Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The Feast of All Saints

Albrecht Durer, All Saints
Known as The Landauer Altar
German, 1511
Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum
On November 1 the Church celebrates the feast of All Saints. On this day we honor all those who through their lives, lived in faith and hope and with charity, have achieved the Beatific Vision of God. Some of them are saints who have been identified and formally recognized by the Church, but most are simply men, women and children who have passed without formal recognition and whose names are now forgotten. They are our ancestors in faith exactly as they are our ancestors in flesh and blood. They enjoy the peace, the glory and the vision of God that we hope eventually to attain.

This day is especially set aside for us to remember these ancestors of ours, those whose names and deeds are honored and remembered officially and, more importantly, those who are not, the ordinary, everyday saints who lived their lives faithfully and peacefully, their heroic virtues hidden and unnoticed.  They are the multitude, noted in the vision of the Book of Revelation “which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue. They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands.”1

This multitude of people presents a problem for any artist who attempts to create a picture to illustrate this feast day.  How do you convey the sense of the countless numbers of people that form the assembly of all the saints?  Artists have been doing this since the early Middle Ages, and their attempts tend to fall into several iconographic types.

Arrangement in Tiers

This is the oldest and most long lasting type of iconography used to create images of All Saints.  Usually centering on a central figure (Christ in Majesty, God the Father, The Virgin Mary) or on a central scene (The Holy Trinity, the Coronation of the Virgin), the saints are arranged in neat tiers in hierarchical order, with the greatest saints, such as Saint John the Baptist or the Apostles, nearer to the central scene.  The image can be flat, with the saints piled up from bottom to top, or it can be circular.  The last is particularly suitable for the interior of domed structures.
Christ in Majesty With Saints
From a Sacramentary
French, c. 870
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Latin 1141, fol. 5v-6

The Celestial Harmony
From Vita et passio beati dionysii by Ivo de Santo Dionysio
French (Paris), 1317
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 2090, fol. 107v
Nardo di Cione, Paradise
Italian, c. 1355
Florence, Santa Maria Novella, Cappella Strozzi





























Giusto de'Menabuoi, Paradise
Italian, c. 1375
Padua, Baptistery

Giovanni di Benedetto and Workshop
Coronation of the Virgin
From a MissalItalian (Milan), c. 1385-1390
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Latin 757, fol. 245v
Boucicaut Master, The Celestial Hierachy
From De Proprietatatibus rerum by Barthelemy L'Anglais
French (Paris),  c. 1400-1425
Paris, Bibliotheque naationale de France
MS Francais 9141, fol. 23v



























Fra Angelico, The Court of Heaven (central predella panel)
Italian, c. 1423-1424
London, National Gallery
This panel must be viewed with the two panels which accompanied it to gain the whole picture.
Fra Angelico, The Virgin, the Apostles and Other Saints (left predella panel)
Italian, c. 1423-1424
London, National Gallery

and
Fra Angelico, Forerunners of Christ with Saints and Martyrs (right predella panel)
Italian, c. 1423-1424
London, National Gallery
Coronation of the Virgin by the Trinity in Presence of
All the Saints
German, c. 1450-1475
Private Collection
Master of Guillebert de Mets, All Saints
From a Book of Hours
Flemish (Ghent), c. 1450-1455
Los Angeles, J. Paul Getty Museum
MS 2, fol. 20v


















Master Francois, The City of God
From De Civitate Dei by Saint Augustine of Hippo
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 19, fol. 232

Master Francois, City of God and the City of Man
From De Civitate Dei by Saint Augustine of Hippo
French (Paris), c. 1469-1473
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 1
































Francesco_Botticini, Assumption of the Virgin Mary
Italian, c. 1475-1476
London, National Gallery

Jacques de Besancon, Feast of All Saints
From Legenda aurea by Jacobus de Voragine
French (Paris), c. 1480-1490
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 245, fol. 156

Erhard Schoen, The Great Rosary
German, c. 1515
London, British Museum

Tintoretto, Coronation of Virgin Mary
Italian, c.1580
Venice, Palace of the Doge
Giovanni Lanfranco, Paradise
Italian, c. 1622-1638
Rome, Sant'Andrea della Valle (vault)


Johann Hulsmann, St. Sebastian Altarpiece
German, 1635
Cologne, Catholic Parish Church of Saint Gereon
William Dyce, Christ Enthroned with Saints
Design for a fresco for All Saints Church,
Margaret Street, London
English, 1849
London, Victoria and Albert Museum



























A Group Picture Seen Head On

Another way in which artists imagined all the saints was as a group of individuals seen head on.  This, of course, resulted in clear images of only the first few rows of figures.  Beyond them other saints are indicated only as fragmentary rows of haloes, or small fragments of heads, without individuality.  This was, obviously not a very satisfactory way of representing all the saints.  Probably for this reason, it did not have a very long life as a way of handling the subject.   

Boucicaut Master, All Saints
From a Book of HoursFrench (Paris), c. 1400-1425
London, British Library
MS Additional 16997, fol. 137
The Bedford Master, Feast of All Saints
From the Bedford HoursFrench (Paris), c. 1410-1430
London, British Library
MS Additional 18850, fol. 126


























Boucicaut Master, All Saints
From a Book of HoursFrench (Paris), c. 1415-1420
Los Angeles, J. Paul Getty Museum
MS 22, fol. 257



Osservanza Master, The Virgin and All Saints
Cutting from a Choirbook
Italian (Siena), c. 1430-1440
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Robert Lehman Collection
























Hubert and Jan Van Eyck, The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, The Ghent Altarpiece
Interior, Lower Panels Only
Flemish, c. 1432-1436
Ghent, St. Bavo Cathedral

Willem Vrelant, All Saints
From the Arenberg Hours
Flemish, Early 1460s
Los Angeles, J.Paul Getty Museum
MS Ludwig IX 8, fol. 179

Chief Associate of Master Francois, HIerarchy of Saints
From a Book of HoursFrench (Paris), c. 1471-1485
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M815, fol. 33r

























Master of Mary of Burgundy, Procession of All Saints
From the Hours of Mary of BurgundyFlemish, c. 1480
Berlin, Staatliche Museen, Kupferstichkabinett
MS 78 B 12, fol. 30v
Jean Poyer, All Saints--Male and Female
From Hours of Henry VIIIFrench (Tours), c. 1495-1505
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS H8 , fol. 192v

























Master of the Older Prayer Book of Maximilian I, All Saints
From Breviary of Eleanor of Portugal
Flemish (Bruges), c. 1495-1515
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M52, fol.532v

Master of James IV of Scotland, All Saints
From the Spinola HoursFlemish (Ghent), c. 1510-1520
Los Angeles, J. Paul Getty Museum
MS Ludwig IX 18, fol. 257v
























Master of Claude de France, All Saints
From Prayer Book of Claude de FranceFrench (Tours), c. 1515-1520
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M1166, fol. 48v-49r

Group Seen from Behind

One of the other ways in which artists tried to present all the saints was by viewing the mass of figures from behind.  Like the groups seen head on, this is not an ideal way of showing all the figures and, further, makes virtually impossible provide any of the figures with identifying attributes.  The resulting pictures are, in their way, rather amusing.  They also are primarily produced by only one group of workshops, that of Jean Fouquet and his successors.

Jean Fouquet. The Court of Heaven
From the Hours of Etienne ChevalierFrench (Tours), c.1420
Chantilly, Musee Conde
MS 71, fol 27r
Jean Colombe Workshop, All Saints
From a Book of HoursFrench (Bourges), c. 1465-1470
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M248, fol.127r



























Jean Colombe. Paradise
From the Tres Riches Heures du Jean Duc de BerryFrench, c. 1485-1489 
Chantilly, Musee Conde
MS 65 , fol. 126r
Workshop of the Master of the First Prayer Book
of Maximilian I, All Saints
From the Spinola HoursFlemish, c. 1510-1520
Los Angeles, J. Paul Getty Museum
MS Ludwig IX 18, fol. 270v

























The Vortex Arrangement

All these iconographic types were primarily popular during the early to high Middle Ages and early Renaissance.  Only the tiered arrangement was in continuous use into later periods.  One other arrangement developed during the late Renaissance and continued for some time.  This is what I call the Vortex Arrangement.  In this type images of the saints are arranged in a swirling pattern, focused on some important image (God the Father, the Name of Jesus, the Holy Trinity, etc.) as if drawn in toward it by centripetal force. 

Hieronymus Bosch, Ascent of the Blessed to Paradise
Dutch, c. 1510
Venice, Palazzo Ducale
Jesus, Mary and All the Saints
Interceding with God the Father
German, c. 1540
Kassel, Museumslandschaft Hessen Kassel,
Museum Schloss Wilhelmshoehe


























Cornelis Cort, The Triumph of the Holy Trinity
Dutch, c. 1550
Philadelphia, Museum of Art






El Greco, Adoration of the Name of Jesus
Greco-Spanish, 1578-1579
El Escorial_Monastery of San Lorenzo_Chapter House
































Carlo Saraceni, Paradise
Italian, c. 1598
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Andrea Michieli, The Court of Heaven
Italian, c. 1600
Liverpool, Walker Art Gallery
The Holy Trinity Adored by Saints
French, 18th Century
Paris, Musee du Louvr

Jan Jakub, Worship of the Trinitu by All the Saints_
Czech, c. 1718-1723
Ossegg, Abbey of the Assumption


Pierre Jollain, Assumption of the Virgin
French, 1752
Barnard Castle, County Durham (UK), The Bowes Museum

Franz Anton Maulbertsch, Apotheosis of Hungarian Saints
Austrian, c.  1772-1773
Berlin, Gemaeldegalerie der Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Triumph of Religion
Italian, c. 1775-1800
Paris, Musee du Louvre


























© M. Duffy, 2017


1.  Revelation 7:9



Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.


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