Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Thoughts on the Met Gala and the Vatican’s Loan, Some Perspective

Rihanna at the Met Gala
I was afraid of this.  Once I read the announcement that this year’s summer Costume Institute exhibition would be called “Heavenly Bodies:  Fashion and the Catholic Imagination” I was very afraid.  When I learned that the Vatican had loaned a large number of items for this show I confess to shaking my head. 

No doubt the show, which I have yet to see, as it was strictly off limits to non-involved staff and volunteers, will make some interesting and valid connections between the arts of painting and sculpture and especially the textile arts, that have been inspired, commissioned and displayed as part of Catholic worship and prayer through the centuries.  Indeed, as is being reported widely, the decision to make the show center on the Catholic influence on fashion came about when exploration of a larger show proposal about the influence of religion on fashion turned out to be massively tilted toward Catholicism.  Apparently, fashion has drawn very little from other religions, such as Protestantism, Buddhism, Islam or Judaism.  And fashion, it should be remembered, is primarily a Western, First World obsession.  It really isn’t the exhibition that troubled me.
What troubled me was the Gala which precedes it (and which causes the Met to incommode its visitors and close its doors to them for days in advance and days following to allow for the set up and knock down of the sumptuous decoration for the big party).  In this case, several heavily visited parts of the museum were off limits to view for nearly a month, while other portions, including the extremely popular Temple of Dendur, were totally closed for several days in advance of May 7.  The plaza in front of the museum has also mainly been off limits for all of the preceding week and will continue to be for several days as the very large number of tents to accommodate the arriving guests and the attending media, were set up and will be demolished.  This has forced visitors to ascend and descend the stairs by a very narrow channel running directly along the museum wall. 

The entire building was closed on Monday.  In the morning there was a press preview, the afternoon was devoted to the final set up of the interior, and the evening was, of course, the Event.  To get an idea of what the preparation entailed here’s a video from the Met’s Instagram account, showing the transformation of the main information desk near the main entrance in the Great Hall.  Easy to see why visitors and staff are not welcome!  Set up of the Great Hall

The Gala was instituted in the 1940s as a fundraiser for the Costume Institute, which is a self-funded entity within the Metropolitan Museum, supported by the fashion industry and the Gala.  Invitations to the do are limited to 500 or so people and tickets are $30,000 each.  If every ticket is paid for this should result in a gross take of $15 million dollars.  I assume the resulting net amount (after the deductions for the expenses of the event, which must be huge), plus whatever other funding the Institute raises, supports the conservation of the costumes themselves.  It most certainly does not support public access to the collection.  1

This was not always so.  When I was a child, teenager and young adult the Costume Institute actually maintained a number of ground floor exhibition galleries.  It used to be great fun to wander through and look at the manner of dress of people from several hundred years ago.  Like most of the museum in those far away days it was basically a fairly plain space that drew its interest from the items on display.   Lighting was kept fairly low, though not dark, on account of the effects of light on fabric.  There was not much razzmatazz.  Things began to change a bit in the 80s, when the great Diana Vreeland was the director of the Institute.  There was somewhat stronger lighting.  More revolving exhibitions took place, but there was still a fairly large space for the public to wander in and some permanence. 

Somewhere along the line, I’m not entirely sure when, the galleries were closed to the public.  I think some of them may have been given to enlarging the staff cafeteria, especially the area for tables, which happened around the same time.  Permanent exhibition of garments ceased and the cycle of publicity grabbing special exhibitions began.  However, these were small and generally confined to the Institute’s own galleries, still in their downstairs location.  I remember standing for a long time on the stairs leading to them with friends just in front of Sting for a show on rock and roll costumes.  (I think it indicative of Sting’s approach that he chose to stand on the stairs with everyone else rather than to demand special treatment.)

With the change of leadership during the 1990s from Ms. Vreeland to a succession of male curators (Richard Martin, Harold Koda and now Andrew Bolton) the exhibitions broke out of the confines of the ground floor galleries and invaded the body of the museum, starting with 2004’s “Dangerous Liaisons:  Fashion and Furniture in the 18th Century”. 

Dress by Christian Siriano
Then, again at some point I’m not really sure of, the Galas, which have been a feature of the social calendar since the 1940s, began to change. From events involving mainly New York fashion and society they became “celebrity” events.  The invitees began to come, less from the more established New York milieu, than from the world of entertainment, pop and hip-hop music, sports and Hollywood and frequently from their most outrageous fringes.  Therefore, they are not very likely to be aware of much history, art history or of Catholicism, apart from the caricature of it which passes for knowledge among the general public.  Does anyone seriously think that Rihanna has any idea of the meaning of her "hat"?

Therefore, I would guess that more than 95% of the "celebrities" who came to the Gala this year have virtually zero interest in the items on display and even less knowledge.  It is up to the designers they hire (or who hire them, which is more like what actually happens) to draw some idea, no matter how perverse, from it.  And, since the point is to attract attention to the brand, the louder, the skimpier, the more vulgar the better.  One thing that should be borne in mind is that this event, in addition to raising money for the Costume Institute (not the Met, as some people mistakenly think), is all about brand names, something that the Times article I referenced makes very clear.  A lot of brand name recognition for the fashion designers is riding on this.  One nice looking dress that got virtually no publicity was by Christian Siriano, a former winner of TV’s Project Runway.  So, shall we say that “nice” didn’t cut it?

Sarah Jessica Parker by Dolce and Gabbana

In reality, some of the most outrageous outfits were also quite ridiculous, laughable indeed.  Sarah Jessica Parker was probably the funniest, as well as the saddest, covering herself in Dolce and Gabbana gold damask with embroidered images of the Sacred Heart (sort of) and wearing a silly crown chapel with a Nativity scene on top of her dramatically aging face.  

Even more stupid was Katy Parry, fresh from her encounter with Pope Francis and her successful (so far) attempt to evict a group of cloistered nuns.  She came as an angel, fallen perhaps, as she slumped down at the top of the stairs.

It is no surprise to me then, that there should be controversy about the 2018 gala, as there was about the 2015 “China, Through the Looking Glass”, which led to similar complaints about disrespect for a culture, or last year’s incredibly silly “Rai Kawakubo: Comme des Garcons”.

The Sistine Chapel Choir performing in the 
American Wing, underneath a projection of
Michelangelo's Last Judgment from the end
wall of the Sistine Chapel.
That the Vatican should have lent a significant number of items to the exhibition and, in the person of Cardinal Dolan and the Sistine Chapel Choir, lent their presence to the event is not too surprising.2 Loaning the objects, which include papal tiaras and vestments from the collection of the Sistine Chapel, is perfectly understandable.

These objects will be kept within the ground floor Costume Institute galleries, while the fashion garments will be displayed in the medieval galleries at the main Met building on Fifth Avenue and at the Cloisters branch in upper Manhattan.  However, I doubt sincerely whether any of the persons involved in Rome have any knowledge or understanding of the Gala (and the attendees it draws) or realized quite how provocative was the sly double entendre in a portion of the title, as in “Heavenly Bodies”.  * 

And I have never doubted that Cardinal Dolan is a good soldier for the Church.  At the morning press preview, he is quoted as saying “You may be asking, what’s the church doing here? You may be asking, what is the cardinal archbishop of New York doing here? Think about it just for a moment. It’s because the church and the Catholic imagination are all about three things: truth, goodness, and beauty. That’s why we have grade schools and universities, to teach the truth. That’s why we love to serve the poor, to do good. And that’s why we’re into things such as art, poetry, music, liturgy, and, yes, even fashion, to thank God for the gift of beauty.”3 Lots of luck with that, your Eminence!

Cardinal Dolan at the Gala with Stephen and Christine Schwarzman, the Honorary Chairs of the Gala.  To his left are Donatella Versace, Amal Clooney and Anna Wintour, all co-chairs of the Gala.  Co-chair Rihanna is missing.
No doubt the Cardinal hoped that his presence in the evening would be interpreted as a gesture of good will to the Met and not as an endorsement of the goings on.  But, I’m sure that many of the participants, with probably no idea of who he was, probably thought he was a chubby guy wearing one wild party frock.  However, not everyone there was entirely disrespectful and vulgar.  I think that the lovely Versace gown (thank you, Donatella) worn by actress Blake Lively was a nice adaptation of the theme.
Blake Lively in a beautiful bead embroidered gown from Versace.

In fact, based on the number of retweets of her gown, it was the clear public favorite, beating out all the coarse, vulgar, over-the-top competition.  And, of course, the press, in its desire for sensation, mostly showed us only the most outrageous of the costumes on the stairs.  The number of published photos is relatively small, when one considers the number of tickets, representing well under 1/5th of the total possible.  No doubt most women wore regular evening wear.  Men, of course, had the default position of some iteration of the tuxedo, which no doubt the overwhelming majority of them wore.

Brook Shields in a simple but elegant gown.

Indeed, one comment that I read lamented the fact that so many women came plainly dressed, wearing, as the writer put it, exactly the same kind of dress they would have worn to any other gala.  But who would call Brooke Shields ladylike gown plain?  Or thought Colin Firth’s wife, Livia Giuggioli, was inappropriately dressed?  Probably the vast majority of the attendees were appropriately dressed and those that made themselves absurd and vulgar were a tiny, albeit heavily publicized, minority.  It is interesting to note that neither of the photos of these two referenced ladies came with designer information.  This gives you some clue about what was really going on at the Gala.   So let’s all take a deep breath and calm down.

Mr. and Mrs. Colin Firth

By far the funniest comment I read on the event was on the Met’s Twitter feed for the event.  The writer said “Sitting here judging these $273,927,293 dresses as if I don’t wear the same four shirts every week.”  That puts things into proper perspective, I think.  One should really think of this event as a costume party, with extremely expensive costumes.  Would that some of the cash for that bling could have been given to the Church to serve the poor of the Archdiocese!

The actual exhibition opens this week and will run until the beginning of October.  I’ll be going to a preview viewing tomorrow and will make up my own mind.*

1.  For some background on the event see:  Vanessa Friedman, “What Is the Met Gala, and Who Gets to Go?”, New  York Times, May 3, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/03/fashion/what-is-the-met-gala-and-who-gets-to-go.html  and now also
Nancy Chilton, "The Met Gala:  From Midnight Suppers to Superheroes and Rihanna" on the Met's website at https://metmuseum.org/blogs/now-at-the-met/2018/met-gala-costume-institute-benefit-brief-history  Also, the Met's publicity department puts the profit of the 2018 Gala at "over $13 million".

2.  To the folks who were worrying on Twitter about what the boys might have seen I say, they probably could barely see anything due to the strength of the spotlights that were shining on them.  In circumstances like that anything beyond the immediate space appears as just a dark blur of heads.

3.  Quoted in H.W. Vail, “Inside the Met’s “Heavenly Bodies” Exhibit”, Vanity Fair, On the Scene, May 7, 2018 https://www.vanityfair.com/style/2018/05/met-exhibit-heavenly-bodies

*  Update:  Apparently  the Vatican is now acknowledging that they slipped up, regarding the Gala "as a “stand-alone event” and took little notice of it — indeed most knew nothing about it until this year".a While I find this excuse entirely in keeping with other similar flubs in recent Vatican history, it is appalling that no one made the minimal effort to search the internet for information about the Met Gala's history.  Not for the first time recently, the Vatican is coming up with a great deal of egg on its face.  

Quoted in Edward Pentin blog post "How the Vatican Became Enmeshed in the Met Gala" at the National Catholic Register website http://www.ncregister.com/blog/edward-pentin/how-the-vatican-got-involved-in-the-met-gala

* I did attend the preview.  However, the amount of time it took just to get through the Vatican items in the densely crowded ground floor rooms of the Costume Institute made it impossible to catch more than the briefest glimpse of the fashion part of the exhibition.  So, I will have to wait a bit before writing any kind of review of the whole.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

The Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary

Benedetto di Silvestro, The Resurrectin
From the Vita Christi
Italian (Lombardy), c. 1500-1550
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M508, fol. 39r

The Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary ask us to reflect on the joyful event of the Resurrection and its aftermath.*  Thus we begin with the first Glorious Mystery, the Resurrection of Our Lord.  Then we move on to the last sight of the glorified Risen Jesus on this earth, the Ascension, as He is taken up into heaven.  The next sight of His glorified body will be at the second coming.

The last three of the Glorious Mysteries are reflections on the early history of the Church, the first being the Descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.  The fourth Mystery is the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, when Mary’s mortal remains were taken up into heaven, where she lives as a fully alive human being. 

The final decade of the five Glorious Mysteries is speculative.  It is the Coronation of Mary as Queen of Heaven.  We believe that, on the arrival of her body in heaven, the complete person that is Mary was crowned by her Son as Queen of Heaven.  As the human mother of the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, she receives special honor from all the angels and the other saints.  She herself adores the Holy Trinity, along with those angels and saints, of which she is the highest in rank.

The five decades of the Glorious Mysteries are:

1.  The Resurrection

2.  The Ascension

3.  The Descent of the Holy Spirit

4.  The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin
  • ·         Vigil of the Feast of the Assumption – The Dormition of the Virgin
  • ·         Assumpta est Maria in caelum – Mary Is Assumed Into Heaven

5.  The Coronation of the Blessed Virgin
·         Ave Regina Caelorum –The Queenship of Mary

As with the recitation of the Rosary in general, the intent of praying the Glorious Mysteries is not the simple recitation of well-known prayers but the contemplation of the outcome of the sacrifice of Calvary.  While reciting the prayers we may mentally witness the Easter events in the lives of the Risen Jesus, the early Church and the Blessed Virgin Mary and gain a foretaste of what will come for us at the end of time.

© M. Duffy, 2018

*  For a general explanation of the Rosary see:  http://imaginemdei.blogspot.com/2014/12/the-rosary.html

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Links for the Easter Season

Anthony van Dyck, The Resurrection
Flemish, c. 1631-1632
Hartford (CT), Wadsworth Athenaeum

The days of Lent and the days of sadness that are the Triduum are past once again and Easter 2018 has arrived!

Alleluia!  Alleluia!

I wish you a happy and profoundly inspiring Easter Season.

Below are links to some of the commentary that I have written over the  years regarding the iconography of the Easter Season, which extends from this happy day till Pentecost.
Please feel free to explore.

The Resurrection and the Days Immediately Following Through the Feast of the Holy Trinity

The Resurrection, the Appearances, the Incredulity of Thomas, Emmaus

Date Published

The Women at the Tomb

April 27, 2011

Noli Me Tangere

April 29, 2011

Jesus, the Gardener
April 18, 2017

The Incredulity of St. Thomas (Doubting Thomas)
May 1, 2011

Emmaus -- The Journey

May 7, 2011

Emmaus -- The Recognition

May 7, 2011

Climbing from the Tomb

May 13, 2011

Hovering over the Tomb

May 13, 2011

Bursting from the Tomb

May 14, 2011

An Awkward
Resurrection Image

April 23, 2014
Good Shepherd Sunday
May 15, 2011

The Lake of Galilee -- The Disciples Go Fishing

May 17, 2011

Commission to Peter -- The Good Shepherd Transfers Responsibility

May 21, 2011

The Commission to the Apostles

May 27, 2011

Christ Appears to His Mother

Christ Presents the Redeemed to His Mother

June 1, 2011

May 11, 2017

The Ascension

Striding into the Sky
June 3, 2011

Lifted in a Mondorla or on a Cloud

May 5, 2017

The Disappearing Feet

May 5, 2017

The Direct Approach

May 5, 2017


Veni, Sanctae Spiritus

Tongues of Fire

May 27, 2012

May 15, 2016



At This Sound, They Gathered In a Crowd

The Holy Trinity

Worthy Is The Lamb

Father, Son, Spirit

Iconography of the 
Holy Trinity – 
Imagining The Unimaginable

May 17, 2016

April 10, 2016

May 18, 2008

June 2, 2012

© M. Duffy, 2017

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Links for Good Friday

Fra Angelico and assistants, Mocking of Christ
Italian, 1440-1443
Florence, Convent of San Marco

Recently I presented a series of links to pictures, mostly by Giotto, of the events of Holy Week.  Today I am presenting a larger series of links to many more works of art, arranged around themes suggested by meditations and such devotions as the Rosary and the Stations of the Cross.

There is a great deal of material here that you can use to explore the themes presented.  May you have a fruitful experience while using them.

2012 Series:  Meditations on the Passion
Meditation on the Passion
April 1, 2012
Meditation on the Passion – The Mocking of Christ by Fra Angelico
April 4, 2012
Meditation on the Passion – The Ecce Homo
April 5, 2012
Meditation on the Passion – The Man of Sorrows
April 6, 2012
Meditation on the Passion – In the Tomb

 2018 Additions:
Meditation on the Passion -- The Instruments of the Passion  
Meditation on the Passion -- The Man of Sorrows with Instruments of the Passion

April 7, 2012

March 28, 2018

March 29, 2018

© M. Duffy, 2017

The Man of Sorrows with Instruments of the Passion

Fra Angelico and assistants, Meditation on the Passion, The Man of Sorrows with
Instruments of the Passion with the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Thomas Aquinas
Italian,  c.1441-1442
Florence, Convent of San Marco
In the same manner in which Fra Angelico showed Mary and St. Dominic meditating on
the Mocking of Jesus this picture (worked on mostly by assistants) shows Mary and 
Saint Thomas Aquinas.  Thomas appears to be in the act of preparing to write down his 
thoughts.  The figure of Jesus is surrounded by (from left to right) the sponge on the reed,
the lance, slapping right hand, Judas in the act of betrayal, Peter being challenged by 
the serving maid, the Cross and inscription, the attack on His blindfolded head, 
truncheon, a spitting head and the 30 pieces of silver changing hands.  

 “The Lord GOD has given me
a well-trained tongue,
that I might know how to speak to the weary
a word that will rouse them.
Morning after morning
he opens my ear that I may hear;
and I have not rebelled,
have not turned back.
I gave my back to those who beat me,
my cheeks to those who plucked my beard;
my face I did not shield
from buffets and spitting.

The Lord GOD is my help,
therefore, I am not disgraced;
I have set my face like flint,
knowing that I shall not be put to shame.”
Isaiah 50:4-7 (First Reading of the Mass for Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion)

In 2012 I first presented an essay on the image of the Man of Sorrows (view here), that is (originally) on the image of Jesus Post-Crucifixion, with the imprint of the nails and the lance, wearing the Crown of Thorns, positioned at the center of the image, no longer alive but not part of a Pietà image nor an Entombment image.  Such pictures are devotional images, introduced into western Europe from the Byzantine Empire during the 13th century, through Venice.  

In the Byzantine world this image remained fairly static.  However, in western Europe it took on many variations or, as I call them, “tropes”1.  Among the early tropes is the Man of Sorrows Surrounded by the Instruments of the Passion.  I have examined the idea and image of the Instruments of the Passion in a separate essay (here). 

This trope on the Man of Sorrows motif is remarkably consistent in nearly all the images of it that I have found.  In the main expression of the trope, Jesus as the Man of Sorrows is shown half-length, positioned as if emerging from the sepulcher and surrounded by the instruments of the Passion, some placed on the ground in front of the sepulcher (in the majority of cases) or draped over it and some seen as if suspended in the air around Him.  In some images Jesus may hold one or two of the items. 

Associate of the Bedford Master, Man of Sorrows
with the Instruments of the Passion
From a Book of Hours
Flemish, c. 1400-1425
London, British Library
MS Royal 2 A VIII, fol. 55v
Attributed to the Bedford Master, The Man of Sorrows
with Instruments of the Passion
From a Book containing works by Christine de Pizan
French (Paris), c. 1410-1414
London, British Library
MS Harley 4431, fol. 257

A Master of the Gold Scrolls Group, The Man of
Sorrows with the Instruments of the Passion
From a Book of Hours
Flemish (Bruges), c. 1415-1425
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M 76, fol.70v
Christ as the Man of Sorrows
Single Leaf from a Manuscript
Czech, c. 1420
Private Collection

The Man of Sorrows as the Ecce Homo,
Holding Instruments of the Passion
From a Missal
German, c.1430-1440
London, British Library
Harley 2855, fol. 3v
Follower of Masters of the Gold Scrolls
The Man of Sorrows with the Instruments of the Passion
From a Book of Hours
Flemish, c. 1440
The Hague, Meermano Museum
MS MMW 10 F 11, fol. 65v

The Man of Sorrows with Instruments of the Passion
From a Book of Hours
Dutch, c. 1450-1475
London, British Library
MS Harley 2966, fol. 84v
The Man of Sorrows with Instruments of the Passion
From a Book of Hours
Flemish, c. 1450-75
London, British Library
MS Harley 2985, fol. 140v

Master of Riglos, Man of Sorrows with Instruments
of the Passion
Spanish, c. 1435-1460
Oxford, University of Oxford, Campion Hall
Willem Vrelant, Man of Sorrows with the
Instruments of the Passion
From the Arenberg Hours
Flemish (Bruges), c. 1460-1465
Los Angeles, J. Paul Getty Museum
MS Ludwig IX 8, fol. 234

Man of Sorrows with Instruments of the Passion
English, c. 1465-1470
Chicago, Art Institute
Man of Sorrows with Instruments of the Passion
Italian (Umbrian), c. 1476-1500
Cologne, Wallraf-Richartz-Museum & Fondation Corboud

Man of Sorrows with Instruments of the Passion
From a Book of Hours
French (Paris), c. 1490-1500
The Hague, Koninklijk Bibliotheek
MS KB 76 F 14, fol. 213v
Giovanni di Pietro, Called Lo Spagna, Man of Sorrows with Instruments of the Passion
Italian, c. 1490-1500
St. Petersburg, State Hermitage Museum

The vast majority of images present Jesus in this way, but a few show Him seated or standing outside of the sepulcher.

The Man of Sorrows with Instruments of the Passion Showing the Five Wounds
From a Cathusian Miscellany
English, c. 1425-1475
London, British Library
MS Additional 37049, fol. 23
Seated Man of Sorrows with Instruments
of the Passion
Nothern French, c. 1470
Boston, Museum of Fine Arts
Master of Edward IV, Man of Sorrows with Instruments of the Passion
From a Book of Hours
Dutch (Utrecht), c. 1495-1505
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS G 5, fol. 59v

Man of Sorrows with Instruments of the Passion
From a Book of Hours,
Flemish, c. 1500
London, British L
MS King's 9, fol. 231v
Israhel van Meckenem, Man of Sorrows with
Inatruments of the Passion
From an Album of 12 Prints
Dutch, Late 15th Century
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art

A further group includes the images of angels, saints or donors who may mourn, or meditate, or pray or appeal directly to the viewer to participate. 

Roberto Oderisi, The Man of Sorrows with
the Virgin Mary and Saint John the Evangelist
Surrounded by the Instruments of the Passion
Italian, c. 1354
Cambridge (MA), Harvard Art Museums
Giovanni di Benedetto and Workshop, The Man of Sorrows
with the Virgin Mary and Saint John the Evangelist
Surrounded by the Instruments of the Passion
From a Missal
Italian, (Milan), c. 1385-1390
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Latin 757, fol. 237

Master of Saint Veronica, The Man of with the Virgin and St. Catherine
Surrounded with the Instruments of the Passion
German, c. 1400-1420
Antwerp, Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten
Master of the Brussels Initials and Workshop
The Man of Sorrows with the Virgin Mary and the
Instruments of the Passion
From the Hours of Charles the Noble, King of Navarre
French, c. 1405
Cleveland Museum of Art
MS 1964.40, fol. 128
Bedford Master or His Workshop, Deposition
Surrounded by Angels with the Instruments of the Passion
From the Hours of Charlotte of Savoy
French (Paris), c. 1415-1430
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M 1004, fol. 63v

Master of the Harvard Hannibal, The Man of Sorrows
with Instruments of the Passion, Supported by an
Angel and  Venerated by a Bishop
Single Leaf from a Book of Hours
French (Paris), c. 1420
Private Collection

Masters of the Gold Scrolls, The Man of Sorrows
Supported by an Angel, with Instruments of the Passion
From a Prayer Book
Flemish, c. 1450
The Hague, Koninklijk Bibliotheek
MS KB 130 E 17, fol. 31v

Man of Sorrows with Angels and Instruments of
the Passion
German, c. 1475-1485
London, British Museum
Master of the Oberaltaicher, Man of Sorrows with
the Instruments of the Passion Adored by Donor
German, c. 1515-1520
Munich, Bayerische Staatsgemaeldesammlungen,
Alte Pinakothek

The Altarpiece of Boulbon, The Man of Sorrows with the Instruments of the Passion as the Second Person of the Trinity
to Whom the Donor is Presented by Saint Agricola of Avignon
French, c. 1530
Paris, Musee du Louvre

In some of these images Jesus gestures toward the wound in His side, to emphasize the piercing of His heart.  This image will eventually lead to the devotion to the Sacred Heart (see here).  

Meister Francke, The Man of Sorrows Supported
by an Angel with Angels Bearing the Instruments of
the Passion
German, c. 1420
Leipzig, Museum der Bildenden Kuenste

Jean le Tavernier and Follower, The Man of Sorrows with Instruments of the Passion
From Meditation de la PassionFlemish, c. 1450-1460
The Hague, Koninklijk Bibliotheek
MS KB 76 F 2, fol. 221r
Man of Sorrows with Instruments of the Passion
Flemish, c. 1450-1500
Barnard Castle, County Durham (UK),  Bowes Museum

Master of the Dutuit Mount of Olives
The Man of Sorrows with Instruments of the Passion
German, c. 1455-1470
London, British Museum
Willem Vrelant, The Man of Sorrows with
Instruments of the Passion
From the Hours of Catherine of Aragon
Flemish, c. 1460
The Hague, Koninklijk Bibliotheek
MS KB 76 F 7, fol. 173v

Man of Sorrows Supported by Angels and
Surrounded by Instruments of the Passion
From a Book of Hours
Flemish, c. 1465-1475
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M93, fol.136v
Man of Sorrows with Instruments of the Passion
From a Breviary
French (Toulouse), c. 1485-1495
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M463, fol.54r
This image is a little unusual because of the very prominent
position given to the dice, which are usually not so pointedly

Goswijn van der Weyden, Triptych of Abbot Antonius Tsgooten
Flemish, 1507
Antwerp, Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten
Workshop of Albrecht Bouts, Man of Sorrows with Insturments of the Passion
Dutch, c. 1530
Budapest, Szepmusveszeti Muzeum
All images of the Man of Sorrows are meant to be devotional images, for the contemplation of the sacrifice of Calvary and the price of salvation.  This trope represents a further intensification of the meditation on the sacrifice of the Cross as we are reminded of the torture that occurred before the nailing to the Cross. 

Excerpts from the Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States of America, second typical edition © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. Used with permission. All rights reserved. No portion of this text may be reproduced by any means without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

© M. Duffy, 2018

  1. Here “trope” is used in the original sense of “a phrase or verse added as an embellishment or interpolation to the sung parts of the Mass in the Middle Ages”.  Merriam-Webster.com, Merriam-Webster, www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/trope. Accessed 23 Mar. 2018.