Sunday, August 17, 2014

Ilustrating Miracles: The Canaanite Woman

Jean-Germain Drouais, The Canaanite Woman
French, 1763
Rennes, Musee des Beaux-Arts
At that time, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 
And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out,
“Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! 
My daughter is tormented by a demon.” 
But Jesus did not say a word in answer to her. 
Jesus’ disciples came and asked him,
“Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.”
He said in reply,
“I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
But the woman came and did Jesus homage, saying, “Lord, help me.” 
He said in reply,
“It is not right to take the food of the children
and throw it to the dogs.” 
She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps
that fall from the table of their masters.” 
Then Jesus said to her in reply,
“O woman, great is your faith! 
Let it be done for you as you wish.” 
And the woman’s daughter was healed from that hour.”
Matthew 15:21-28 (Gospel for the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A)*

Anonymous, Miracle of the Canaanite Woman
from Sermons of Maurice de Sully
Italian, ca. 1320-1330
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 187, fol. 9v

This is one of the more curious miracles of Jesus, probably chosen for inclusion by Matthew from among many other possible cures because of its important statement of faith by a non-Jew.  

Masters of Otto Moerdrecht, Miracle of the Canaanite Woman
from Picture Bible
Dutch (Utrecht), ca. 1430
The Hague, Koninklijk Bibliothek
MS 78 D 38 II, fol.164v
(In this image, the Apostles clearly make their annoyance visible.)
Her persistence and her statement of humble faith, accepting  of her non-Jewish status, yet confident that the love of God is not to be confined to one only the chosen people, earns the favor that she begged.    


Jean Colombe, Miracle of the Canaanite Woman
from Tres Riches Heures of the Duke of Berry
Flemish, ca. 1485
Chantilly, Musee de Conde
MS DB 65, fol. 164 r
(In this image Jesus is shown three times.  First, He is
shown turning away, deaf to her pleas.  Then, He is shown
right next to the first image, paying attention to her.
Finally, at the bottom, He is shown promising her daughter's healing.
The daughter is also shown in the right corner of the upper image.
She is lying in bed, being attended by a maid.)
To the early Christian community, unsure about its relationship with Judaism, this was in important reminder.  And it continues to be an important reminder to us.

However, in spite of its importance, not many artists seem to have chosen to illustrate the less well known miracles of Jesus, such as this miracle of the Canaanite woman seeking the cure of her tormented daughter.    Those I was able to uncover in a fairly intensive search of internet resources cluster in two time periods, the later middle ages and the Baroque. 
 Both eras were relatively confident periods, not peaceful (what era ever has been?) but not riven by the kinds of problems that foster uneasy beliefs, as was, for instance, the intervening period of the Reformation. 


The examples from the late middle ages all come from illuminated manuscripts, while the Baroque and later examples are primarily oil paintings.
  
Most focus on the encounter between the woman and Jesus, although most also include onlooking apostles.  A few also feature other figures, such as the woman’s daughter and servants, and may even include a dog as a reminder of the text of the Gospel passage. And, as time went on, the level of drama increased. 

Anonymous, Miracle of the Canaanite Woman
Italian, early 17th century
Toulouse, Musee des Augustins
(This lovely anonymous image shows the moment
when she pleads that the dogs eat the scraps that
fall from their master's table.)






Giovan Gioseffo dal Sole, Miracle of the Canaanite Woman
Italian, late 17th century
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art
(This image shows the moment in which Jesus tells her
that her faith has gained her request.)

Jean-Germain Drouais, Miracle of the Canaanite Woman
French, 1784
Paris, Musee du Louvre
(This is a second, later, version of the same scene by Drouais
in the collection of the Musee des Beaux-Arts at Rennes.
Both show the dramatic moment in which Jesus both grants her
request and shields her from the Apostles protests. And, both

also show the effects of early archaeological explorations, with their 
inclusion of a pyramid next to a classical building.)


James Tissot, Jesus and the Canaanite Woman
French, 1888-1894
New York, Brooklyn Museum
(This interesting late 19th-century image by Tissot shows the
moment in a more archaeologically correct setting and costume.)


 © M. Duffy, 2104

________________________________________________
*  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.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

"New" Images of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary

Master of Claude de France, Assumption
from Prayer Book of Claude de France
French (Tours), ca. 1517
New York, Morgan Library
MS M 1166, fol. 23v
On Friday we will be celebrating the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (August 15).  I wrote two essays a few years ago on the iconography of the death and assumption of Mary.  They can be found at these links.

I don't have any new material to add to the explanation of the iconography, but just today I found some gorgeous new images.  
Master of Claude de France, Assumption
from Prayer Book of Claude de France
French (Tours), ca. 1517
New York, Morgan Library
MS M 1166, fol. 23












I visited the Morgan Library today to see the current exhibition called "Miracles in Miniature: The Art of the Master of Claude de France".  The images are indeed miracles in miniature and I plan to write about the exhibition very soon, but for now I want to share several that were encompassed within the show.  
Master of Claude de France, Assumption
from Prayer Book of Claude de France
French (Tours), ca. 1517
New York, Morgan Library
MS M 1166, fol. 24
Most of the illuminations were from the hand of the Master of Claude de France, an artist who flourished for a relatively short time (1508-1520 is the period named), at a turning point in the history of the art of the illustrated book.  He (or possibly she) belongs to the last generation of artists who practiced the very fine art of manuscript illumination.  These amazing works stand at the pinnacle of the art, with absolutely amazing detail crammed into the tiniest of spaces.  Little in the exhibition measures more than about 4 inches square!  The highly readable writing is the tiniest you've ever seen, provided you have good reading glasses! 

Jean Bourdichon, Assumption of the Virgin
from Book of Hours
French (Tours), ca. 1515
New York, Morgan Library
MS M732, fol. 56v
However, I found the most compelling image in the show to be a page from a much larger book, a Book of Hours, illuminated by Jean Bourdichon, who was the teacher of the Master of Claude de France.  It is a beautiful image of the Assumption, in which Mary, surrounded by a golden glow, is raised to heave by admiring angels lifting her on a cloud, as other cherubic angels cluster in the upper corners.  The whole is contained in a classical frame of columns with Corinthian capitals.  The image I was able to retrieve does not, by any stretch of the imagination, do the delicate coloring full justice.  

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Illustrating Miracles: Walking On Water

Master of Otto van Moerdrecht, Jesus Saving Peter From the Sea
From History Bible
Dutch (Utrecht), ca. 1430
The Hague, Koninklijk Bibliothek
MS 78 D 38 II, fol. 163r
"During the fourth watch of the night,
he came toward them walking on the sea. 
When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified. 
“It is a ghost,” they said, and they cried out in fear. 
At once Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” 
Peter said to him in reply,
“Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 
He said, “Come.” 
Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus. 
But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened;
and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” 
Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught Peter,
and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 
After they got into the boat, the wind died down. 
Those who were in the boat did him homage, saying,
“Truly, you are the Son of God.

Matthew 14:25-33 (Excerpt from the Gospel for the Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A)*

Gustave Dore, Jesus Walking On Water
From Illustrated Bible
French, 1866

With a few exceptions, the images prompted by the passage from the Gospel for this Sunday reveal an understanding of the events of this Gospel that runs very deep, for it focuses more on the results of the actions of Peter than only on the obvious miracle of Jesus' ability to walk on water.
James Tissot,Jesus Walking On Water
French, 1888-1894
New  York, Brooklyn Museum




















Indeed, the majority of images can be divided roughly into two types, divided by the actions of Peter:  Before Foundering and After Foundering


Before Foundering 

Images from the "Before Foundering" group are few, probably because this type shows only the beginning of the story.  It sets up, as it were, the conditions of the main part of the story.

Among them are images showing Peter either stepping or jumping out of the boat in his eagerness to respond to Jesus’ command “Come.”

Master of Cabestany, Jesus Walking On Water
Catalan, ca. 1150
Barcelona, Museu Frederic Mares
Here Peter is ready to put one foot out of the boat.


Jesus Walking On Water
From Bible
Greek (Mistra), 1361-1362
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Grec 135, fol.  220v
This shows Peter diving into the water.


















Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Jesus Walks On Water
Italian, 1768-1770
Private Collection
Peter is starting to sink even as he exits the boat.




After Foundering

The principal, second group of images is far more numerous.  Here Peter, having impulsively left his boat and begun to walk on top of the sea, loses focus and faith due to the wind and waves.  He sinks into the water and reaches out with a cry to Jesus who pulls him to freedom and safety.

They are come from many eras, locations and media.  

Ottonian Master, Jesus Saves Peter From the Sea
From Codex Egberti
German (Trier), 977-993
Trier, Stadtbibliothek
MS 24, fol. 27v

 Jesus Saves Peter From the Sea
Mosaic from south side aisle Monreale Cathedral
Byzantine, 1180s
Monreale, Sicily, Cathedral




















Jesus Saves Peter From the Sea
From Picture Bible
French (Abbey of St. Bertin), 1190-1200
The Hague, Koninklijk Bibliothek
MS 76 F 5, fol. 14r
Jesus Saves Peter From the Sea
From Psalter
English (Oxford), 1200-1225
London, British Library
MS Arundel 157, fol. 7v.






















Giotto, Jesus Saves Peter From the Sea (called the Navicella)
Mosaic from Old St. Peter's Basilica, partially reconstructed
Italian, ca. 1310
Vatican City, St. Peter's Basilica
Lorenzo Ghiberti, Jesus Saves Peter From the Sea
From North Doors of the Cathedral Baptistry
Italian, 1404-24
Florence, Cathedral, Baptistry



































Lluis Borassa, Jesus Saves Peter From the Sea
Catalan, 1411-1413
Terassa, Sant Pere
Bedford Master, Peter Foundering in the Sea
From Hours of the Virgin
French (Paris), 1430-1435
New York, The Morgan Library
MS M359, fol. 66r




















Follower of Loyset Liedet, Jesus Saving Peter From the Sea
From Bible Historiale of King Edward IV
Netherlands (Bruges), 1470-1479
London, British Library
MS Royal 15 D I, fol. 302v
Alessandro Allori, Jesus Saves Peter From the Sea
Italian, 1590s
Florence, Ufizzi Gallery
Odilon Redon, Jesus Saves Peter From the Sea
French, 1885
Paris, Musee du Louvre, Departement des Arts Graphiques




















James Tissot, Jesus Saves Peter From the Sea
French, 1884-1896
New York, Brooklyn Museum
They are reminders to us that the point of the story is not solely that, as God and Lord of Creation, Jesus could walk on water, but that if we have faith we too can do amazing things.  Further, that even when our faith is tested or our courage fails and we are found weak, He is able to save us when we call out to Him.

© M. Duffy 2014
__________________________________________________________
*  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.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

St. Anne at the Met

Benedikt Dreyer, The Meeting at the Golden Gate
German, ca. 1515-1520
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Since today is the feast day of Saints Anne and Joachim I am perhaps more sensitive to their imagery than usual.  So, yesterday afternoon, I couldn't help noticing that, as I walked through the Medieval Sculpture Hall at the main building of the Metropolitan Museum, two different images of St. Anne were on display, fairly close to each other.

The first one to catch my eye was the statue by the German Benedikt Dreyer of the Meeting at the Golden Gate (about which I wrote here).

The second image, and one of my personal favorites, is a version of the Anna selbdritt image (see here), also German, which includes Anne's own mother, St. Emerantia in the group.
Anonymous, Madonna and Child with
Saints Anne and Emerantia
German (possibly Hildesheim), 1515-1530
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art




This unusual version of the Anna selbdritt is usually on display at the Met, however, the Dreyer Meeting at the Golden Gate is not.  I don't suppose that the curators in the Medieval Department at the Met were conciously thinking of the feast day of Mary's parents, though perhaps they were, but I was very pleased to find these two images from their iconography on display in such close proximity to each other and to the feast.

Dating from between 1515-1530, these two polychromed wooden statues from the iconography of St. Anne (details here) demonstrate the popularity of such images on the very eve of the Reformation, which began in 1517.  That they managed to survive the iconoclasm of the Reformation period is nothing short of miraculous.

Happy Feast Day of St. Joachim and St. Anne!

Saints Joachim and Anne, pray for us.