Thursday, April 30, 2015

Some Sad News

Museum of Biblical Art
Yesterday I received an email from the Museum of Biblical Art.  It was sent to their mailing list and announced that at the end of the current exhibition, Sculpture in the Age of Donatello, the museum will close.  That is a very sad situation and says a lot about the current state of affairs in New York real estate and the dilemma of non-profit institutions.  The museum website has the same announcement.
The museum has been in existence for ten years.  It was founded to provide a venue for the study of what has been one of the major themes of Western art for centuries, biblical stories.  It was able to operate because it had a favorable arrangement with the American Bible Society which contributed space in its building on Broadway near Lincoln Center.  That landlord-tenant relationship proved to be a happy one.  The museum went on to host some very interesting and well-received exhibitions, some of which I have previously written about. 
Giovanni D'Ambrogio, Annunciation
Italian, late 14th Century
Florence, Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore
Now, however, the relationship that allowed the museum to thrive has turned sour.  For various reasons the American Bible Society decided last year that they would be better off selling their building and moving out of New York.  They have relocated to Philadelphia.   Apparently, plans for the move were not shared with the museum until virtually the last minute, leaving the museum administration to scramble at short notice to find a new location and the funding to support it in an overheated real estate climate that is not friendly to an underfunded non-profit institution in search of a new home.  This is a great pity. 
The museum will remain open until the end of the current exhibition on June 14.  I saw the exhibition about a month ago and was overwhelmed by what it contains, in spite of the fact that there are relatively few pieces on display.  But what pieces!  I intend to write about it, but want to make a second visit to absorb more of the details.  However, in the interim, I urge you to go and see it as soon as you can.  It is well worth a visit.  It is unfortunate that no future exhibitions will follow it.


© M. Duffy, 2015

Sunday, April 5, 2015

The Empty Tomb

Veronese, Resurrection of Christ
Italian, 1570-1575
Dresden, Gemaeldegalerie
Christ is Risen! 
Alleluia! Alleluia!

I wish everyone a Blessed and Joyful Easter.




The iconography of the Resurrection is a topic that I examined extensively in 2011, so I refer you to the essays on the subject listed below.  I intend to update these articles with new materials during the Easter season, so please visit the links occasionally during this time.







The Women at the Tomb http://imaginemdei.blogspot.com/2011/04/iconography-of-resurrection-women-at.html

Noli Me Tangere http://imaginemdei.blogspot.com/2011/04/iconography-of-resurrection-noli-me.html

The Incredulity of St. Thomas (Doubting Thomas) http://imaginemdei.blogspot.com/2011/05/iconography-of-resurrection-incredulity.html

Emmaus -- The Journey http://imaginemdei.blogspot.com/2011/05/iconography-of-resurrection-emmaus.html

Emmaus -- The Recognition http://imaginemdei.blogspot.com/2011/05/iconography-of-resurrection-emmaus_07.html

Climbing from the Tomb http://imaginemdei.blogspot.com/2011/05/iconography-of-resurrection-climbing.html

Hovering over the Tomb http://imaginemdei.blogspot.com/2011/05/iconography-of-resurrection-hovering.html

Bursting from the Tomb http://imaginemdei.blogspot.com/2011/05/iconography-of-resurrection-bursting.html

The Lake of Galilee -- The Disciples Go Fishing http://imaginemdei.blogspot.com/2011/05/iconography-of-resurrection-lake-of.html

Commission to Peter -- The Good Shepherd Transfers Responsibility http://imaginemdei.blogspot.com/2011/05/iconography-of-resurrection-peters.html

The Commission to the Apostles http://imaginemdei.blogspot.com/2011/05/iconography-of-resurrection-commission.html

Christ Appears to His Mother http://imaginemdei.blogspot.com/2011/06/iconography-of-resurrection-christ.html

and also An Awkward Resurrection Image http://imaginemdei.blogspot.com/2014/04/a-happy-and-blessed-easter-season-to.html


Christ is Risen!  Alleluia, Alleluia!  Below is video of the great triple alleluia sung only at Easter Vigil.  It is followed by the reading of the Gospel from Easter Vigil (filmed at the Brompton Oratory in London, England, 2008).

Saturday, April 4, 2015

The Day of Gloom and the Coming of the Light

Paolo Veronese, Dead Christ Supported By Angels
Italian, 1587-1589
Berlin, Staatliche Museen
On Holy Saturday the church is quiet, the tabernacle empty, the altar stripped.  People come for services such as Tenebrae, made up of readings, songs and symbolic acts such as the snuffing out of candles or for Confession to ask God for forgiveness.  Basically, the prevailing mood is quiet, a little gloomy even, but with a hint of excitement nonetheless.

We remember the hours between the evening of Good Friday, when the body of Jesus was laid hurriedly in the tomb with little ceremony, and the morning of Easter Sunday, when the women who were coming to complete the proper burial customs found an empty tomb.

But, underneath it all is the sense of expectation.  And, late in the afternoon, the church will close and the flowers, which have been hidden since their delivery will be brought out, the altar will be dressed and the church made ready for the amazing event recollected in the evening at the Easter Vigil.
Deacon Singing the Exultet from  an Exultet Roll
In this scene he gestures toward the Paschal Candle,
which is being incensed
Italian (Montecassino), ca. 1072

As the massive newly carved and lit Paschal Candle is carried down the aisle of the darkened church, and as people light their own small candles from its flame, we are confronted with a symbolic image that has come down to us from remote centuries, for the light represents the Risen Christ.  As each of us lights his/her smaller hand-held candle from it we begin to see ourselves and those around us as bearers of a bit of that same light.  And, when all have lit their candles the church is ablaze with candle light.  What was obscure and gloomy just moments ago is now seen clearly.  It is a magnificent symbol of the Resurrection, of the share we each have in it and of the effect that spreading that light can have on the world.

For more information on the images that relate to both the day of waiting and of the Paschal Candle, please click on the following:

The Harrowing of Hell here

The Dead Christ in the Tomb here

Easter Vigil and the Paschal Candle here

©  M. Duffy, 2015

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Spy Wednesday -- Thirty Pieces of Silver

Judas Receives the Silver
from the Huntingfield Psalter
English (Oxford), 1210-1220
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M43, fol. 22r
One of the Twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said,
“What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?”
They paid him thirty pieces of silver,
and from that time on he looked for an opportunity to hand him over.
Matthew 26:14-16 
(Extract from the Gospel for Wednesday of Holy Week)


Giotto, Judas Accepts the Bribe
Italian, 1300-1305
Padua, Arena Chapel
When I was a child my mother often spoke about the Wednesday of Holy Week as “Spy Wednesday”.  This was the day on which the church remembers the treachery of Judas, who approached the Jewish authorities in Jerusalem for a bribe in exchange for guiding them to a time and place for the capture of Jesus.  The day had already begun to fade from popular notice when I was a child and for the last few decades seems to have gone totally off the radar.  But, two items viewed on the internet today have brought it back to my mind.  One, which gives a nice explanation, is a popular blog by a local NYC (diocese of Brooklyn) deacon.  You can read it here.


This reminded me of the series of posts that I wrote several years ago, called generically, “Holy Week with  Giotto”.  There is a wonderful portrayal of the event in Giotto’s paintings of the Life of Christ from the Arena Chapel in Padua.  In it we see Judas being encouraged, even pushed, into his betrayal by a demon standing behind him.  Giotto calls this action to our attention by the fact that he presents the demon as a coal black creature, whose hand on the yellow cloak of Judas draws our eyes.  In subsequent images in the same series in the Arena Chapel we can see that the blackness of the demon has entered into Judas, shown by the fact that, alone of all the disciples, a circle of what looks like black smoke appears over his head, while the other disciples have golden halos.  This is a feature that is almost entirely unique to Giotto's work in Padua (I believe I have seen the smokey halo only one other time, in a manuscript that may have used Giotto's work as a model).


Duccio, Judas Accepts the Bribe
Italian, 1308-1311
Siena, Museo dell'Opera del Duomo




There are other examples of this scene as well, though, with one exception, all the illustrations I could find belong to the medieval and early Renaissance period.  

© M. Duffy, 2015





Lippo Memmi, Judas Accepts the Bribe
Italian, ca. 1340
San Gemignano, Collegiata Santa Maria Assunta
















Judas Accepting the Bribe
from Book of Hours
French (Paris), 1495-1505
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS H5, fol. 48r






Master of Peter Danielsson, Judas Accepting the Bribe
from Spiegel van den leven ons Heren
Flemish, 1450-1460
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M868, fol. 26r




















Simon Bening, Judas Accepting the Bribe
from Book of Hours
Flemish (Brussels), 1533
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M 491, fol. 102r
Simon Bening, Judas Accepting the Bribe
from Book of Hours
Flemish (Brussels), 1535-1545
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M696, fol. 96v























Simon Bening, Judas Accepting the Bribe
from the Hours of Cardinal Albrecht of Brandenberg
Flemish (Brussels), 1525-1530
Los Angeles, J. Paul Getty Museum
MS Ludwig IX, fol. 94
James Tissot, Judas Negotiates with the Priests
French, 1888-1896
New York, Brooklyn Museum