Sunday, November 27, 2016

Stay Awake! The Admonition of Advent

Masseot Abaquesne, The Flood
French, c.1550
Ecouen, Musee national de la Renaissance



Jesus said to his disciples:
“As it was in the days of Noah,
so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.
In those days before the flood,
they were eating and drinking,
marrying and giving in marriage,
up to the day that Noah entered the ark.
They did not know until the flood came and carried them all away.
So will it be also at the coming of the Son of Man.
Two men will be out in the field;
one will be taken, and one will be left.
Two women will be grinding at the mill;
one will be taken, and one will be left.
Therefore, stay awake!
For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.”
Matthew 24:37-42

(Excerpt from the Gospel for the First Sunday of Advent, Year A)


The admonition in the Gospel for the First Sunday of Advent, Year A to “Stay Awake!  For you do not know on which day your Lord will come” brings with it the reminder that “as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man”, people went on with their lives, unaware of the catastrophe that was about to fall on them in the Flood.  And so it always is.  We have ample evidence in contemplating the disasters of the past and of the present.  There is abundant proof that the people of Pompeii and the other towns at the foot of Vesuvius went about their lives right up to their burial in layers of ash and mud.  The mega tsunami in Indonesia in 2007 caught people eating breakfast or relaxing in their hotel pools as it crashed into them.  The Japanese earthquake and tsunami that devastated Fukushima hit when no one was expecting it.  Similarly, the recent highly damaging earthquakes in Italy have come in the middle of the night.  And we have certainly seen in our own country the devastating effect of flood waters, with Hurricanes Katrina, Sandy and other weather events. 

Bonaventura Peeters, The Great Flood
Dutch, c. 1630-1650
Private Collection

 If we have no way of really preparing for and protecting ourselves from natural disasters, there is little likelihood that we will be completely prepared for the day of the Lord.  I have always been mildly amused by the occasional warnings that the world will end on such and such a date.  In the verse just before the start of this Sunday’s Gospel passage, Jesus tells his disciples “But of that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.” (Matthew 24:36). If He himself does not know, how can anyone else, no matter by what means they claim the knowledge.  Consequently, it is a good idea to heed Jesus’ warning and “Stay awake” with prayer, good works, both physical and spiritual, and an expectant heart.  This is the message of Advent, not one of fear, but of hope and expectation.

 
Mosaic, The Flood
Italian, 1215-1235
Venice, Basilica of San Marco
Over the centuries artists have confronted this warning in several ways.  They have shown us images of the final resurrection and of the Last Judgment, but only a relative few have addressed the central image of this Sunday’s reading, the Great Flood and the time just before it, when the actions of humanity prompted such a violent reaction.  

In this essay I am talking about images of the Flood in itself, not about the story of Noah.  There are many, many images of the story of Noah, from the warning he received from God, to his struggle to build the ark.  And there are many, many images showing the animals entering the ark, the ark floating in the waters, the sending of the raven and the dove, the landing on Ararat, the exit of Noah, his family and the animals from the ark and the resettlement of the earth.  However, I am not referring to them directly here.  

 
Jacopo Torriti, Scenes from the Old Testament, The Building of the Ark
Italian, c.1290
Assisi, San Francesco, Upper Church





There is a steady stream of images of the Flood itself through time, beginning in the thirteenth century and running through time.  The earliest images seem to show the effects of the flood at its height, as well as of Noah’s preparations.  We are shown the bodies of humans and animals floating amid the ruins of buildings, while a few who still survive are shown trying to swim. 

The Deluge
from De Civitate Dei by St. Augustine
French (Paris), c. 1400-1425
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 174, fol. 83
The Deluge
from De Civitate Dei by St. Augustine
French (Paris), 1400-1425
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 173, fol. 70v

























Maitre de Jouvenel and collaborators
The Deluge
from Mare historiarum of Johannes de Columna
French (Anjou), 1447-1455
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Latin 4915, fol. 25
Maitre de l'echevinage and collaborators
The Deluge
from De Civitate Dei by St. Augustine
French (Rouen). 1450-1475
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 28, fol. 66v
























Around the middle of the fifteenth century these images are joined by others that focus on the attempts of the population to escape the rising waters.  These pictures are often highly dramatic, with the drama increasing markedly as time passed.

Paolo Uccello, The Flood
Italian, 1447-1448
Florence, Church of Santa Maria Novella. Green Cloister





















Anonymous, The Flood
Possibly Italian, 1450-1500
Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum
Anonymous Netherlandish Artist, The Flood
16th century
St. Petersberg, Hermitage Museum






















Michelangelo, The Flood. Italian, 1508-1509, Vatican City, Sistine Chapel

Jan van Scorel, The Flood
Dutch, c. 1530
Madrid, Museo del Prado
Lucas Cranach the Elder and theYounger
The Flood
German, 1531-1539
Schneeberg, St. Wolfgang's Church





















The Flood
from The Story of Noah Tapestry Series
Flemish, 1550-1600
St. Petersberg, Hermitage Museum











Antonio Caraccci, The Flood
Italian, c.1600
Paris, Musee du Louvre
















Alessandro Turchi, The Flood
Italian, c.1630
Paris, Musee du Louvre


David Teniers II, The Deluge
Flemish, c.1655
Lawrence, KS, Spencer Museum of Art-The University of Kansas




























Nicolas Poussin, Winter or the Flood
French, 1660-1664
Paris, Musee du Louvre
Many of these pictures, especially those from the eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth centuries are dramatically posed.  

Louis Dorigny, The Flood
French, 1700-1703
Venice, Palazzo Tron

Mattia Bortoloni, The Flood
Italian, 1717-1718
Piombino Dese, Villa Cornaro






















Jacopo Amigoni, The Flood
Italian, 1728
Ottobeuren, Benedictine Monastery Church
Jean-Baptiste Regnault, The Flood
French, c.1800
Paris, Musee du Louvre


























Theodore Gericault, Scene of the Flood
French, c.1800
Paris, Musee du Louvre


Phillip James de Louthebourg, The Deluge
French, c.1800
London, Victoria and Albert Museum

Anne-Louis Girodet de Roucy-Trioson
Scene of the Flood
French, c.1806
Paris, Musee du Louvre






















James Tissot, The Deluge
French, 1896-1902
New York, Jewish Museum

Leon Francois Comerre, The Flood
French, 1900-1916
Nantes, Musee des Beaux-Arts





















In addition, there are a few images of the aftermath, of the wreckage of dead bodies amid the devastation of the earth.   

Hieronymous Bosch, The Flood
Dutch, c.1515
Rotterdam, Boijmans van Beuningen Museum

Cornelis Coneliszoon van Haarlem, After the Flood
Dutch, c.1588
St. Petersberg, Hermitage Museum





















This is the image of the Flood that appears to have struck a chord among nineteenth-century American painters.
Joshua Shaw, The Deluge Towards Its Close
American, c.1813
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Thomas Cole, The Subsiding of the Waters of the Deluge
American, 1829
Washington, DC, National Museum of American Art, 
Smithsonian Institution

















In the middle of the sixteenth century, we begin to see images of what was going on before the Flood.  “In those days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day that Noah entered the ark. They did not know until the flood came and carried them all away.” (Matthew 24:38-39).

Cornelis Corneliszoon van Haarlem, Sinners Before the Flood
Dutch, 1594
St. Petersberg, Hermitage Museum

















Cornelis Conneliszoon van Haarlem, Before the Flood
Dutch, 1615
Toulouse, Musee des Augustins




















These images bear a striking similarity to images of the banquet of the pagan gods that were produced around the same time, and often by the same artists.  They all trace back to Raphael’s work, early in the century, at the Villa Farnesina.  

Raphael, Wedding Banquet of Cupid and Psyche
from the Loggia of Psyche
Italian, 1517-1518
Rome, Villa Farnesina
Frans Floris, Banquet of the Gods
Flemish, 1550
Antwerp, Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten
Pierre Reymond, The Wedding Feast of Cupid and Psyche
French (Limoges), 1558
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art





























Hendrick Goltzius after Bartolomeus Spranger, The Feast of the Gods at the Marriage of Cupid and Psyche
Dutch, 1587
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art

These continue into the middle of the seventeenth century and then seem to peter out. 

Cornelis Corneliszoon van Haarlem, Banquet of the Gods
Dutch, 1624
Private Collection

Hendrick van Balen Elder, Banquet of the Gods
Flemish, c.1625
Paris, Musee du Louvre
















Ultimately, it is the images of the Flood itself, of its terror and of its sad aftermath that took center stage.  They serve as a reminder to us all, both for the everyday terrors of floods, fires and earthquakes and of that ultimate event for which we should maintain our vigilance over our own hearts.


© M. Duffy, 2016

Friday, November 25, 2016

Saint Catherine of Alexandria in the Sacra Conversazione

Neri di Bicci, Madonna and Child Enthroned with
Saints Augustine,Catherine of Alexandria, Margaret of Antioch and Francis
Italian, c.1450-1460
Private Collection
As previously noted, Saint Catherine of Alexandria was one of the most popular saints of the entire Middle Ages.  She appears everywhere in Europe, from Greece to Spain, from Sicily to Sweden.1

In the first article in this series we looked at individual images of Saint Catherine.  In the second article we looked at the scenes of her martyrdom, in the third at her burial by angels.  But these are by no means the only images of Saint Catherine that come down to us.   There are others that ensured that her image and her iconography would have been familiar to every person in Christendom. 

Master of Sant'Emiliano, Madonna and Child with Saints Lucy,
 Catherine of Alexandria and Aemilianus of Cogolla
Italian, c,1330-1340
Fabriano, Pinacoteca Civica Bruno Molajoli





Among these other modes was the sacra conversazione.2  This is an Italian phrase whose words mean sacred or holy conversation.  This is usually a group of saints depicted together, sometimes grouped around another saint, or more often, around the Madonna and Child.  The constituents of the group were usually chosen because there was some connection between those saints and the location in which the work of art would be placed, a parish or monastic church for instance.









Many of these works feature Saint Catherine, identifiable through one or more of her attributes:  crown, knife-embedded wheel, sword, book and (rarely) the tiny figure of Emperor Maximian at her feet. 
Among the saints that she is most frequently seen with are:

·        Other early virgin martyr saints, such as Margaret of Antioch (identifiable by the attribute of the dragon from whom she escaped), Lucy (identified by her eyes or by a lamp which plays on her name), Agnes (with her symbol of the lamb), Barbara (with her symbol of the tower in which she was imprisoned), Apollonia (carrying the tongs by which all her teeth were extracted during torture)
Taddeo Gaddi, Saint Margaret of Antioch and Saint Catherine of Alexandria
Italian, 1334
Berlin, Gemaeldegalerie der Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

















Saints Catherine of Alexandria and Margaret of Antioch
from a Psalter
French (Metz), 1370-1380
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M88. fol. 20r

















Masters of the Gold Scrolls.
Saints Catherine of Alexandria and Margaret of Antioch
from a Book of Hours
Flemish (Bruges), c.1420-1440
The Hague, Koninklijk Bibliothek
MS KB 133 D 14, fol. 13v


Giovanni Battista Cima da Conegliano
Saints Lucy, Mary Magdalene and Catherine of Alexandrian
Italian, c.1490
Berlin, Gemaeldegalerie der Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin























Niccolo di Tommaso. Madonna and Child with
Four Angels and Saints
Italian, c. 1350
Avignon, Musee du Petit Palais
Among the saints in the panel at the right Catherine
stands in the first row and Agnes stands behind her.





Saints Catherine of Alexandria and Barbara of Nicomedia
from a Prayer Book
Flemish (Malines), c.1500-1510
The Hague, Koninklijk Bibliothek
MS KB 71 G 53, fol. 95r





















Attributed to Antonio Palma, Madonna and Child
with the Child St. John the Baptist, St. Agnes and St. Catherine of Alexandria
Italian, 16th Century
Paris, Musee du Louvre




















  • Male saints such as John the Baptist (with his staff, hair shirt and lamb), John the Evangelist (identified by a book and/or the cup of poisoned wine from which a dragon emerges), Peter (with the keys to the kingdom of Heaven), Paul (with a sword), Augustine (with bishop’s robes and book), Francis (with Stigmata), Anthony of Padua (with a cross or book)


Ivory plaque, Madonna and Child with
Saints John the Baptist and
Catherine of Alexandria
French, c.1400
Paris, Musee du Louvre

Master de Lucon and collaborators, Allegory of Chastity
(The Virgin Mary with Saints John the Evangelist and Catherine of Alexandria)
from Livre de bonnes meurs by Jacques Legrand
French (Paris), 1410
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 1023, fol. 23v



Giovanni dal Ponte, Madonna and Child with
Saints John the Baptist and
 Catherine of Alexandria
Italian, c. 1430
Hartford, CT, Wadsworth Atheneum

Gentile da Fabriano, Madonna and Child with
Saints Nicholas of Bari and Catherine of Alexandria with a Donor
Italian, 1395-1400
Berlin. Gemaeldegalerie der Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin























Neri di Bicci. Saints Catherine of Alexandria,
Anthony of Padua and John the Evangelist
Italian, c.1465
Avignon, Musee du petit Palais



























Sebastiano del Piombo. Holy Family with
Saints Catherine of Alexandria, Sebastian and Donor
Italialn, 1507-1508
Paris, Musee du Louvre
Giulio Campi, Madonna and Chile with
Saints Catherine of Alexandria and
Francis of Assisi with  Donor
Italian, 1530
Milan, Pinacoteca di Brera


















Federico Zuccaro, Assumption of the Blessed 
Virgin with Saints John the Baptist 
and Catherine of Alexandria
Italian, 1565-1566
Cortona, Museo Diocesano







Annibale Carracci, Apparition of Madonna and Child
to St. Luke and St. Catherine of Alexandria
Italian, c.1590
Paris, Musee du Louvre

















Pieter Candid (Pieter de Witte), Madonna and Child
with Saints John the Bapstist, Francis of Assisi
and Catherine of Alexandria
Flemish, c.1600
Paris, Musee du Louvre












Pietro da Cortona, Madonna and Child with
 Saints John the Baptist, Felix of Cantalice, Andrew
and Catherine of Alexandria
Italian, 1629-1630
Milan, Pinacoteca di Brera



























  • Other saints, such as Mary Magdalene (identified by the pot of oil or spices which she brought to the tomb of Jesus)
Giovanni Piemontese, Madonna and Child with Saint Anne, with Saints
Michael, Catherine of Alexandria, Mary Magdalene and Francis of Assisi
Italian, 1471
Berlin, Gemaeldegalerie der Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin

Sandro Botticelli, the Sant'Ambrogio Altarpiece
Madonna and Child Enthroned with Saints Mary Magdalene,
John the Baptist, Anthony of Padua and Catherine of Alexandria
Italian, c.1470
Florence, Galleria degli' Uffizi





























  • Angelic saints, such as Michael (with sword or spear overcoming the devil). See also the painting by Giovanni Piemontese above.
Anonymous Dutch Miniaturist, Saints Catherine and Michael
from Leven van S. Katharina
Dutch (s-Hertogenbosch), 1480-1500
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Neerlandais 129, fol. 1























  • Sometimes, especially in works made after 1500, Catherine is shown as the only saint in familiar conversation with the Madonna and Child or with the Holy Family 
Titian, Holy Family with St. Catherine of Alexandria, The Madonna with the Rabbit
Italian, 1520-1530
Paris, Musee du Louvre






















Lorenzo Lotto, Holy Family with St. Catherine of Alexandria
Italian, 1533
Bergamo, Accademia Carrara



















Simon Vouet, Madonna and Child with Saints
Elizabeth, Baby John the Baptist and Catherine of Alexandria
French, 1624-1626
Madrid, Museo del Prado



























Anthony van Dyck, Madonna and Child with St.Catherine of Alexandria
Flemish, c. 1630
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art


























 ·       And sometimes she appears in a group, even a crowd, of saints.        

Fra Angelico, Coronation of Virgin
Italian, c.1430-1432
Paris, Musee du Louvre
Saint Catherine can be seen prominently at the right side of the painting, holding her wheel.









































Anonymous, Group of  Female Virgin Martyrs
from a Book of Hours
French (Angers or Tours), c.1460
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M199, fol. 294v
The front row includes Saints Barbara of Nicomedia,
Apollonia of Alexandria, Catherine of Alexandria
Master of the Marienleben, Madonna and Child in a
Rose Garden with Saints
Catherine, Barbara and Mary Magdalene with Donor Family
German, 1460-1470
Berlin, Gemaeldegalerie der Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin





























Jacques de Besancon, Trinity with All Saints
from Legenda aurea by Jacobus de Voragine
French (Paris). c.1480-1490
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 245, fol. 156
Catherine is again in the front row, wearing a regal
dress edged in ermine and a red cloak, holding her wheel.

Anonymous All Saints
from a Book of Hours
French (Paris), c.1490-1500
The Hague, Koninklijk Bibliothek
MS KB 76 F 14, fol. 112v




























Gerard David. Madonna and Child with Female Saints
Flemish, 1509
Rouen, Musee des Beaux-Arts
Scholars have identified the saints as:  Catherine of Alexandria, Dorothy, Agnes, Fausta, Apollonia, Godelieve de Ghistelles, Cecilia, Barbara, and Lucy
Catherine appears at the left, identifiable by her crown, her book and her royal attire of an ermine trimmed dress and cloak.

The sacra conversazione had its greatest popularity between the fifteenth and early seventeenth centuries.  After that period, paintings that combined several saints in one image took on different compositional forms, some of which can be seen below.

Jean Bellegambe, Polyptych of Anchin
Flemish, c  1510
Douai, Musee de la Chartreuse
Catherine is prominent on the left wing,
again holding her wheel.
Francesco Cozza, Holy Trinity Adored by Saints
Italian, c.1670-1680
Berlin, Gemaeldegalerie der Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
The saints are Ursula, Catherine of Alexandria,
Agatha and Barbara
Catherine's broken wheel is at her feet.






























One of the most interesting, as well as the most recent inclusion of Saint Catherine in a group of saints, occurs in the iconography that grew up around Joan of Arc in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  This was the period during which Joan’s cause for sainthood was being pressed, which eventually resulted in her canonization in 1920.

Jules Bastien-Lepage, Joan of Arc
French, 1879
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Rene Marie Castaing, Design for Joan of Arc Window
French, 1900-1925
Pau, Musee des B-Arts
Gaston Bussiere, Joan of Arc, the Predestined
French, 1909
Macon, Musee des Ursulines



























Joan attributed her inspiration to lead the armies of France against the English occupation to the apparition of three saints to her.  The saints were Michael, Margaret of Antioch and Catherine of Alexandria.  So, in a sense, the images of these apparitions that were done in the decades around 1900 are artistic imaginings of what a sacra conversazione might look like, since it is a conversation between three who are already saints with one who would become a saint through her own sacrifice.



For more about Saint Catherine of Alexandria see:
© M. Duffy, 2016

______________________________________________
1.                Saint Catherine of Alexandria, An Introduction at http://imaginemdei.blogspot.com/2016/11/saint-catherine-of-alexandria.html

2.                A short definition of the term can be found on the website of the National Gallery in London at https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/glossary/sacra-conversazione