the Capuchins to re-enter the order. He was briefly imprisoned in Genoa, and upon release fled to Venice to avoid confinement in a monastery in 1631. He became nicknamed all his life as il prete Genovese (the Genoa priest).

Early paintings, such as The Ecstasy of St Francis show the dark emotionalism of Caravaggio. But by the second decade of the 17th century, while working in Venice, Strozzi had synthesized a personal style which fused painterly influences of the North (including Rubensand Veronese) with a monumental, realistic starkness. For example, in the painting The Incredulity of Thomas, the background is muted, yet Jesus’ face, haloed and his outline, misty, in a style atypical of Caravaggio. Never as dark as the Caravaggisti, Venice infused his painting with a gentler edge, a style more acceptable to the local patronage, and one derived from his precursors in Venice, Jan Lys (died 1629) and Domenico Fetti (died 1626), who had also fused the influence of Caravaggio into Venetian art. Examples of this style can be found in his Parable of the Wedding Guests (1630),Christ’s Charge to St. Peter (1630), Saint Lawrence distributing Alms at San Nicolò da Tolentino, and a Personification of Fame(1635-6). He was also likely influenced by Velázquez (who visited Genoa in 1629-30).

 After a commission to paint Claudio Monteverdi his fame grew, and his portrait paintings included many of the leading Venetians. His pupils and other painters strongly influenced by him included Giovanni Andrea de Ferrari (1598–1669), Giovanni Bernardo Carbone, Valerio Castello, Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione, and Ermanno Stroifti.

Luke 7:11-17

Jesus went to a town called Nain, accompanied by his disciples and a great number of people. When he was near the gate of the town it happened that a dead man was being carried out for burial, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a considerable number of the townspeople were with her. When the Lord saw her he felt sorry for her. ‘Do not cry,’ he said. Then he went up and put his hand on the bier and the bearers stood still, and he said, ‘Young man, I tell you to get up.’ And the dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Everyone was filled with awe and praised God saying, ‘A great prophet has appeared among us; God has visited his people.’ And this opinion of him spread throughout Judaea and all over the countryside. 

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: Resurrection of the Widow’s son from Nain, altar panel by Lucas Cranach the Younger, painted 1569, now located in the Stadtkirche, Wittenberg, Germany.

Lucas Cranach the Younger (4 October 1515 – 25 January 1586) was a German Renaissance painter and portraitist, also known as the son of Lucas Cranach the Elder.

Lucas Cranach the Younger was born in Wittenberg on 4 October 1515 as the youngest son of Lucas Cranach the Elder and Barbara Brengebier. He began his career as an apprentice in his father’s workshop alongside his brother Hans. Henceforth, his own reputation and fame grew. After his father’s death, he assumed control over the workshop.

He is known for portraits and simple versions of allegorical and mythical scenes. The style of his paintings can be so similar to those of his father that there have been some difficulties in attribution of their works. Prominent scholars seem to, nowadays, tend toward the opinion of honest description of his talent as, stoic and undeveloped, at most.

His works include many religious paintings, which can be found across Germany and Russia. These include painting from the Old and New Testaments.

Luke 7:36 – 8:3

One of the Pharisees invited Jesus to a meal. When he arrived at the Pharisee’s house and took his place at table, a woman came in, who had a bad name in the town. She had heard he was dining with the Pharisee and had brought with her an alabaster jar of ointment. She waited behind him at his feet, weeping, and her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them away with her hair; then she covered his feet with kisses and anointed them with the ointment.

When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet, he would know who this woman is that is touching him and what a bad name she has.’ Then Jesus took him up and said, ‘Simon, I have something to say to you.’ ‘Speak, Master,’ was the reply. ‘There was once a creditor who had two men in his debt; one owed him five hundred denarii, the other fifty. They were unable to pay, so he pardoned them both. Which of them will love him more?’ ‘The one who was pardoned more, I suppose,’ answered Simon. Jesus said, ‘You are right.’

Then he turned to the woman. ‘Simon,’ he said, ‘you see this woman? I came into your house, and you poured no water over my feet, but she has poured out her tears over my feet and wiped them away with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but she has been covering my feet with kisses ever since I came in. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. For this reason I tell you that her sins, her many sins, must have been forgiven her, or she would not have shown such great love. It is the man who is forgiven little who shows little love.’ Then he said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’ Those who were with him at table began to say to themselves, ‘Who is this man, that he even forgives sins?’ But he said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace.’

Now after this he made his way through towns and villages, preaching, and proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom of God. With him went the Twelve, as well as certain women who had been cured of evil spirits and ailments: Mary surnamed the Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, Joanna the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, Susanna, and several others who provided for them out of their own resources. 

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: Mary Magdalene painted by Jan van Scorel (1495-1552). Oil on oak panel, dimensions 67cm x 76cm, dated 1530. The painting is located at the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

Jan van Scorel was a Dutch painter, who played a leading role in introducing aspects of Italian Renaissance painting into Dutch and Flemish Renaissance painting. Van Scorel was one of the early painters of the Romanist style who had spent a number of years in Italy, where he thoroughly absorbed the Italian style of painting. His trip to Italy coincided with the brief reign of the only Dutch pope in history, Adrian VI in 1522-23. The pope made him a court painter and superintendent of his collection of antiquities. His stay in Italy lasted from 1518 to 1524. He also visited NurembergVenice and Jerusalem. Venetian art had an important impact on the development of his style.

He differed from most Romanists in that he was a native of the northern Netherlands and not of Flanders and that he remained most of his life in the northern Netherlands. He settled permanently in Utrecht in 1530 and established a large workshop on the Italian model. The workshop mainly produced altarpieces, many of which were destroyed in the Reformation iconoclasm in the years just after his death. He also held clerical appointments.

Van Scorel began traveling through Europe in his early twenties after visiting Utrecht. In 1518-22 he is registered in Venice, and along the way, heading to Nuremberg and then on via Austria over the Alps. In the village of Obervellach in 1520, he completed his first representative work, the “Sippenaltar” in St. Martin’s church. Giorgione was a considerable influence on van Scorel during his tenure in Venice. After leaving Venice, van Scorel was in Rome from 1522 to 1524 and made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. His experiences in Jerusalem are depicted in many of his later works. Perhaps van Scorel’s example encouraged van Heemskerck to travel to Rome himself later.

In 1521, van Scorel returned to Rome where he met the Dutch pope Pope Adrian VI, who he may have met earlier in Utrecht. The pope appointed him painter to the Vatican. The pope sat for a portrait by van Scorel. Van Scorel underwent the influence of Michelangelo and Raphael and succeeded Raphael as Keeper of the Belvedere.

Luke 9: 18-24

One day when Jesus was praying alone in the presence of his disciples he put this question to them, ‘Who do the crowds say I am?’ And they answered, ‘John the Baptist; others Elijah; and others say one of the ancient prophets come back to life.’ ‘But you,’ he said, ‘who do you say I am?’ It was Peter who spoke up. ‘The Christ of God,’ he said. But he gave them strict orders not to tell anyone anything about this.

‘The Son of Man’, he said, ‘is destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes and to be put to death, and to be raised up on the third day.’

Then to all he said, ‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross every day and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, that man will save it.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: The Calling of Saints Peter is a painting by the Italian Baroque master Caravaggio. Oil on canvas, painted approx. 1603.

The painting shows a young, beardless Christ, leading the two much older-looking brothers, Peter and Andrew. The more prominent of the brothers, presumably Peter, is holding a fish in his right hand. The edge of the canvas is rather damaged, but the central panel is in good condition. The presence of “incisions” into the ground of the canvas marking out St. Peter’s ear and the eyes of Christ are typical of Caravaggio’s technique. The painting appears to date from the height of Caravaggio’s Roman period, c. 1603–06.

The work was purchased by Charles I, an avid art collector, in 1637. Sold during the Commonwealth, it was re-acquired by Charles II after the Restoration. It has since remained in royal possession, and is today owned by Queen Elizabeth II. Kept in Hampton Court Palace, it was long believed to be a virtually worthless copy of a lost original, but after six years of restoration and examination the Royal Collection declared on 10 November 2006, that this was, in fact, an authentic Caravaggio. The verdict has been corroborated by external experts, and the painting is now probably worth more than £50 million. The Queen, however, may not sell paintings from the Royal Collection as she holds the collection in trust for the nation.

After a 6-year cleaning project, it went on display as part of a small exhibition of Caravaggio paintings at the Termini Art Gallery in Rome‘s Termini Station from 22 November to 31 January 2006. It then moved to an exhibition (from March 2007) of Italian Baroque and Renaissance art at the Queen’s GalleryBuckingham Palace. In 2015 it was put on display in the Cumberland Gallery in Hampton Court Palace.

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (29 September 1571 in Milan – 18 July 1610) was an Italian painter active in RomeNaplesMalta, and Sicily between 1592 and 1610. His paintings, which combine a realistic observation of the human state, both physical and emotional, with a dramatic use of lighting, had a formative influence on Baroque painting.

Caravaggio trained as a painter in Milan under Simone Peterzano who had himself trained under Titian. In his twenties Caravaggio moved to Rome where there was a demand for paintings to fill the many huge new churches and palazzos being built at the time. It was also a period when the Church was searching for a stylistic alternative to Mannerism in religious art that was tasked to counter the threat of Protestantism. Caravaggio’s innovation was a radical naturalism that combined close physical observation with a dramatic, even theatrical, use of chiaroscuro which came to be known as tenebrism (the shift from light to dark with little intermediate value).

Luke 9: 51-62

As the time drew near for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely took the road for Jerusalem and sent messengers ahead of him. These set out, and they went into a Samaritan village to make preparations for him, but the people would not receive him because he was making for Jerusalem. Seeing this, the disciples James and John said, ‘Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to burn them up?’ But he turned and rebuked them, and they went off to another village.

As they travelled along they met a man on the road who said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ Jesus answered, ‘Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’

Another to whom he said, ‘Follow me,’ replied, ‘Let me go and bury my father first.’ But he answered, ‘Leave the dead to bury their dead; your duty is to go and spread the news of the kingdom of God.’

Another said, ‘I will follow you, sir, but first let me go and say good-bye to my people at home.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Once the hand is laid on the plough, no one who looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’

 The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: Road to Jerusalem painted by Frederic Edwin Church, 1870. Located at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas. Oil on Canvas.

Frederic Edwin Church (May 4, 1826 – April 7, 1900) was an American landscape painter born in Hartford, Connecticut. He was a central figure in the Hudson River School of American landscape painters, perhaps best known for painting large panoramic landscapes, often depicting mountains, waterfalls, and sunsets, but also sometimes depicting dramatic natural phenomena that he saw during his travels to the Arctic and Central and South America. Church’s paintings put an emphasis on light and a romantic respect for natural detail. In his later years, Church painted classical Mediterranean and Middle Eastern scenes and cityscapes.

Church, used extraordinary detail, romanticism, and luminism in his paintings. Romanticism was prominent in Britain and France in the early 1800s as a counter-movement to the Enlightenment virtues of order and logic. Artists of the Romantic period often depicted nature in idealized scenes that depicted the richness and beauty of nature, sometimes also with emphasis on the grand scale of nature.

This tradition carries on in the works of Frederic Church, who idealises an uninterrupted nature, highlighted by creating excruciatingly detailed art. The emphasis on nature is encouraged by the low horizontal lines, and preponderance of sky to enhance the wilderness; humanity, if it is represented, is depicted as small in comparison with the greater natural reality. The technical skill comes in the form of luminism, a Hudson River School innovation particularly present in Church’s works. Luminism is also cited as encompassing several technical aspects, which can be seen in Church’s works. One example is the attempt to “hide brushstrokes,” which makes the scene seem more realistic and lessen the artist’s presence in the work. Most importantly is the emphasis on light (hence luminism) in these scenes. The several sources of light create contrast in the pictures that highlights the beauty and detailed imagery in the painting.

Americans soon began to consider Church the “Michelangelo of Landscape Art” and he became one of the most renowned American artists. Part of Church’s appeal was the fact that he had resisted the American artist “norm” of the day by refusing to go to Europe, as most artists did to train, instead focusing his efforts and talents on South America. This was a conscious decision on Church’s part to gain notoriety. Church’s art was extremely lucrative, he was reported to be worth approximately half-a-million dollars at his death, about 12.5 million dollars today. Americans were enamored with Church’s all-American appeal and brilliant body of work. Church exhibited his art at the American Art Union, the Boston Art Club, and (most impressively for a young artist) the National Academy of Design. He joined his contemporaries in the Hudson River School: Thomas ColeAsher Brown DurandJohn F. Kensett, and Jasper F. Cropsey.

Luke 10: 1-12. 17-20

The Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them out ahead of him, in pairs, to all the towns and places he himself was to visit. He said to them, ‘The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest. Start off now, but remember, I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Carry no purse, no haversack, no sandals. Salute no one on the road. Whatever house you go into, let your first words be, “Peace to this house!” And if a man of peace lives there, your peace will go and rest on him; if not, it will come back to you. Stay in the same house, taking what food and drink they have to offer, for the labourer deserves his wages; do not move from house to house. Whenever you go into a town where they make you welcome, eat what is set before you. Cure those in it who are sick, and say, “The kingdom of God is very near to you.” But whenever you enter a town and they do not make you welcome, go out into its streets and say, “We wipe off the very dust of your town that clings to our feet, and leave it with you. Yet be sure of this: the kingdom of God is very near.” I tell you, on that day it will not go as hard with Sodom as with that town.’

The seventy-two came back rejoicing. ‘Lord,’ they said, ‘even the devils submit to us when we use your name.’ He said to them, ‘I watched Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Yes, I have given you power to tread underfoot serpents and scorpions and the whole strength of the enemy; nothing shall ever hurt you. Yet do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you; rejoice rather that your names are written in heaven.

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: Christ sends out the Apostles painted by Nicolas Poussin, 1636-1640. Oil on canvas, 96cm x 122cm, it is located in the Kimbell Art Museum, Texas.

Nicolas Poussin, June 1594 – 19 November 1665, was the leading painter of the classical French Baroque style, although he spent most of his working life in Rome. His work is characterised by clarity, logic, and order, and favours line over colour.

He worked in Rome for a circle of leading collectors from there and elsewhere, except for a short period when Cardinal Richelieu ordered him back to France to serve as First Painter to the King. Most of his works are history paintings of religious or mythological subjects that very often have a large landscape element.

During the late 1620s and 1630s, he experimented and formulated his own style. He studied the Antique as well as works such as Titian’s Bacchanals (The Bacchanal of the AndriansBacchus and Ariadne, and The Worship of Venus) at the Casino Ludovisi and the paintings of Domenichino and Guido Reni. At the same time, the Roman Baroque was emerging: in the 1620s Cortona was producing his early Baroque paintings for the Sacchetti family; Bernini, having established his reputation in sculpture, was designing the great bronze baldachin in St. Peter’s; and an ingenious architectural imagination was emerging in works by Borromini.

At the time the papacy was Rome’s foremost patron of the arts. Poussin’s Martyrdom of St. Erasmus for St. Peter’s was Poussin’s only papal commission, secured for him by Cardinal Barberini, the papal nephew, and Poussin was not asked again to contribute major altarpieces or paint large scale decorations for a pope. His subsequent career depended on private patronage. Apart from Cardinal Francesco Barberini, his first patrons included Cardinal Luigi Omodei, for whom he produced the Triumphs of Flora (c 1630–32, Louvre); Cardinal de Richelieu, who commissioned various Bacchanals; Vincenzo Giustiniani, for whom he painted the Massacre of the Innocents (uncertain early date, Museé Condé, Chantilly); Cassiano dal Pozzo who became the owner of the first series of the Seven Sacraments (late 1630s, Belvoir Castle); and Paul Fréart de Chantelou, with whom Poussin, at the call of Sublet de Noyers, returned to France in 1640.

Throughout his life Poussin stood apart from the popular tendency toward the decorative in French art of his time. In Poussin’s works a survival of the impulses of the Renaissance is coupled with conscious reference to the art of classical antiquity as the standard of excellence. His goal was clarity of expression achieved by disegno or ‘nobility of design’ in preference to colore or colour. Perhaps his concern with disegno can best be seen in the line engraved copies of his works; among the many who reproduced his paintings, some of the most successful are Audran, Claudine Stella, Picart and Pesne.

Poussin is an important figure in the development of landscape painting. In his early paintings the landscape usually forms a graceful background for a group of figures; later he progressed to the painting of landscape for its own sake, although the figure is never entirely absent.

Luke 10: 25-37

There was a lawyer who, to disconcert Jesus, stood up and said to him, ‘Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ He said to him, ‘What is written in the Law? What do you read there?’ He replied, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.’ ‘You have answered right,’ said Jesus. ‘Do this and life is yours.’

But the man was anxious to justify himself and said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbour?’ Jesus replied, ‘A man was once on his way down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell into the hands of brigands; they took all he had, beat him and then made off, leaving him half dead. Now a priest happened to be travelling down the same road, but when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. In the same way a Levite who came to the place saw him, and passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan traveller who came upon him was moved with compassion when he saw him. He went up and bandaged his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them. He then lifted him on to his own mount, carried him to the inn and looked after him. Next day, he took out two denarii and handed them to the innkeeper. “Look after him,” he said, “and on my way back I will make good any extra expense you have.” Which of these three, do you think, proved himself a neighbour to the man who fell into the brigands’ hands?’ ‘The one who took pity on him,’ he replied. Jesus said to him, ‘Go, and do the same yourself. ‘

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: The Good Samaritan, painted by Rembrandt, 1633. Oil on canvas, 69cm x 58cm, located in the Wallace Collection, National Museum, London.

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, 15 July 1606 – 4 October 1669, was a Dutch painter and etcher. He is generally considered one of the greatest painters and printmakers in European art and the most important in Dutch history. His contributions to art came in a period of great wealth and cultural achievement that historians call the Dutch Golden Age when Dutch Golden Age painting, although in many ways antithetical to the Baroque style that dominated Europe, was extremely prolific and innovative, and gave rise to important new genres in painting.

Having achieved youthful success as a portrait painter, Rembrandt’s later years were marked by personal tragedy and financial hardships. Yet his etchings and paintings were popular throughout his lifetime, his reputation as an artist remained high, and for twenty years he taught many important Dutch painters.Rembrandt’s greatest creative triumphs are exemplified most notably in his portraits of his contemporaries, self-portraits and illustrations of scenes from the Bible. His self-portraits form a unique and intimate biography, in which the artist surveyed himself without vanity and with the utmost sincerity.

In his paintings and prints he exhibited knowledge of classical iconography, which he molded to fit the requirements of his own experience; thus, the depiction of a biblical scene was informed by Rembrandt’s knowledge of the specific text, his assimilation of classical composition, and his observations of Amsterdam‘s Jewish population. Because of his empathy for the human condition, he has been called “one of the great prophets of civilization.”

During his early years in Amsterdam (1632–1636), Rembrandt began to paint dramatic biblical and mythological scenes in high contrast and of large format, seeking to emulate the baroque style of Rubens. With the occasional help of assistants in Uylenburgh’s workshop, he painted numerous portrait commissions both small and large.

By the late 1630s Rembrandt had produced a few paintings and many etchings of landscapes. Often these landscapes highlighted natural drama, featuring uprooted trees and ominous skies. From 1640 his work became less exuberant and more sober in tone, possibly reflecting personal tragedy. Biblical scenes were now derived more often from the New Testament than the Old Testament, as had been the case before.

Luke 10: 38-42

Jesus came to a village, and a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. She had a sister called Mary, who sat down at the Lord’s feet and listened to him speaking. Now Martha who was distracted with all the serving said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister is leaving me to do the serving all by myself? Please tell her to help me.’ But the Lord answered: ‘Martha, Martha,’ he said, ‘you worry and fret about so many things, and yet few are needed, indeed only one. It is Mary who has chosen the better part; it is not to be taken from her.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: Christ with Mary and Martha, painted by Tintoretto. Painted mid 16th century, oil on canvas, 197cm x 129cm, it is located in the Alte Pinakothek, Munich.

Tintoretto, born Jacopo Comin in late September, 1518 – May 31, 1594, was an Italian painter and a notable exponent of the Renaissance school. For his phenomenal energy in painting he was termed Il Furioso. His work is characterised by its figures, dramatic gestures, and bold use of perspective in the Mannerist style, while maintaining colour and light typical of the Venetian School.

He studied from models of Michelangelo’s Dawn, Noon, Twilight and Night, and became expert in modelling in wax and clay method (practised likewise by Titian) which afterwards stood him in good stead in working out the arrangement of his pictures.

Between 1565 and 1567, and again from 1575 to 1588, Tintoretto produced a large number of paintings for the walls and ceilings of the Scuola Grande di San Rocco. The building, begun in 1525, was very deficient in light and thus ill-suited for any great scheme of pictorial adornment. The painting of its interior was commenced in 1560.

In that year five principal painters, including Tintoretto and Paolo Veronese, were invited to send in trial-designs for the centre-piece in the smaller hall named Sala dell’Albergo, the subject being S. Rocco received into Heaven. Tintoretto produced not a sketch but a picture, and got it inserted into its oval. The competitors remonstrated, not unnaturally; but the artist, who knew how to play his own game, made a free gift of the picture to the saint, and, as a bylaw of the foundation prohibited the rejection of any gift, it was retained in situ, Tintoretto furnishing gratis the other decorations of the same ceiling.

The crowning production of Tintoretto’s life, the last picture of any considerable importance which he executed, was the vast Paradise, in size 23 x 9 metres, reputed to be the largest painting ever done upon canvas.

Luke 11: 1-13

Once Jesus was in a certain place praying, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.’ He said to them, ‘Say this when you pray:

“Father, may your name be held holy, your kingdom come; give us each day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins,   for we ourselves forgive each one who is in debt to us. And do not put us to the test.” ‘

He also said to them, ‘Suppose one of you has a friend and goes to him in the middle of the night to say, “My friend, lend me three loaves, because a friend of mine on his travels has just arrived at my house and I have nothing to offer him”; and the man answers from inside the house, “Do not bother me. The door is bolted now, and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up to give it to you.” I tell you, if the man does not get up and give it him for friendship’s sake, persistence will be enough to make him get up and give his friend all he wants.

‘So I say to you: Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you. For the one who asks always receives; the one who searches always finds; the one who knocks will always have the door opened to him. What father among you would hand his son a stone when he asked for bread? Or hand him a snake instead of a fish? Or hand him a scorpion if he asked for an egg? If you then, who are evil, know how to give your children what is good, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!       

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: The parable of the friend at night by William Holman Hunt in 1895. Oil on canvas, 37cm x 52cm, it is located at the National Museum of Victoria, Australia.

William Holman Hunt (2 April 1827 – 7 September 1910) was an English painter and one of the founders of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. His paintings were notable for their great attention to detail, vivid colour, and elaborate symbolism. These features were influenced by the writings of John Ruskin and Thomas Carlyle, according to whom the world itself should be read as a system of visual signs. For Hunt it was the duty of the artist to reveal the correspondence between sign and fact. Of all the members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, Hunt remained most true to their ideals throughout his career. He was always keen to maximize the popular appeal and public visibility of his works.

After eventually entering the Royal Academy art schools, having initially been rejected, Hunt rebelled against the influence of its founder Sir Joshua Reynolds. He formed the Pre-Raphaelite movement in 1848, after meeting the poet and artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Along with John Everett Millais they sought to revitalise art by emphasising the detailed observation of the natural world in a spirit of quasi-religious devotion to truth. This religious approach was influenced by the spiritual qualities of medieval art, in opposition to the alleged rationalism of the Renaissance embodied by Raphael.

Hunt’s works were not initially successful, and were widely attacked in the art press for their alleged clumsiness and ugliness. He achieved some early note for his intensely naturalistic scenes of modern rural and urban life, such as The Hireling Shepherd and The Awakening Conscience. However, it was with his religious paintings that he became famous, initially The Light of the World (1851–1853), now in the chapel at Keble College, Oxford; a later version (1900) toured the world and now has its home in St Paul’s Cathedral.

In the mid-1850s Hunt travelled to the Holy Land in search of accurate topographical and ethnographical material for further religious works, and to “use my powers to make more tangible Jesus Christ’s history and teaching”; there he painted The ScapegoatThe Finding of the Saviour in the Temple and The Shadow of Death, along with many landscapes of the region. He eventually built his own house in Jerusalem.

Luke 12: 13-21

A man in the crowd said to Jesus, ‘Master, tell my brother to give me a share of our inheritance.’ ‘My friend,’ he replied, ‘who appointed me your judge, or the arbitrator of your claims?’ Then he said to them, ‘Watch, and be on your guard against avarice of any kind, for a man’s life is not made secure by what he owns, even when he has more than he needs.’

Then he told them a parable: ‘There was once a rich man who, having had a good harvest from his land, thought to himself, “What am I to do? I have not enough room to store my crops.” Then he said, “This is what I will do; I will pull down my barns and build bigger ones, and store all my grain and my goods in them, and I will say to my soul: My soul, you have plenty of good things laid by for many years to come; take things easy, eat, drink, have a good time.” But God said to him, “Fool! This very night the demand will be made for your soul; and this hoard of yours, whose will it be then?” So it is when a man stores up treasure for himself in place of making himself rich in the sight of God.’        

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: The parable of the rich fool painted by Rembrandt van Rijn, 1627. Oil on oak panel, 32cm x 43cm, it is located at the Gemäldegalerie, Berlin.

Rembrandt illustrates the parable of the rich fool, as told in Luke 12. At night a rich man studies one of his golden coins. In the early 17th century a stack of books was often used as a symbol of vanity. The Hebrew letters suggest a biblical setting. Having achieved youthful success as a painter, painting ‘the parable of the rich fool’ when only 21. Rembrandt, born in Leiden on July 15, 1606, was the son of a miller. Despite the fact that he came from a family of relatively modest means, his parents took great care with his education. Rembrandt began his studies at the Latin School, and at the age of 14 he was enrolled at the University of Leiden. The program did not interest him, and he soon left to study art – first with a local master, Jacob van Swanenburch, and then, in Amsterdam, with Pieter Lastman, known for his historical paintings. After six months, having mastered everything he had been taught, Rembrandt returned to Leiden, where he was soon so highly regarded that although barely 22 years old, he took his first pupils. One of his students was the famous artist Gerrit Dou.

Rembrandt moved to Amsterdam in 1631; his marriage in 1634 to Saskia van Uylenburgh, the cousin of a successful art dealer, enhanced his career, bringing him in contact with wealthy patrons who eagerly commissioned portraits. An exceptionally fine example from this period is the Portrait of Nicolaes Ruts (1631, Frick Collection, New York City). In addition, Rembrandt’s mythological and religious works were much in demand, and he painted numerous dramatic masterpieces such as The Blinding of Samson (1636, Städelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt). Because of his renown as a teacher, his studio was filled with pupils, some of whom (such as Carel Fabritius) were already trained artists. In the 20th century, scholars have reattributed a number of his paintings to his associates; attributing and identifying Rembrandt’s works is an active area of art scholarship.

Rembrandt produced many of his works in this fashionable town house in Amsterdam (above left). Purchased by the artist in 1639, when he was 33, it proved to be the scene of personal tragedy: his wife and three of his children died here. The house became a financial burden, and in 1660 Rembrandt was forced to move. A new owner added the upper story and roof, giving it the appearance it still bears. In 1911 the Dutch movement made it a Rembrandt museum -preserving it both as a shrine of a revered national artist and as an imposing example of 17th Century Dutch architecture.

 

Luke 12: 32-48

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘There is no need to be afraid, little flock, for it has pleased your Father to give you the kingdom.

‘Sell your possessions and give alms. Get yourselves purses that do not wear out, treasure that will not fail you, in heaven where no thief can reach it and no moth destroy it. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

‘See that you are dressed for action and have your lamps lit. Be like men waiting for their master to return from the wedding feast, ready to open the door as soon as he comes and knocks. Happy those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. I tell you solemnly, he will put on an apron, sit them down at table and wait on them. It may be in the second watch he comes, or in the third, but happy those servants if he finds them ready. You may be quite sure of this, that if the householder had known at what hour the burglar would come, he would not have let anyone break through the wall of his house. You too must stand ready, because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.’

Peter said, ‘Lord, do you mean this parable for us, or for everyone?’ The Lord replied, ‘What sort of steward, then, is faithful and wise enough for the master to place him over his household to give them their allowance of food at the proper time? Happy that servant if his master’s arrival finds him at this employment. I tell you truly, he will place him over everything he owns. But as for the servant who says to himself, “My master is taking his time coming”, and sets about beating the menservants and the maids, and eating and drinking and getting drunk, his master will come on a day he does not expect and at an hour he does not know. The master will cut him off and send him to the same fate as the unfaithful.

‘The servant who knows what his master wants, but has not even started to carry out those wishes, will receive very many strokes of the lash. The one who did not know, but deserves to be beaten for what he has done, will receive fewer strokes. When a man has had a great deal given him, a great deal will be demanded of him; when a man has had a great deal given him on trust, even more will be expected of him.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

Painting: St. Luke, oil on canvas, was painted 1652-53 by Guercino, and is now located at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City. 

Giovanni Francesco Barbieri (February 8, 1591 – December 22, 1666), best known as Guercino, was an Italian Baroque painter and draftsman from the region of Emilia, and active in Rome and Bologna. The vigorous naturalism of his early manner is in contrast to the classical equilibrium of his later works. His many drawings are noted for their luminosity and lively style.

He was born in Cento, a village between Bologna and Ferrara. At an early age he acquired the nickname Guercino (Italian for ‘squinter’) because he was cross-eyed. Mainly self-taught, at the age of 16, he worked as apprentice in the shop of Benedetto Gennari, a painter of the Bolognese School. By 1615, he moved to Bologna, where his work was praised by Ludovico Carracci. Guercino painted two large canvases, Elijah Fed by Ravens and Samson Seized by Philistines, for Cardinal Serra, a Papal Legate to Ferrara. These paintings have a stark naturalist Caravaggesque style, although it is unlikely that Guercino saw any of the Caravaggios first-hand.

The Arcadian Shepherds (Et in Arcadia ego) was painted in 1618 at the same time of The Flaying of Marsyas by Apollo in Palazzo Pitti. Its dramatic composition is typical of Guercino’s early works, which are often tumultuous. He often claimed that his early style was influenced by a canvas of Ludovico Carracci that he saw in the Capuchin church in Cento. Some of his later works are closer to the style of his contemporary Guido Reni, and are painted with more lightness and clearness.

He was recommended by Marchese Enzo Bentivoglio to the Bolognese Ludovisi Pope, Pope Gregory XV. The years he spent in Rome, 1621–23, were very productive. From this period are his frescoes Aurora at the casino of the Villa Ludovisi, the ceiling in San Crisogono (1622) of San Chrysogonus in Glory, the portrait of Pope Gregory XV (now in the Getty Museum, and The Burial of Saint Petronilla or St. Petronilla Altarpiece for the Vatican (now in the Museo Capitolini), which is considered his masterpiece.

After the death of Gregory XV, Guercino returned to his hometown. In 1626, he began his frescoes in the Duomo of Piacenza. The details of his career after 1629 are well documented in the account book, the Libro dei Conti di Casa Barbieri, that Guercino and his brother Paolo Antonio Barbieri kept updated, and which has been preserved. Between 1618 and 1631, Giovanni Battista Pasqualini produced 67 engravings that document the early production of Guercino, which is not included in the Libro dei Conti. In 1642, following the death of Guido Reni, Guercino moved his busy workshop to Bologna and become the city’s principal painter. In 1655, the Franciscan Order of Reggio paid him 300 ducats for the altarpiece of Saint Luke Displaying a Painting of the Madonna and Child (now in Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City). The Corsini also paid him 300 ducats for the Flagellation of Christ painted in 1657.

Guercino was remarkable for the extreme rapidity of his executions: he completed no fewer than 106 large altarpieces for churches, and his other paintings amount to about 144. He was also a prolific draftsman. His production includes many drawings, usually in ink, washed ink, or red chalk. Most of them were made as preparatory studies for his paintings, but he also drew landscapes, genre subjects, and caricatures for his own enjoyment. Guercino’s drawings are known for their fluent style in which “rapid, calligraphic pen strokes combined with dots, dashes, and parallel hatching lines describe the forms”.

Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Luke 1: 39-56

Mary set out and went as quickly as she could to a town in the hill country of Judah. She went into Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. Now as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. She gave a loud cry and said, ‘Of all women you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord? For the moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy. Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.’

And Mary said:

‘My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my spirit exults in God my saviour; because he has looked upon his lowly handmaid. Yes, from this day forward all generations will call me blessed, for the Almighty has done great things for me. Holy is his name, and his mercy reaches from age to age for those who fear him. He has shown the power of his arm, he has routed the proud of heart. He has pulled down princes from their thrones and exalted the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things, the rich sent empty away. He has come to the help of Israel his servant, mindful of his mercy – according to the promise he made to our ancestors – of his mercy to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’

Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then went back home.

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: The Blessed Virgin Mary painted by Murillo between 1655-1660. Oil on canvas, 56cm x 43cm, it is located at the Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg, Russia.

Today, Bartolomé Esteban Murillo is best known as the painter of sweetness and light, unlike his far darker, more serious contemporaries, Ribera, Zurbarán and Velázquez. Due to a less than flattering interpretation of his paintings, until recently Murillo had virtually disappeared from the art history books.

This disappearing act is all the more incredible given that in the 17th and 18th centuries, Murillo was one of the most famous artists in all of Europe, far more famous even than Velázquez. Murillo’s paintings were considered the triumph of the Spanish Baroque.

Although today Velázquez is cherished as the genius of the 17th century, in his own time Murillo’s paintings were far more widely known outside of Spain, and were considered so valuable that at one point the king actually forbade their export. The sweetness and easy accessibility of Murillo’s style was a welcome relief from the darkness and grave sobriety of artists like Zurbarán, and the inoffensive piety of Murillo’s paintings made them perfectly suited for Counter-Reformation tastes. The artist was a pious, deeply religious man, and almost the totality of Murillo’s oeuvre is religious in nature.

Murillo’s mature style evidences a syrupy sweetness most akin to the early pioneer of the Italian Baroque, Federico Barocci. By the 1650s, he had abandoned his early Caravaggesque chiaroscuro and the severity of Zurbarán in favor of unadulterated sentimentality.

It was Murillo’s trip to Madrid in 1658, however, that proved key in the evolution of the artist’s style: while at court, he had the chance to see paintings by Rubens and Italian Renaissance artists, which taught him to use warmer tones, richer colors, thicker brushstrokes and brilliant highlights.

Murillo’s style continued to evolve to the very end. In his last decade of life, Murillo took Rubens’s lesson even closer to heart: during this period, his brushwork became looser and more visible than ever before, sometimes even to the point that the canvases appear unfinished. Murillo also reduced his palette to the more sober hues of mauve, grey, brown, and carmine, making his late style more refined than in any previous period.

Murillo’s techniques were just as distinct from his Spanish contemporaries as his style. Murillo was unusual for a Spanish artist not only for his immediate and widespread fame, but for his prolific drawings. Although drawings abound for most of the top artists of the Baroque (with the notable exception of Caravaggio), very few drawings are known by the painters of the Spanish Baroque.

Murillo, on the other hand, drew prodigiously in preparation for his paintings, using his drawings to work out problems of composition, light and shade.

Luke 13: 22-30

Through towns and villages Jesus went teaching, making his way to Jerusalem. Someone said to him, ‘Sir, will there be only a few saved?’ He said to them, ‘Try your best to enter by the narrow door, because, I tell you, many will try to enter and will not succeed.

‘Once the master of the house has got up and locked the door, you may find yourself knocking on the door, saying, “Lord, open to us” but he will answer, “I do not know where you come from.” Then you will find yourself saying, “We once ate and drank in your company; you taught in our streets” but he will reply, “I do not know where you come from. Away from me, all you wicked men!”

‘Then there will be weeping and grinding of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves turned outside. And men from east and west, from north and south, will come to take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.

‘Yes, there are those now last who will be first, and those now first who will be last.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: St Luke painted by Raphael, oil on panel, was painted around 1510 and is located at Accademia di San Luca in Rome.

A Brief History of the Accademia di San Luca: during the 16th and 17th centuries countless artists were drawn to Rome from every part of the Italian peninsula and beyond the Alps to participate in the vast—and lucrative—papal and private building and decorative programs that were transforming the city. Others came to study and draw after antiquities and the works of modern masters. Once there, however, the artists found a city at once rich in artistic and professional opportunity and inhospitable to its most recent arrivals. With a fragmented workforce and scarce housing, it was difficult for younger practitioners to find teachers, lodging, or work. For mature artists who arrived in the Eternal City without secure patronage, it took considerable energy and determination to establish viable studios or workshops.

First mentioned in a brief from Pope Gregory XIII of 1577, a little over a decade after the conclusion of the last session of the Council of Trent, the Accademia di San Luca was intended to serve the educational, social, professional, and confraternal needs of the painters, sculptors, and architects of Rome. In reality, it took nearly two decades—as well as a move to a new church and a subsequent bull (1588) from Pope Sixtus V—for the Università dei Pittori (painters’ guild) to be dissolved and the Accademia to be established, calling its first meetings in 1593. Over the course of the next 40 years, the fledgling institution struggled to write and promulgate its statutes; to create and maintain an educational program; to find the means to support the rebuilding of the church of San Luca in the Imperial Forums; to refine the structure of its governance; and to provide the rights and services that its members required. The story of these events and transformations is not to be found in a single written source; rather, it has to be reconstructed from the fragmented documentation that has been recovered and rediscovered in the collections of the Accademia as well as in those of the Archivio di Stato di Roma, the Archivio Capitolino, and the Archivio Segreto of the Vatican, among other repositories. This task is undertaken in a related volume of essays by an international group of art historians, historians, and archivists, published by the National Gallery of Art: The Accademia Seminars: The Accademia di San Luca in Rome, c. 1590–1635.

Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino (April 6, 1483 – April 6, 1520), known as Raphael, Italian painter and architect of the High Renaissance. His work is admired for its clarity of form, ease of composition, and visual achievement of the Neoplatonic ideal of human grandeur. Together with Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, he forms the traditional trinity of great masters of that period.

Raphael was enormously productive, running an unusually large workshop and, despite his death at 37, leaving a large body of work. Many of his works are found in the Vatican Palace, where the frescoed Raphael Rooms were the central, and the largest, work of his career. The best known work is The School of Athens in the Vatican Stanza della Segnatura. After his early years in Rome much of his work was executed by his workshop from his drawings, with considerable loss of quality. He was extremely influential in his lifetime, though outside Rome his work was mostly known from his collaborative printmaking.

After his death, the influence of his great rival Michelangelo was more widespread until the 18th and 19th centuries, when Raphael’s more serene and harmonious qualities were again regarded as the highest models.

Luke 14: 1.7-14

On a Sabbath day Jesus had gone for a meal to the house of one of the leading Pharisees; and they watched him closely. He then told the guests a parable, because he had noticed how they picked the places of honour. He said this, ‘When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take your seat in the place of honour. A more distinguished person than you may have been invited, and the person who invited you both may come and say, “Give up your place to this man.” And then, to your embarrassment, you would have to go and take the lowest place. No; when you are a guest, make your way to the lowest place and sit there, so that, when your host comes, he may say, “My friend, move up higher.” In that way, everyone with you at the table will see you honoured. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the man who humbles himself will be exalted.’

Then he said to his host, ‘When you give a lunch or a dinner, do not ask your friends, brothers, relations or rich neighbours, for fear they repay your courtesy by inviting you in return. No; when you have a party, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; that they cannot pay you back means that you are fortunate, because repayment will be made to you when the virtuous rise again.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: The Wedding Feast painted by Tintoretto in 1561. Oil on canvas it is located at the Santa Maria della Salute, Venice.

Tintoretto (born Jacopo Comin, late September 1518 – May 31, 1594) was an Italian painter and a notable exponent of the Renaissance school. For his phenomenal energy in painting he was termed Il Furioso. His work is characterised by its muscular figures, dramatic gestures, and bold use of perspective in the Mannerist style, while maintaining color and light typical of the Venetian School.

In his youth, Tintoretto was also known as Jacopo Robusti as his father had defended the gates of Padua in a way that others called robust, against the imperial troops during the War of the League of Cambrai (1509–1516). 

Tintoretto’s art is characterised by daring inventiveness in both handling and composition. Most of his paintings are large-scale narratives on canvas, animated by dramatic lighting and gestures.

Tintoretto was deeply influenced by Titian; he wanted to combine Titian’s use of colour with the energised forms of Michelangelo. Tintoretto is usually described as a Mannerist, although his striving for effect is less in the cause of stylishness and more for the sake of narrative drama. He appears to have lived and worked for most of his life in Venice, only once being recorded on a visit outside of the city, to Mantua in 1580.

After Titian’s death Tintoretto, with Veronese, became one of the leading painters in the city, controlling a large workshop. He designed and worked on a number of commissions for the Doge’s Palace, and on an outstanding cycle of paintings for the Scuola di San Rocco, which are still in their original location.

Tintoretto painted this huge canvas for the refectory of the monastery of the Crociferi. The author may have portrayed his painter friends as the guests and their models as the women. His self-portrait appears in the first guest on the left, and at the hem of the robe he placed his signature and the date: 1561 – Jacomo Tentor. Note the play of perspective in the painting, which moves according to the angle from which it is viewed. The typical aspects of the master’s style are apparent: the light sources from within, the movement of the characters, the geometrical construction of the interior and the nobility of the scene as a whole.

Luke 14: 25-33

Great crowds accompanied Jesus on his way and he turned and spoke to them. ‘If any man comes to me without hating his father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters, yes and his own life too, he cannot be my disciple. Anyone who does not carry his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.

‘And indeed, which of you here, intending to build a tower, would not first sit down and work out the cost to see if he had enough to complete it? Otherwise, if he laid the foundation and then found himself unable to finish the work, the onlookers would all start making fun of him and saying, “Here is a man who started to build and was unable to finish.” Or again, what king marching to war against another king would not first sit down and consider whether with ten thousand men he could stand up to the other who advanced against him with twenty thousand? If not, then while the other king was still a long way off, he would send envoys to sue for peace. So in the same way, none of you can be my disciple unless he gives up all his possessions.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: Jesus teaching his disciples is a fresco by the Italian renaissance painter Masaccio, located in the Brancacci Chapel of the basilica of Santa Maria del Carmine, Florence, and completed by his senior collaborator, Masolino. Painted in the 1420s, it is widely considered among Masaccio’s best work, and a vital part of the development of renaissance art.

The Brancacci Chapel, in the basilica of Santa Maria del Carmine, was founded around 1366/7 by Piero di Piuvichese Brancacci. The chapel passed to Piero’s nephew, Felice Brancacci, who some time between 1423 and 1425 commissioned the painter Masolino to decorate the walls with a series of frescoes from the life of Saint Peter. Peter was the name-saint of the founder, and the patron saint of the Brancacci family, but the choice also reflected support for the Roman papacy during the Great Schism.

At some point Masolino was joined by another artist, the eighteen years younger Masaccio. Masolino eventually left, either for Hungary in 1425 or for Rome in 1427, leaving the completion of the chapel to Masaccio. In 1427 or 28, before the chapel was completed, Masaccio joined Masolino in Rome. Only in the 1480s was the work finished, by Filippino Lippi. This painting though, is considered Masaccio’s work entirely.

Over the centuries the frescoes were greatly altered and damaged. In 1746 the upper levels were painted over by the artist Vincenzo Meucci, covering up most of Masolino’s work. Then, in 1771, the church was ruined by fire. The Brancacci Chapel, though structurally undamaged by the fire, suffered great damages to its frescoes. It was not until the years 1981-1990 that a full-scale restoration of the chapel was undertaken, restoring the frescoes to approximately their original state. The paintings had suffered some irreparable damage though, particularly the parts that were painted a secco: in this painting, the leaves on the trees were gone, while Christ’s robe had lost much of its original azure brilliance.

Masaccio is often compared to contemporaries like Donatello and Brunelleschi as a pioneer of the renaissance, particularly for his use of single-point perspective. One technique that was unique to Masaccio, however, was the use of atmospheric, or aerial perspective. Both the mountains in the background, and the figure of Peter on the left are dimmer and paler than the objects in the foreground, creating an illusion of depth. This technique was known in ancient Rome, but was considered lost until reinvented by Masaccio.

Masaccio’s use of light was also revolutionary. While earlier artists like Giotto had applied a flat, neutral light from an unidentifiable source, Masaccio’s light emanated from a specific location outside the picture, casting the figures in light and shadow. This created achiaroscuro effect, sculpting the bodies into three-dimensional shapes.

Luke 15: 1-32

The tax collectors and the sinners were all seeking the company of Jesus to hear what he had to say, and the Pharisees and the scribes complained. ‘This man’ they said ‘welcomes sinners and eats with them.’ So he spoke this parable to them:

‘What man among you with a hundred sheep, losing one, would not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the missing one till he found it? And when he found it, would he not joyfully take it on his shoulders and then, when he got home, call together his friends and neighbours? “Rejoice with me,” he would say “I have found my sheep that was lost.” In the same way, I tell you, there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one repentant sinner than over ninety-nine virtuous men who have no need of repentance.

‘Or again, what woman with ten drachmas would not, if she lost one, light a lamp and sweep out the house and search thoroughly till she found it? And then, when she had found it, call together her friends and neighbours? “Rejoice with me,” she would say “I have found the drachma I lost.” In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing among the angels of God over one repentant sinner.’

He also said, ‘A man had two sons. The younger said to his father, “Father, let me have the share of the estate that would come to me.” So the father divided the property between them. A few days later, the younger son got together everything he had and left for a distant country where he squandered his money on a life of debauchery.

‘When he had spent it all, that country experienced a severe famine, and now he began to feel the pinch, so he hired himself out to one of the local inhabitants who put him on his farm to feed the pigs. And he would willingly have filled his belly with the husks the pigs were eating but no one offered him anything. Then he came to his senses and said, “How many of my father’s paid servants have more food than they want, and here am I dying of hunger! I will leave this place and go to my father and say: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as one of your paid servants.” So he left the place and went back to his father.

‘While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with pity. He ran to the boy, clasped him in his arms and kissed him tenderly. Then his son said, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son.” But the father said to his servants, “Quick! Bring out the best robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the calf we have been fattening, and kill it; we are going to have a feast, a celebration, because this son of mine was dead and has come back to life; he was lost and is found.” And they began to celebrate.

‘Now the elder son was out in the fields, and on his way back, as he drew near the house, he could hear music and dancing. Calling one of the servants he asked what it was all about. “Your brother has come” replied the servant, “and your father has killed the calf we had fattened because he has got him back safe and sound.” He was angry then and refused to go in, and his father came out to plead with him; but he answered his father, “Look, all these years I have slaved for you and never once disobeyed your orders, yet you never offered me so much as a kid for me to celebrate with my friends. But, for this son of yours, when he comes back after swallowing up your property – he and his women – you kill the calf we had been fattening.”

‘The father said, “My son, you are with me always and all I have is yours. But it was only right we should celebrate and rejoice, because your brother here was dead and has come to life; he was lost and is found.” ‘

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: Good Shepherd, is a painting by Jean Baptiste de Champaigne, painted approx. 1670 and is currently located at the Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille, France.

Jean Baptiste de Champaigne (10 December 1631 – 27 October 1681), was a Flemish Baroque painter and teacher.

According to the Netherlands Institute for Art History (RKD), he was the nephew of Philippe de Champaigne who moved to Paris to become his pupil in 1643. In 1658 he undertook a trip to Italy to copy the works of Raphael and Titian. When he returned he became a member of the Brussels Guild of Saint Luke, and in 1671 he accepted a post as teacher in the prestigious Académie de peinture et de sculpture in Paris.

Born in Brussels in 1631, Jean-Baptiste de Champaigne was the nephew of Philippe de Champaigne (1606-1674), and in 1642 went to Paris to be his uncle’s pupil and assistant. For about eighteen months in 1658-1659, he travelled in Italy, where he was especially attracted to the classicizing style of Raphael (1483-1520) and other painters in the classical tradition. In this spirit, he made a copy of Domenichino’s (1581-1641) Martyrdom of Saint Andrew for the Jansenist monastery of Port-Royal (now in Lyon Cathedral). On his return to Paris Jean-Baptiste assisted his uncle in major cycles of decoration, such as in the nuns’ refectory of the Val-de-Grâce, which included the Supper at Emmaus (Lyon Cathedral) and Israelites Gathering Manna (Paris, Saint Etienne du Mont), and at the château of Vincennes. But most of his decorative cycles have been destroyed or dispersed, so it is difficult to form a just picture of his career. While Jean-Baptiste’s art is deeply indebted to that of Philippe, he was also influenced by the more academic style of Charles Le Brun and other artists who worked for the Crown at Versailles. He was received into the Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture in 1663, on the presentation of Minerva Crowning Hercules. In 1666 he was put in charge of decorating the apartment of Louis de Bourbon, the grand dauphin, at the palace of the Tuileries; four panels devoted to The Education of Achilles survive (Paris, Musée du Louvre and Château of Maisons-Lafitte). The dramatic Stoning of Saint Paul at Lystra of 1667 (Marseille, Musée des Beaux-Arts) shows Jean-Baptiste’s monumental mature style, weightier and less naturalistic than his uncle’s. He was commissioned for numerous other royal and ecclesiastical schemes of decoration, including Louis XIV’s apartments at the Tuileries in 1671, the extant ceiling in the Salon de Mercure at Versailles in 1671, Queen Maria Theresa’s oratory at Versailles in 1680, and altarpieces for Parisian churches such as a Supper at Emmaus (c. 1662) and a Last Supper (both Nantes, Musée des Beaux-Arts) and a Presentation of the Virgin (Paris, Notre-Dame de la Bonne Nouvelle). Like his uncle, whose studio he continued after the elder artist’s death in 1674, he worked extensively for the Jansenist monastery of Port-Royal. The later works are austere and seem to look back to the mature work of Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665) in their classicism, as in The Last Supper of 1678 (Detroit Institute of Arts) and The Sermon on the Mount (c. 1667-1668, Dijon, Musée Magnin). Jean-Baptiste’s reputation has been overshadowed by that of his more celebrated uncle, but recent scholarship has begun a reassessment of the work of this artist, who was highly regarded in his own day.

Luke 16: 1-13

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘There was a rich man and he had a steward who was denounced to him for being wasteful with his property. He called for the man and said, “What is this I hear about you? Draw me up an account of your stewardship because you are not to be my steward any longer.” Then the steward said to himself, “Now that my master is taking the stewardship from me, what am I to do? Dig? I am not strong enough. Go begging? I should be too ashamed. Ah, I know what I will do to make sure that when I am dismissed from office there will be some to welcome me into their homes.”

‘Then he called his master’s debtors one by one. To the first he said, “How much do you owe my master?” “One hundred measures of oil,” was the reply. The steward said, “Here, take your bond; sit down straight away and write fifty.” To another he said, “And you, sir, how much do you owe?” “One hundred measures of wheat,” was the reply. The steward said, “Here, take your bond and write eighty.”

‘The master praised the dishonest steward for his astuteness. For the children of this world are more astute in dealing with their own kind than are the children of light.

‘And so I tell you this: use money, tainted as it is, to win you friends, and thus make sure that when it fails you, they will welcome you into the tents of eternity. The man who can be trusted in little things can be trusted in great; the man who is dishonest in little things will be dishonest in great. If then you cannot be trusted with money, that tainted thing, who will trust you with genuine riches? And if you cannot be trusted with what is not yours, who will give you what is your very own?

‘No servant can be the slave of two masters: he will either hate the first and love the second, or treat the first with respect and the second with scorn. You cannot be the slave both of God and of money.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: The Parable of the Unjust Steward is an etching by Jan Luyken. Jan Luyken (April 16, 1649 – April 5, 1712) was a Dutch poet, illustrator and engraver. He was born and died in Amsterdam, where he learned engraving from his father Kaspar Luyken. This picture is taken from Robert Bowyer’s illustrated Bible, which he begun in 1791 and finished in 1795, included 32 engravings by James Fittler in the manner of Old Master paintings. Bowyer also bought prints in France that he incorporated into a later edition known as “Bowyer’s Bible”.

He married at 19 and had several children, of who Kasparus Luiken also became a renowned engraver. In his twenty-sixth year, he had a religious experience that inspired him to write moralistic poetry. He illustrated the 1685 edition of the Martyrs Mirror with 104 copper etchings. Thirty of these plates survive and are part of The Mirror of the Martyrs exhibit. He also published Het Menselyk Bedryf (“The Book of Trades”) in 1694, which contains numerous engravings, by Luiken and his son Caspar (Caspaares), of 17th century trades.

Huysmans’ anti-hero Des Esseintes was an admirer of Luyken’s engravings and had prints from his Religious Persecutions hung in his drawing room. He described them as ‘appalling engravings containing all the tortures that the madness of religion could devise.’ Des Esseintes was enthralled not just by Luyken’s graphic depictions but his ability to reconstruct times and places in his works.

Luke 16: 19-31

Jesus said to the Pharisees: ‘There was a rich man who used to dress in purple and fine linen and feast magnificently every day. And at his gate there lay a poor man called Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to fill himself with the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Dogs even came and licked his sores. Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried.

‘In his torment in Hades he looked up and saw Abraham a long way off with Lazarus in his bosom. So he cried out, “Father Abraham, pity me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in agony in these flames.” “My son,” Abraham replied, “remember that during your life good things came your way, just as bad things came the way of Lazarus. Now he is being comforted here while you are in agony. But that is not all: between us and you a great gulf has been fixed, to stop anyone, if he wanted to, crossing from our side to yours, and to stop any crossing from your side to ours.”

‘The rich man replied, “Father, I beg you then to send Lazarus to my father’s house, since I have five brothers, to give them warning so that they do not come to this place of torment too.” “They have Moses and the prophets,” said Abraham, “let them listen to them.” “Ah no, father Abraham,” said the rich man, “but if someone comes to them from the dead, they will repent.” Then Abraham said to him, “If they will not listen either to Moses or to the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone should rise from the dead.” ‘

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: Illustration of Lazarus at the rich man’s gate by Fyodor Bronnikov, 1886. Fyodor Andreyevich Bronnikov (1827-1902) was a Russian-born history and genre painter who spent most of his life in Italy.

He displayed an early affinity for drawing and received his first art lessons from his father, who was a decorative painter. At the age of sixteen, when his father died, he packed his bags and went to Saint Petersburg, hoping to enter the Imperial Academy of Arts. After failing to gain admission, he became an apprentice in the workshop of Evstafy Bernardsky, a well known woodcutter. His talent drew the attention of the sculptor Pyotr Clodt, who arranged for him to audit classes at the Academy. In 1850, he was able to become a regular student, and worked with Alexey Markov. He graduated in 1853 and was awarded a stipend to study in Italy for his graduation painting, “The Mother of God”.

The following year, he settled in Rome and established his own studio on Via Vittoria, near the Villa Borghese. He painted a wide variety of canvases, including landscapes, village scenes, genre scenes, historical works and, of course, portraits of the city’s notable citizens. His health was poor, so he remained there after his stipend expired, to take advantage of the warm climate.

He paid a long visit home from 1863 to 1865. While there, the Academy awarded him a professorship in history painting for his depiction of Horace reading his satires to Gaius Maecenas. He also came into contact with a group of dissident artists who would later be known as the Peredvizhniki; which inspired him to paint a series of genre works on peasant life. Later, he became a member of the group and regularly sent paintings from Italy to show in their exhibitions. He was awarded the Order of St. Anna as well as being named an Academician and an honorary member of the Academy. During this period he created one of his best known works: “The Cursed Field” (1878), an indictment of slavery.

He died near Rome and was buried at the “Protestant Cemetery”. Despite having lived in Italy for most of his life, he left over 300 paintings and drawings and the equivalent of 400 Rubles to establish an art school in Shadrinsk. The school was not established until the Soviet period and the works were used as the basis for a museum.

Luke 17: 5-10

The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith.’ The Lord replied, ‘Were your faith the size of a mustard seed you could say to this mulberry tree, “Be uprooted and planted in the sea”, and it would obey you.

‘Which of you, with a servant ploughing or minding sheep, would say to him when he returned from the fields, “Come and have your meal immediately”? Would he not be more likely to say, “Get my supper laid; make yourself tidy and wait on me while I eat and drink. You can eat and drink yourself afterwards”? Must he be grateful to the servant for doing what he was told? So with you: when you have done all you have been told to do, say, “We are merely servants: we have done no more than our duty.”‘

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: Painting of Saint Thomas Aquinas, OP, an altarpiece in Ascoli Piceno, Italy, by Carlo Crivelli. Painted in 1476, it is 61cm x 40cm and resides at the National Gallery, London.

The prayer of thanksgiving after Communion by Thomas Aquinas includes a phrase similar to the last verse of this parable: “I thank You, O holy Lord, almighty Father, eternal God, who have deigned, not through any merits of mine, but out of the condenscension of Your goodness, to satisfy me a sinner, Your unworthy servant.”

Thomas Aquinas, O.P. (1225 – 1274), was an Italian Dominican friar, Catholic priest, and Doctor of the Church. He was an immensely influential philosopher, theologian, and jurist in the tradition of scholasticism, within which he is also known as the Doctor Angelicus and the Doctor Communis. The name Aquinas identifies his ancestral origins in the county of Aquino in present-day Lazio, where his family held land until 1137. He was the foremost classical proponent of natural theology and the father of Thomism. His influence on Western thought is considerable, and much of modern philosophy developed or opposed his ideas, particularly in the areas of ethics, natural law, metaphysics, and political theory. Unlike many currents in the Church of the time, Thomas embraced several ideas put forward by Aristotle—whom he called “the Philosopher”—and attempted to synthesize Aristotelian philosophy with the principles of Christianity.The works for which he is best known are the Summa Theologiae and the Summa contra Gentiles. His commentaries on Scriptureand on Aristotle form an important part of his body of work. Furthermore, Thomas is distinguished for his eucharistic hymns, which form a part of the Church’s liturgy.

The Catholic Church honours Thomas Aquinas as a saint and regards him as the model teacher for those studying for the priesthood, and indeed the highest expression of both natural reason and speculative theology. In modern times, under papal directives, the study of his works was long used as a core of the required program of study for those seeking ordination as priests or deacons, as well as for those in religious formation and for other students of the sacred disciplines (philosophy, Catholic theology, church history, liturgy, and canon law).

Thomas Aquinas is considered one of the Catholic Church’s greatest theologians and philosophers. Pope Benedict XV declared: “This (Dominican) Order … acquired new luster when the Church declared the teaching of Thomas to be her own and that Doctor, honoured with the special praises of the Pontiffs, the master and patron of Catholic schools.”

Luke 17: 11-19

On the way to Jerusalem Jesus travelled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered one of the villages, ten lepers came to meet him. They stood some way off and called to him, ‘Jesus! Master! Take pity on us.’ When he saw them he said, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ Now as they were going away they were cleansed. Finding himself cured, one of them turned back praising God at the top of his voice and threw himself at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. The man was a Samaritan. This made Jesus say, ‘Were not all ten made clean? The other nine, where are they? It seems that no one has come back to give praise to God, except this foreigner.’ And he said to the man, ‘Stand up and go on your way. Your faith has saved you.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: Healing of the ten lepers by Jacques Tissot, painted between 1886 and 1894. Opaque watercolour over graphite on gray wove paper, 16cm x 25cm. It is currently located in the Brooklyn Museum, North America.

Jacques Joseph Tissot (15 October 1836 – 8 August 1902), was a French painter and illustrator. He left Paris for London in 1871. He was a successful painter of Paris society before moving to London in 1871.

Paintings by Tissot appealed greatly to wealthy British industrialists during the second half of the 19th-century. During 1872 he earned 94,515 francs, an income normally only enjoyed by those in the echeleons of the upper classes.

In 1885, Tissot had a revival of his Catholic faith, which led him to spend the rest of his life making paintings about Biblical events. Many of his artist friends were skeptical about his conversion, as it conveniently coincided with the French Catholic revival, a reaction against the secular attitude of the French Third Republic. At a time when French artists were working in impressionismpointilism, and heavy oil washes, Tissot was moving toward realism in his watercolours. To assist in his completion of biblical illustrations, Tissot travelled to the Middle East in 1886, 1889, and 1896 to make studies of the landscape and people. His series of 365 gouache (opaque watercolour) illustrations showing the life of Christ were shown to critical acclaim and enthusiastic audiences in Paris (1894–5), London (1896) and New York (1898–9), before being bought by the Brooklyn Museum in 1900. During July 1894, Tissot was awarded the Légion d’honneur, France’s most prestigious medal. Tissot spent the last years of his life working on paintings of subjects from the Old Testament. Although he never completed the series, he exhibited 80 of these paintings in Paris in 1901 and engravings after them were published in 1904.

Luke 18: 1-8

Jesus told his disciples a parable about the need to pray continually and never lose heart. ‘There was a judge in a certain town’ he said ‘who had neither fear of God nor respect for man. In the same town there was a widow who kept on coming to him and saying, “I want justice from you against my enemy!” For a long time he refused, but at last he said to himself, “Maybe I have neither fear of God nor respect for man, but since she keeps pestering me I must give this widow her just rights, or she will persist in coming and worry me to death.” ‘

And the Lord said, ‘You notice what the unjust judge has to say? Now will not God see justice done to his chosen who cry to him day and night even when he delays to help them? I promise you, he will see justice done to them, and done speedily. But when the Son of Man comes, will he find any faith on earth?’

The Gospel of the Lord.

The Unjust Judge and the Importunate Widow published 1864 Sir John Everett Millais, Bt 1829-1896 Presented by Gilbert Dalziel 1924 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/A00795

Picture: Illustration of the Parable of the Unjust Judge from the New Testament Gospel of Luke by John Everett Millais for The Parables of Our Lord (1863). It is a wood engraving on paper, 14cm x 11cm and can be found in a collection at the Prints and Drawings Rooms, Tate Gallery, London.

Sir John Everett Millais, 1st Baronet, 8 June 1829 – 13 August 1896, was an English painter and illustrator who was one of the founders of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.

A child prodigy, at the age of eleven Millais became the youngest student to enter the Royal Academy Schools. The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was founded at his family home in London, at 83 Gower Street (now number 7). Millais became the most famous exponent of the style, his painting Christ in the House of His Parents (1850) generating considerable controversy. By the mid-1850s Millais was moving away from the Pre-Raphaelite style and developing a new and powerful form of realism in his art. His later works were enormously successful, making Millais one of the wealthiest artists of his day. While early 20th-century critics, reading art through the lens of Modernism, viewed much of his later production as wanting, this perspective has changed in recent decades, as his later works have come to be seen in the context of wider changes and advanced tendencies in the broader late-nineteenth-century art world.

Millais’s personal life has also played a significant role in his reputation. His wife Effie was formerly married to the critic John Ruskin, who had supported Millais’s early work. The annulment of the marriage and her wedding to Millais have sometimes been linked to his change of style, but she became a powerful promoter of his work and they worked in concert to secure commissions and expand their social and intellectual circles.

Luke 18: 9-14

Jesus spoke the following parable to some people who prided themselves on being virtuous and despised everyone else. ‘Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood there and said this prayer to himself, “I thank you, God, that I am not grasping, unjust, adulterous like the rest of mankind, and particularly that I am not like this tax collector here. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes on all I get.” The tax collector stood some distance away, not daring even to raise his eyes to heaven; but he beat his breast and said, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” This man, I tell you, went home again at rights with God; the other did not. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the man who humbles himself will be exalted.’            

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: The Pharisee and the Publican, baroque fresco in Ottobeuren Basilica by Austrian painter Johann Jakob Zeiller (8 July 1708 – 8 July 1783).

There are no doubts the Ottobeuren Abbey and, especially, Ottobeuren Basilica have some of the best Baroque and Rococo style interiors worldwide. A Benedictine abbey was founded here in 764 AD. The Abbey was founded by Blessed Toto and dedicated to two saints: Alexander of Rome (died as a martyr sometimes around 130 AD) and Theodor of Sion (first bishop of Valais, died around 400 AD). Ottobeuren Basilica is one of the highest achievements in Bavarian Baroque architecture – among a huge wealth of other beautiful buildings.

The first architect was Simpert Kramer. He planned to base the design of the new basilica on another great building – the Weingarten Basilica, built in Baroque style in 1724. Works proceeded slowly – in Kramer’s time was built the 12 metre deep fundament of the new church around the old church.

11 years later, in 1748 works were continued by Johann Michael Fischer (1692 – 1766), one of the best German Baroque architects. The structure was declared as basilica minor in 1926 by pope Pius XI.

Extensive repairs of the church were done in 1960 – 1964, further works were done in 2004 – 2010. While the building was designed in late Baroque style, interior was designed in the similar Rococo style and is one of best known examples of this style worldwide.

Interior has light colours, it is lavishly adorned with frescoes and other embellishments. The beautiful frescoes were painted by Austrian painters Johann Jakob Zeiller and Franz Anton Zeiller, with sculptures created by Johann Joseph Christian.

Luke 19: 1-10

Jesus entered Jericho and was going through the town when a man whose name was Zacchaeus made his appearance; he was one of the senior tax collectors and a wealthy man. He was anxious to see what kind of man Jesus was, but he was too short and could not see him for the crowd; so he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to catch a glimpse of Jesus who was to pass that way. When Jesus reached the spot he looked up and spoke to him: ‘Zacchaeus, come down. Hurry, because I must stay at your house today.’ And he hurried down and welcomed him joyfully. They all complained when they saw what was happening. ‘He has gone to stay at a sinner’s house,’ they said. But Zacchaeus stood his ground and said to the Lord, ‘Look, sir, I am going to give half my property to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody I will pay him back four times the amount.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because this man too is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek out and save what was lost.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: Christ and Zacchaeus, painted by Niels Larsen Stevns in 1913. The painting is located in the Randers Museum of Art, Randers, Denmark.

Niels Larsen Stevns (9 July 1864 – 27 September 1941) was a Danish painter and sculptor. He was originally educated as a journeyman painter but attended Kunstakademiet in the years 1886–1887 and 1892–1894. He assisted Joakim Skovgaard decorating the cathedral in Viborg in a simplified style, based on early Christian and Byzantine art.

Stevns was born in the village of Gevnø, ZealandDenmark, where his father was a clog maker and thatcher. It was a very humble and frugal family. Stevns developed at a young age, and maintained throughout his life, a fervent belief in God. Even as a boy, Stevns showed a talent for wood carving. He had the opportunity to develop this during a long illness at the age of twelve. This started his ideas to become an artist, gradually taking shape in the boy’s head. At the age of eighteen he took a handicraft course and won a prize in a local competition.

An adherent of N. F. S. Grundtvig, he painted religiously inspired paintings in a modernist style with a universally human message, e.g. Kristus og Zakæus (1913, Randers Museum of Art) above and the altarpiece Kristus og Nikodemus (1918) in Vrensted Church south-west of Hjørring.

Stevns belonged to the Fynbo School of artists. This generation gained their mainly picturesque ideas in the Zahrtmann school. Then through his longstanding cooperation with Joakim Skovgaard he supported what is known as the “Skovgaard tradition”, receiving a thorough training in monumental painting. He is represented at Skovgaard Museum, the National Gallery of DenmarkRanders Art MuseumSorø Art MuseumFuglsang Art MuseumMuseum Jorn, and Østsjællands Museum among others.

Stevns first left Denmark, briefly, for Sweden in 1895. Then he visited Italy and Germany in 1896; Italy again in 1900 and in 1904. In September 1922, Stevns married and the couple travelled to the South of France, where Stevns painted landscapes in Cagnes-sur-mer. He worked alongside Axel SaltoKarl LarsenSvend Johansen and Vilhelm Lundstrom. Stevns was fascinated by the strong southern light, which he perceived as God’s very presence in the world. He and his wife then travelled to Florence, staying in the “Villa Linda.” During the time he also travelled to Austria and Germany. These journeys lasted for eleven months, heralding a new phase of his career. A bolder colour vision and a free monumentality marked this period.

In 1928, through an expatriate Dane, Stevns received an order for an altarpiece in a parish in Cascallares,  Argentina. Although he did not himself travel there, he finally realised the dream of his youth, in painting such historical pictures. This commission was for a Danish youth school and the subject was Absalon, based on an earlier work in the Cistercian Sorø Abbey, in central Zealand. Stevns’ last recorded journey was to Sweden again, in 1934. 

Stevns was awarded the Thorvaldsen Medal in 1933.

Luke 20: 27-38

Some Sadducees – those who say that there is no resurrection – approached Jesus and they put this question to him, ‘Master, we have it from Moses in writing, that if a man’s married brother dies childless, the man must marry the widow to raise up children for his brother. Well, then, there were seven brothers. The first, having married a wife, died childless. The second and then the third married the widow. And the same with all seven, they died leaving no children. Finally the woman herself died. Now, at the resurrection, to which of them will she be wife since she had been married to all seven?’ Jesus replied, ‘The children of this world take wives and husbands, but those who are judged worthy of a place in the other world and in the resurrection from the dead do not marry because they can no longer die, for they are the same as the angels, and being children of the resurrection they are sons of God. And Moses himself implies that the dead rise again, in the passage about the bush where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. Now he is God, not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all men are in fact alive.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: The Holy Thorn Reliquary is a late 14th century reliquary created in Paris for John, Duke of Berry to house a relic of the Crown of Thorns. The Holy Thorn Reliquary has a detail of the Last Trumpet sounded around the bottom edge, depicting the Resurrection of the Dead. Since 1898, it has been in the British Museum’s collection, having been bequeathed by Ferdinand de Rothschild.

The Holy Thorn Reliquary was created in approx 1390 in Paris for John, Duke of Berry, to house a relic of the Crown of Thorns. The reliquary was bequeathed to the British Museum in 1898 by Ferdinand de Rothschild as part of the Waddesdon Bequest. It is one of a small number of major goldsmiths’ works or joyaux that survive from the extravagant world of the courts of the Valois royal family around 1400. It is made of gold, lavishly decorated with jewels and pearls, and uses the technique of enamelling en ronde bosse, or “in the round”, which had been recently developed when the reliquary was made, to create a total of 28 three-dimensional figures, mostly in white enamel.

Except at its base the reliquary is slim, with two faces; the front view shows the end of the world and the Last Judgement, with the Trinity and saints above and the resurrection of the dead below, and the relic of a single long thorn believed to come from the crown of thorns worn by Jesus when he was crucified. The rear view has less extravagant decoration, mostly in plain gold in low relief, and has doors that opened to display a flat object, now missing, which was presumably another relic.

The reliquary was in the Habsburg collections from at least the 16th century until the 1860s, when it was replaced by a forgery during a restoration by an art dealer, Salomon Weininger. The fraud remained undetected until well after the original reliquary came to the British Museum. The reliquary was featured in the BBC’s A History of the World in 100 Objects, in which Neil MacGregor described it as “without question one of the supreme achievements of medieval European metalwork”, and was a highlight of the exhibition Treasures of Heaven: Saints, Relics, and Devotion in Medieval Europe at the British Museum from June 23 to October 2011.

Reliquary of gold, richly enamelled and set with rubies, pearls and sapphires. Architectural base in form of castellated fortress with a half-length angel sounding a trumpet occupying each turret, base also with arms of Jean, duc de Berry in rectangular panels of blue and red translucent enamel. The front is a depiction of the Resurrection of the Dead, a green-enamelled mound rising from the base from which coffins protrude, the dead rising from within. Above is a rock-crystal window, the Thorn placed vertically in the centre, mounted on a cabochon sapphire, above an inscribed scroll. Figures of the Virgin and St. John kneel beside the Thorn, Christ with his five wounds is seated behind it, his feet resting on a white-enamelled globe. Two angels hold a crown of thorns above his head, the instruments of the Passion in their other hands. An arch is formed around the whole by the twelve Apostles within a mass of leaves and branches, God the Father at the top. On the reverse are two hinged doors decorated in relief and pontillé with the figures of St. Michael and the Devil and St. Christopher carrying the Christ Child, inside these is an empty cavity covered in modern glass, probably a space for another relic. Above this is a roundel with the face of Christ in relief amidst sunrays. 

Luke 21: 5-19

When some were talking about the Temple, remarking how it was adorned with fine stonework and votive offerings, Jesus said, ‘All these things you are staring at now – the time will come when not a single stone will be left on another: everything will be destroyed.’ And they put to him this question: ‘Master,’ they said, ‘when will this happen, then, and what sign will there be that this is about to take place?’

‘Take care not to be deceived,’ he said, ‘because many will come using my name and saying, “I am he” and, “The time is near at hand.” Refuse to join them. And when you hear of wars and revolutions, do not be frightened, for this is something that must happen but the end is not soon.’ Then he said to them, ‘Nation will fight against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes and plagues and famines here and there; there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven.

‘But before all this happens, men will seize you and persecute you; they will hand you over to the synagogues and to imprisonment, and bring you before kings and governors because of my name – and that will be your opportunity to bear witness. Keep this carefully in mind: you are not to prepare your defence, because I myself shall give you an eloquence and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to resist or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relations and friends; and some of you will be put to death. You will be hated by all men on account of my name, but not a hair of your head will be lost. Your endurance will win you your lives.’

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: The destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem is a oil on canvas painting by Francesco Hayez, painted 1867. The dimensions are 183cm x 252cm and is located in the Accademia of Venice, Italy.

Francesco Hayez (10 February 1791 – 21 December 1882) was an Italian painter, the leading artist of Romanticism in mid-19th-century Milan, renowned for his grand historical paintings, political allegories and exceptionally fine portraits.

Hayez came from a relatively poor family from Venice. His father, Giovanni, was of French origin while his mother, Chiara Torcella, was from Murano. The child Francesco, youngest of five sons, was brought up by his mother’s sister, who had married Giovanni Binasco, a well-off shipowner and collector of art. From childhood he showed a predisposition for drawing, so his uncle apprenticed him to an art restorer. Later he became a student of the painter Francesco Maggiotto with whom he continued his studies for three years. He was admitted to the painting course of the New Academy of Fine Arts in 1806, where he studied under Teodoro Matteini. In 1809 he won a competition from the Academy of Venice for one year of study at the Accademia di San Luca in Rome. He remained in Rome until 1814, then moved to Naples where he was commissioned by Joachim Murat to paint a major work depicting Ulysses at the court of Alcinous. In the mid-1830s he attended the “Salotto Maffei” salon in Milan, hosted by Clara Maffei (whose portrait Hayez painted for her husband), and he was still in Milan in 1850 when he was appointed director of the Academy of Brera there.

Francesco Hayez lived long and was prolific. His output spanned both historic paintings, including those that would have appealed to the patriotic sensibility of his patrons. Others reflect the desire to accompany a Neoclassic style to grand themes, either from biblical or classical literature. He also painted scenes from theatrical presentations of his day. Conspicuously lacking from his output, however, are altarpieces intended for devotional display. However, after the Napoleonic invasions deconsecrated many churches and convents in Northern Italy, the region was not lacking for religious artworks that were removed either to museums or concentrated in the remaining active religious institutions. Corrado Ricci describes him as starting as a classicist but then evolving to a style of emotional tumult.

His portraits have the intensity seen with Ingres and the Nazarene movement. Often sitting, the subjects dress in austere, often black and white clothing, with little to no accoutrements. While he did complete portraits for the nobility, other subjects are artists and musicians. Late in his career, he is known to have worked using photographs.

Among his works, his painting The Kiss was considered among his best work by contemporaries, and has only gained in esteem since then. The anonymous, unaffected gesture of the couple does not require knowledge of myth or literature to interpret, and appeals to a modern gaze.

Assessment of the career of Hayez is complicated by the fact that he often did not sign or date his works. Often the date indicated from the evidence is that at which the work was acquired or sold, not of its creation. Moreover, he often painted the same compositions several times with minimal variations, or even with no variation.

Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

Luke 23: 35-43

The people stayed there before the cross watching Jesus. As for the leaders, they jeered at him. ‘He saved others,’ they said, ‘let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.’ The soldiers mocked him too, and when they approached to offer him vinegar they said, ‘If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.’ Above him there was an inscription: ‘This is the King of the Jews.’

One of the criminals hanging there abused him. ‘Are you not the Christ?’ he said. ‘Save yourself and us as well.’ But the other spoke up and rebuked him. ‘Have you no fear of God at all?’ he said. ‘You got the same sentence as he did, but in our case we deserved it: we are paying for what we did. But this man has done nothing wrong. Jesus,’ he said, ‘remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ ‘Indeed, I promise you,’ he replied, ‘today you will be with me in paradise.’          

The Gospel of the Lord.

Picture: The Crucifixion, painted by Simon Vouet, is an imposing work of 216cm × 146 cm, located in the Museum of Fine Arts in Lyon. It was designed between 1636 and 1637. It is an oil on canvas depicting the passion of Christ, who is dying. The drape of women is as impressive as that of Mary. This table is part of a set of three works: he was accompanied by paintings of the Last Supper and the incredulity of St. Thomas.

This work was commissioned to Simon Vouet by Cardinal Pierre Séguier. He wanted to put in his mansion chapel. This work was accompanied by two other tables: the Last Supper and the disbelief of Thomas. These works represent three particular scenes from the life of Jesus from the scene of the Last Supper and his death on the cross. The Crucifixion was conducted between 1636 and 1637, the work was preserved in the chapel of Cardinal. Being disposed above the altar, these works were primarily religious. She was later offered in 1816 at the Museum of Fine Arts Lyon by Cardinal Joseph Fesch. The table is always surrounded the two tables mentioned.

This painting is a representation of the death of Jesus Christ on the cross. The characters present with him seem to be struck by the scene, their eyes converge on the face of Christ . The painter chooses represented the moment of the end of the agony of Christ, the tilted head seems to indicate his death. Mary painted on the lower right is presented in agony, as if she shared the pain of the death of his son. The virgin is supported by the apostle John , looking at Jesus on the cross. On the left of the table stands Mary Magdalene , back, startled by the scene in a decline of gesture and arms outstretched.

Jesus Christ is highlighted by the white light projected on him, which made him the central character of the work. Moreover, we can distinguish, by their amplitudes and the sense of movement, a drape. The work is particularly impressive share the drape of the virgin in the foreground as if to show the character of magnificence. Simon Vouet has also made prints of it draped, it shows all the work created by the artist for this precise detail.

The faces and the light, reminiscent of the Italian painter training, strengthen all the theatricality and the solemnity of the scene.

During the making of the film, Simon Vouet, was the painter of King Louis XIII and the one who was the most famous of his time. Table is made following an order of Cardinal Pierre Séguier to his mansion and more precisely to its chapel. Simon Vouet achieves this work during the classical age and found in his painting the marks of this artistic movement.

This work is classical in the paint strokes, by lines of rectilinear forces and in the chosen theme. It is the representation of a biblical scene that clearly marks the period of the against-reform. We can also notice many details and a straight line that emerges from the table. But we can also point out that the work approaches the baroque art through movement given by the drapery of the Virgin. An artist of the same century, Philippe de Champaigne , gives a representation of Christ on the cross less theatrically only in painting the figure of Christ. Yet both artists remain faithful to the details of the biblical text in representing the city and Mount Golgotha.

The artist chose this work because it is a command that was asked of him by the Seguier Chancellor. Moreover, the theme was directly related to the historical context of the time and the person who asked for it was both a statesman and church. Classicism then permeates the painter, and it can only make a classic table as it is for a statesman, then the command must necessarily meet the artistic demands of the time.

The artist has made many sketches of his work, particularly in the figure of the Virgin and its drape, to give a realistic effect and movement. he worked the body of Christ to highlight many details. Its anatomy is particularly detailed, which makes it even more character and seeing it the center of the table.

The cross to mark the array power lines, and the prospect instead christ in the work center. The light that pervades Caravaggio painting recalls the training has followed the painter. drape, but also the colours of a pastel tone highlight women, especially Mary, foreground right.

The eyes of Mary Magdalene and St. John converge on Christ; the trio then recalls the Trinity. This representation complies with the Scriptures by these characters. The parallel is striking with the crucifixion of Philippe de Champaigne , which is exposed to Grenoble . That of the latter is devoid of characters, and represents Christ only. the work of Simon Vouet seems more comprehensive in terms of characters and historical accuracy.