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.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Iconography of St. Anne – 2014 Update

Willem Vrelant, Anna selbdritt
from Book of Hours
Flemish, ca. 1460
The Hague, Koninjlijk Bibliothek
MS 76F7, fol. 25v (detail)
Three years ago I wrote extensively about the iconography of St. Anne, mother of Mary and grandmother of Jesus (see here for listing of the articles).  At the time, the iconographic image that was most of a revelation to me was that known as the Anna Selbdritt.  Although a few of these images were very well known, the fact that it was a recognizable iconographic type was not well known.  Therefore, the few images that I was able to find at the time were nearly all new to me. 

In anticipation of the 122nd annual novena in honor of St. Anne that has taken place in my parish every July since 1892 I decided to search for some additional images of St. Anne to add to those that appeared in my blog postings of three years ago.  In the search I discovered many, many more Anna Selbdritt images, most dating to the period in which devotion to St. Anne was very popular (approximately the late 15th through mid-sixteenth centuries), but some of more recent date.  Nearly all come from northern European countries.

Some belong to the tradition of seated figures:  Jesus seated on Mary, who herself sits on the lap of Anne or at her feet.
Anonymous, Anna Selbdritt
North German, 1307
Stralsund, St. Nicholas Church
(the statue was seriously damaged during the Reformation

Fra Bartolomeo, Drawing for St. Anne Altarpiece
Italian, ca. 1510
Florence, San Marco Museum

Others belong to what is known as the "bench type"  or the side-by-side tradition, where Anne and Mary, holding the infant Jesus, sit side by side.
Anna Selbdritt with Donor, Victor of Carben
German, early 15th Century
Cologne, Cathedral of St. Peter
Master of the Mansi Magdalen
Madonna and Child with St. Anne
Netherlands, ca. 1515-1525
Remagen, Arp Museum Bahnhof Rolandseck
On loan from Rau Collection for UNICEF

Some take a variant view in which a seated Anne holds Jesus, while Mary stands beside her.  

Anna Selbdritt
German (Franconia), ca. 1480
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Cloisters Collection
Wilhelm Mengelberg, Anna Selbdritt
German, 1908
Cologne, Basilica of the Holy Apostles
This early 20th century image shows that the
tradition has continued for a very long time.

Others belong to the tradition in which an outsized Anne holds a small Mary and an even smaller Jesus.

Madonna and Child with St. Anne
Spanish, 1270-1290
Budapest, National Museum of  Fine Arts
Madonna and Child with St. Anne
German, 1400-1450
Minden, Cathedral Treasury

Madonna and Child with St. Anne
German, late 15th Century
Speyer, Cathedral Museum of the

Madonna and Child with St. Anne
German, early 16th Century
Aachen, Suermondt-Ludwig Museum

These images, coming from many locations, over a number of centuries, prove how much and how deeply St. Anne was revered in the Middle Ages, into the Renaissance and beyond.

There is one further image that is quite charming and comes from the eighteenth century in Austria.  It's not high art, but it is a charming continuation of the tradition.  

Madonna and Child with St. Anne
Austria, 18th Century
Graz, Joanneum Museum

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Man or Woman 6: St. John the Evangelist or Mary Magdalene? – The Last Supper

Leonardo da Vinci, Last Supper
Italian, 1498
Milan, Friary of Santa Maria delle Grazie
In my earlier essays on the question of how the figure of St. John the Evangelist has been portrayed in the history of western art since the Middle Ages we have seen that, although at times shown as an mature (or even old) bearded figure, St. John is most often shown as a youthful, beardless man.  So, we have finally come to the crux of the question “is the figure sitting at the right hand of Jesus in Leonardo DaVinci’s Last Supper a man or a woman?”   

Obviously we must begin to answer this question by reviewing how the figure of John was presented in earlier images of the Last Supper.  Is he shown as a mature man or as a young boy or man? 
Anonymous, Fresco of Meal
Early Christian, 346-355
Rome, Catacomb of Marcellinus and Peter
First of all, we should look at what are believed to be the earliest representations of what may be the Last Supper, from the early Christian centuries.  These are paintings in the Roman catacombs, dating to the third and fourth centuries.  They show us images of a typical banquet in the ancient world, where the participants sit or recline around a table.  However, it is by no means clear that these are actually paintings of the Last Supper, they may be simply representations of the fraternal meal that often accompanied the early Christian liturgies. 
It is not until a few centuries later that we can definitely begin to say that the image we see is truly a representation of the Last Supper.  

Anonymous, Last Supper
Greek, 6th century
Rossano, Diocesan Museum
In the Rossano Gospels, dating from the sixth century, we can be certain that we are seeing Jesus, seated at a semi-circular table with His disciples, including Judas who is distinguished from the others by reaching into the dish.  But, we can say with some certainty that John is not the disciple seated next to Jesus.  This white haired, white bearded figure is probably Peter.  John may be the young, bearded man seated next to Peter, or he may even be one of the other young, beardless disciples.  We simply have no clues to help us identify him.
Anonymous, Last Supper and Betrayal
from Sacramentary of Drogo
Carolingian (Metz), ca. 850
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Latin 9428, fol.44v
Two hundred years farther on the image in the Drogo Sacramentary, produced in Carolingian France, is not more helpful.  All the disciples look alike, including Judas who is again shown reaching for the dish, and none of them sit immediately next to Jesus.

It isn’t till another two hundred years later that we begin to be able to identify John.  

Anonymous, Last Supper
Crete, 1001-1300
Monastery of Agia Triada

Around the year 1000, we begin to see images that include the figure of a youthful disciple who leans his head against Jesus.  The earliest seem to come from the Byzantine Empire and the lands influenced by it.  

Anonymous, Last Supper
from Gospel Book
Egyptian (Damietta), 1178-1180
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Copte 13, fol. 76v

Anonymous Mosaicist, Entry into Jerusalem and Last Supper
Italian (Monreale), 1180s
Monreale, Cathedral (detail of west transept wall)

Anonymous, Last Supper
from Gospels of Matilda
Italian (Lombardy), 1080-1099
New York, Morgan Library
MS M492, fol. 100v

Anonymous, Last Supper
from Gospel Book
Austrian (Salzburg), 11th Century
New York, Morgan Library
MS G44, fol. 80r
The image passes into western art through the medium of mosaics and during the twelfth century becomes the standard image for representing the Last Supper.  

Anonymous, Last Supper
German, 1245-1260
Naumberg, Detail of West Choir
Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul
Maitre Henri, Last Supper
from Livre d'images de Madame Marie
Belgian (Hainault), 1285-1290
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Nouvelle acquisition francaise 16251, fol. 30v

By 1300 it is the established image. 
Duccio, Last Supper
Italian, 1308-1311
Siena, Museo dell'Opera del Duomo

Pietro Lorenzetti, Last Supper
Italian, ca. 1320
Assisi, Lower Church of S. Francesco
Frequently, John is shown leaning against Jesus, as if asleep.  Sometimes he is shown as if asleep on the table.  Occasionally he is shown awake and alert.  
Andrea del Castagno, Last Supper
Italian, 1447
Florence, Sant' Apollonia

Andrea del Castagno, Last Supper (detail)
Pietro Perugino, Last Supper
Italian, 1483-1496
Foligno, Convent of the Tertiary Franciscans
But, from the eleventh century on he is almost always depicted as a young, beardless man.  His clothing, consisting of a long tunic and collarless cloak, just like the other Apostles and Jesus Himself, is definitely masculine.  In some pictures John’s hair is long, in others it is relatively short.

 Finally, we come to the picture that has inspired so much speculation, the Last Supper by Leonardo DaVinci.  It was painted by Leonardo for the refectory (dining room) of the monastery of Santa Marie delle Grazie in Milan in the last years of the fifteenth century.  This painting, like the Mona Lisa, is one of the most famous ever painted.  Like other Leonardo paintings it became the new paradigm against which the work of other artists was measured and from which others took their own inspiration.  It is also another in the long list of Leonardo’s lost or ruined experiments in painting.
Leonardo da Vinci, Last Supper
Italian, 1498
Milan, Friary of Santa Maria delle Grazie
Leonardo was many things and one of them was an inventor of experimental techniques.  For this important commission he chose, not the safe and tested medium of fresco for a wall of this size, but an experimental technique of his own, using a wax medium on dry wall.  This was a technique that had some historical basis but which had not been tried for centuries.  He decided to try to revive it.  His experiment was not successful.  Within a few years of completion, the work began to peel off the wall.  It has been repainted and restored multiple times in its long life.  Consequently, we can really say very little about the surface of the work, we can really only speak of its composition and of the effects it had on those who came after Leonardo.
Leonardo da Vinci, Last Supper
Detail showing the group of Peter, John and Judas and the ruinous state of the painting surface.
It is in its composition as well as in its technique that Leonardo’s Last Supper was revolutionary.  And it is in its composition that it is most successful and had the greatest impact.  Other artists had tried to enliven the sense of a row of nearly identical faces by showing interactions between them.  Leonardo created a grand masterpiece of drama in the way in which his cast of Apostles interact.   Arranged in four groups of three figures each, they argue, they call the attention of others to the actions of Jesus, who has just said that the bread is his body and the wine is his blood.  They react with surprise and astonishment.  Their actions reveal things about their personalities and about their place among the entire group of disciples.  Some of these personality traits were determined by the traditions related to each of the figures.  For example, Peter was long recognized as having the kind of personality that reacts in extremes.  He is the first to vehemently assure Jesus of his faithfulness, the first to react violently to Jesus’ arrest in Gethsemane and the first to vehemently deny even knowing him a few hours later!  Thus is easy to identify the figure of Peter among the disciples.  He is the white-haired man (a traditional attribute) who lunges forward to tap John the Evangelist on the shoulder. 
Likewise, Judas can readily be identified.  He is the one just in front of Peter, who seems to recoil as he clutches a small bag, possibly containing the thirty pieces of silver for which he betrayed Jesus.
And what of John?  As we have seen, he is traditionally seen as the young beardless man seated next to Jesus who is passive enough to be asleep, either slumped on the table or leaning against Jesus.  In Leonardo’s image he becomes the beardless young man seated next to Jesus who seems to pull back quietly from the table as he listens to the words of Peter who has tapped him on the shoulder.   But, the argument goes, this figure looks like a woman.  How can you be so sure it is John?
Leonardo da Vinci, Last Supper
Detail of head of St. John
Well, there are some clues.  While it is difficult to see the figure in the painting in its current near ruined (though recently restored) state, one can examine it to some extent.  There are close ups of the figures.  There are studies for it.  And there is Leonardo’s own style in dealing with images of young men to be considered.

No artist paints such a monumental work without planning and preparation.  Studies of the figures and for the composition itself exist.  Some of the compositional drawings suggest that the original idea was a much more traditional depiction, with a sleeping John and with Judas on the other side of the table.  

Leonardo da Vinci, Study for the Last Supper
Italian, ca. 1494-1495
Venice, Galleria dell'Accademia

Other drawings are studies for the heads of the Apostles and one of them is of the head of John.  One can see more clearly from this study that the figure is male.  His clothing is that of a man, not a woman, and there is a certain masculinity about his features.  
Leonardo da Vinci, Study for Head of John the Evangelist

Further, a look at some of Leonardo’s other paintings of young male figures, such as John the Baptist, reveal that Leonardo tended to make them more effeminate in character than when he painted older males.  This is a recognizable and well known feature of Leonardo’s work that was manifested throughout his career.
Leonardo da Vinci, Annunication
Detail of Angel Gabriel
Italian, 1478-1482
Paris, Musee du Louvre
Leonardo da Vinci, St. John the Baptist
Italian, 1513-1516
Paris, Muse du Louvre

Therefore, it is safe to say that the figure seated to the right of Jesus in the Last Supper is not Mary Magdalene, but John the Evangelist.  Indeed, this identity has never been in doubt until the last few years and the ill informed speculations of some authors with little knowledge of iconographic tradition or the work of Leonardo as a whole.

© M. Duffy, 2014

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Papal Iconography

St. Peter and His Successors from Fleur des histoires
by Jean Mansel
France, 1475-1500
Paris, Bibliotheque  nationale de France
MS Francais 56, fol. 159v
On this day we experienced an amazing and historic event, the canonization of two Popes, John XXIII and John Paul II, by the currently reigning Pope Francis, in the presence of Benedict XVI, his own still-living predecessor, a man who was a close collaborator of one of the new saints.   The new saints are men both of whom we of the older baby boomers cohort have known through television and may even have seen with our own eyes.  Nothing exactly like this has ever happened in the nearly 2,000 year history of the Church.   Thinking about this convergence of four Popes, two living and two newly proclaimed saints, I found myself pondering the question of papal iconography.  Is there such a thing? 

Certainly our new saints, Pope St. John XXIII and Pope St. John Paul II, will not have anything approaching an iconography.  No modern saint does, with the possible exception of St. Therese of Lisieux.  Following the advent of the photograph in the late 19th century, the actual face of a saint is generally available and it is this that forms what iconography there is for the majority of modern saints.  But has there ever been a distinctive papal iconography?  So, I set out to take a look at what did exist.  What I found was surprising.

Apart from the papal keys, the symbolic “triple tiara” and the distinctive papal apparel of white and red that has prevailed since the middle ages there is almost no specifically “papal” iconography, i.e., an iconography that is applicable to all popes across time.  Most images of popes from the middle ages up to the advent of the photograph fall into a few specific categories, none of which can really be considered to be an iconography.

The Portrait
Popes Innocent and Callixtus with St. Lawrence
from Apse Mosaic
Italian, 1140-1143
Rome, Santa Maria in Trastevere

The portrait is at once both the most ubiquitous and the least interesting image of the popes.  Medieval images are nearly identical whether they attempt to present an idealized image of a long dead pope or an attempt at actual portraiture in the case of a contemporary pope .  
Master of the Morgan Infancy Cycle
St. Gregory the Great from Book of Hours
Netherlands (Delft), 1415-1420
New York, Morgan Library
MS M866, fol. 146v

No one actually expected a portrait that looked exactly like an actual human being.  All the “portraits” were idealized in large measure.  So we cannot say for certain what any early or medieval pope really looked like. 
Sandro Botticelli, St. Sixtus II
Italian, 1481
Vatican, Sistine Chapel

The situation changes with the Renaissance.  Actual resemblance to the living person was expected for portraits of living popes, as for any other person.   Consequently, from about the middle of the fifteenth century we have a pretty good idea of what a then living pope looked like.
Melozzo da Forli, Foundation of the Vatican Library
Italian, 1477
Vatican, Pinacoteca
This fresco, commemorating the foundation of the Vatican Library, actually includes the portraits of two popes, one of them current, the other a young man who became pope.  We see Pope Sixtus IV seated as he appoints the humanist Bartolomeo Platina as the first Librarian.  Standing between them is the Pope's nephew, Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere, the future Pope Julius II, famous as the patron of Michelangelo.

Raphael, Pope Julius II
Italian, 1512
Florence, Uffizi Gallery
Gianlorenzo Bernini, Pope Urban VIII
Italian, 1632
Rome, Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica

Diego Velazquez, Pope Innocent X
Spanish, ca. 1650
Rome, Galleria Doria-Pamphili

Carlo Maratti, Pope Clement IX
Italian, 1669
St. Petersburg, Hermitage Museum

Anton Raphael Mengs, Pope Clement XIII
German, 1758
Venice, Museo del Settecento Veneziano
Jacques-Louis David, Pope Pius VII
French, 1805
Paris, Louvre

But, apart from the distinctive papal clothing, there is virtually no difference between these portraits and those of contemporary secular persons.

A subcategory of portraiture is tomb and monument sculpture.  The same general observations apply here as in painting. 
Antonio Pollaiuolo, Tomb of Sixtus IV
Italian, 1384-1493
Vatican, St. Peter's Basilica
Antonio Canova, Tomb of Clement XIII
Italian, 1792
Vatican, St. Peter's Basilica

Ignazio Jacometti, Pope Pius IX in Prayer
Italian, 1880
Rome, Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore

Historical scenes
Probably the largest number of images of popes fall into a category that we might call the historical.  
Giotto, Confirmation of the Franciscan Rule
Italian, 1297-1300
Assisi, San Francesco, Upper Church

Given the importance of the papacy for the Church and, subsequently, for post-Roman Imperial European history, this is not surprising.  
Jean Fouquet, Coronation of Charlemagne
from Grandes Chroniques de France
French, 1344-1460
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de Paris
MS Francais 6465, fol. 89v

Since the first century popes have borne the burden of representing Christ in the world.  Some have been martyred, some have crowned emperors, others have had important roles to play in the approval of new religious orders, some have founded famous monuments, others have been peacemakers in conflicts, and some have preached the need for Crusades.  

Master Francois, Eleanor of Aquitaine,
Queen of England, Before Clement III
French (Paris), ca. 1475
The Hague, Koninklijk Bibliotheek
MS MMW 10A11, fol. 181v
Pope Benedict XII Preaching the Crusade
from Chronicles of Froissart
French (Paris), 1425-50
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 2675, fol. 37v

Jacopo Zucchi, Founding of St. Mary Major
Italian, 1580
Vatican, Pinacoteca
Raphael and assistants, Meeting Between Leo the Great and Attila
Italian, 1514
Vatican, Apostolic Palace, Stanza di Eliodoro
Since the fourth century all have been important statesmen.    The interaction of various popes with the world, both the secular and religious spheres, has offered artists plenty of opportunities to present many stories.
Spinello Aretino, Pope Alexander III Receiving an Ambassador
Italian, 1407
Siena, Palazzo Publico

Master of the Mazarine and assistants
Benedict XII Receiving Messangers from China
French (Paris), 1410-1412
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 2810, 134v

Giovanni di Paolo, St. Catherine of Siena Before the
Pope at Avignon
Italian, ca. 1460
Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza

Legendary Events
Carpaccio, St. Ursula and Pilgrims Meet the Pope
Italian, ca. 1482
Venice, Galleria dell'Accademia

In addition to real, historical events in which the popes have participated, there are legendary ones that also offered opportunities for an iconography to develop.  Such are images from the legend of St. Ursula (which never happened), 

Simon Marmion, Mass of St. Gregory
from Book of Hours
New York, Morgan Library
MS M6, fol. 154r

the Mass of St. Gregory (which may have happened)

and the apparition of the Archangel Michael on top of the tomb of Hadrian (thereafter known as the Castel Sant’Angelo).
Jacopo Zucchi, Procession of St. Gregory
Italian, 1580
Vatican, Pinacoteca
Allegorical images form yet another category.  
Anonymous, Pope Nicholas III Presented
to Christ by Saints Peter and Paul
Italian, 1278-1279
Rome, San Giovanni in Laterano
Sancta Sanctorum
Raphael and Assistants, Pope Urban I
Between Justice and Charity
Italian, 1520-1524
Vatican, Sala di Constantino

Giorgio Vasari, Tribute of Nations to Paul III
Italian, 1546
Rome, Palazzo della Cancellaria
These allegorical images may be either positive or negative.  The negative ones remind us that everyone, even popes, can be either saints or sinners.  

Jan van Eyck, Adoration of the Mystic Lamb
Ghent Altarpiece (detail)
Flemish, 1425-1429
Ghent, Cathedral of St. Bavo
In this image three popes are counted among the
saints in adoration of the Lamb of God in the
heavenly Jerusalem
Master of Coetivy, Scene from Inferno
from Divine Comedy of Dante
French (Paris), 1450-1466
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Italien 72, fol. 1
This pope is in Hell, paying the penalty for a bad life.
Triumph of Death from Danse macabre
French (Paris), 1500-1510
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 95, fol. 23
This image, dating from the period in which the
plague was a frequent event, reminds the
viewer that death comes for popes, kings and
cardinals as well as for others.
And some negative images, dating from the time of the Reformation, are actual attacks on the Catholic Church.
Albrecht Duerer, Passional Christ and Antichrist
German, 1521
London, British Library
Duerer's picture echoes one of the original complaints of the early
Reformers.  In the image Jesus chasing the moneychangers from the Temple
is contrasted with a pope overseeing the counting of money while signing
what are probably to be understood as indulgences.
The Bridge
A final category is one that I call the Bridge.  
Guercino, Pope St. Gregory the Great with
Saint Ignatius and St. Francis Xavier
Italian, ca. 1626
London, National Gallery
After all, one of the titles of the popes is “Pontifex Maximus” (Greatest Bridgebuilder), a title borrowed directly from ancient Roman religion when it was borne primarily by the Roman Emperor in his role as a high priest of the pagan cult. 
Master of the Duke of Bedford
St. Gregory the Great Inspired by the Holy Spirit
from Grandes Heures of Jean de Berri
French (Paris), 1409
Paris, Bibliothequen nationale de France
Latin 919, fol. 100

The popes as a bridge connect the earth and heaven.  These are the images of popes shown among other saints, or as an adorer of the Lord, as an inspired writer or as a supporter for a presentation of a donor figure to a divine one. 
Titian, Alexander VI Presenting Jacopo Pesare to St. Peter
Italian, 1506-1511
Antwerp, Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten
Albrecht Duerer, Adoration of the Holy Trinity
German, 1511
Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo
Pope St. Clement Adoring the Trinity
Italian, 1737-1738
Munich, Alte Pinakotek

Raphael, Disputa
Italian, 1510-1511
Vatican, Apostolic Palace, Stanza della Segnatura
We do not expect to see one of our new papal saints presented as part of a legend or in an allegory, but perhaps we may see them in their papal role in historical events and most definitely as bridges between our own earthly reality and their current heavenly reality.

Saints John XXIII and John Paul II pray for us.

© M. Duffy, 2014