Tuesday, May 17, 2016

At This Sound, They Gathered In a Crowd

Giotto, Pentecost
Italian, c.1320
London, National Gallery of Art


Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem.  
At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd” 
Acts 2:5-6 



While researching illustrations for the essay on Pentecost “Tongues of Fire” I came across a series of images that seem to beg for an essay of their own.  These are a series of images, dating primarily from the fourteenth century, showing both the inside and the outside of the building in which the disciples are experiencing the Pentecost.  





Pentecost
from Lives of the Virgin and of Christ
Italian (Naples(, c. 1350
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Fran├žais 9561, fol. 189v







In the earliest images we see a scene similar to all other images of Pentecost with the disciples (and Mary) receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit as tongues of fire.  However, the full image shows the building in which they are seated as if it were tilted and the roof removed.  For we see, in addition to the interior, the exterior doors and, standing before the doors, people showing curiosity about what is happening inside.










As the use of perspective became better understood, this image developed.  In those images made after 1360 we can see that the action has now been divided into two levels.  The Pentecost is occurring in the upper level, as if it were happening in a portico on the second floor of the house, while below, on the street, stand the curious. 
Andrea da Firenze, Pentecost
Italian, 1366-1367
Florence, Church of Santa Maria Novella, Cappellone degli Spangnoli



















Jacopo di Cione and Workshop, Pentecost
from The San Pier Maggiore Altarpiece
Italian, 1370-1371
London, National Gallery






















Georges Trubert, Pentecost
from Prayer Book of Rene II of Lorraine
French (Nancy), 1492-1493
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Latin 10491, fol. 221






Still later, in the last image I was able to find, the room of Pentecost has become the open portico of a house, while approaching it from a doorway, across a paved yard or street, three men and two women approach.  Since two of the men and both women wear haloes, one may assume that they are early converts, perhaps among the earliest, received that very day by the preaching of the newly inspired disciples.














© M. Duffy, 2016

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