Saturday, March 31, 2012

Holy Week 2012

Over the last few weeks I've been struggling with the decision on what to do about Holy Week. Last year I used Giotto's marvelous paintings in the Arena Chapel at Padua to illustrate the events of the final week of Jesus' earthly life.

Duccio di Buoninsigna, Entry Into Jerusalem
Italian, 1308-1311
Sienna, Museo dell'Opera del Duomo
One option for this year was to use the similar series of paintings by Giotto's slightly older contemporary, the Siennese Duccio di Buoninsegna. These pictures occupy the back portion of Duccio's altarpiece dedicated to Mary, known as the Maestà, which was painted a few years after the completion of Giotto's masterpiece. Although they are comparable in the choice of subject, Duccio's paintings are small, with limited pictorial space available. This means that the images are often crowded and compressed or stripped down to the basic elements. An example is his Entry into Jerusalem.

Another option was to focus, not so much on images of the events of that final week, but on paintings that meditate upon those events in some way. This is a different approach, but an intriguing one, I think.

It is this second approach that I have decided to undertake. Therefore, for illustrations of the events of Holy Week I will refer you to my essays from 2011, while also offering the new essays on a group of paintings that meditate on the Passion.

© M. Duffy, 2012

Monday, March 26, 2012

Annunciation – The World Created Anew

Fra Angelico, Annunciation
Italian, 1424-1426
Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado
“The angel Gabriel was sent from God
to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,
to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph,
of the house of David,
and the virgin's name was Mary.
And coming to her, he said,
"Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you."
But she was greatly troubled at what was said
and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
Then the angel said to her,
"Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God.
Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,
and you shall name him Jesus.
He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father,
and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever,
and of his Kingdom there will be no end."
But Mary said to the angel,
"How can this be,
since I have no relations with a man?"
And the angel said to her in reply,
"The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
Therefore the child to be born
will be called holy, the Son of God.

Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word."
Then the angel departed from her."
(Luke 1:26-35, 38)
Excerpts from Gospel for the Feast of the Annunciation

The Annunciation is one of those Gospel episodes that are really difficult to write about. The tale is simple in many ways, although it opens the door to a mystery that is beyond our comprehension. An angel comes to a young, completely inexperienced girl and tells her she has been specially favored by God and will be the mother of His son. The girl, very sensibly, asks how that can be as she has not had sexual relations with any man. The angel explains that the Holy Spirit will engender the child. The girl accepts the Divine Will. It is a story with only two visible characters: a girl and an angel (who is presumably visible since the girl can see him). There is no description of the location of the encounter and no other visible characters.

Because of the non-specificity of this encounter artists have been free to imagine it in all sorts of ways. They have created thousands and thousands of works of art in a bewildering array of styles and settings. There are, in fact, so many depictions of this scene that it is extremely difficult to choose examples to study. A query for “Annunciation” on the Metropolitan Museum of Art website yielded 274 works from their collection alone. A similar query to a larger art historical search engine yielded 6,316 examples. Many of these are minor examples, of course, but even among major works of art the number of Annunciations is huge. Yet all boil down to two major figures: a girl and an angel.

Fra Angelico, Annunciation
Italian, 1424-1426
Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado
Consequently, I have decided that, instead of giving you many examples of various types of Annunciation images, I will focus once more on just one. This is the transcendental lovely image by Fra Angelico in the collection of the Prado Museum in Madrid. It was painted on panel sometime between 1424 and 1426, possibly for the church of San Lorenzo in Florence, possibly for the for the Dominican convent of St. Domenic in Fiesole, near Florence where it was historically placed. 1

The entire right hand side of the picture presents the actual Annunciation scene in a very traditional Italian manner. There we see Mary, seated on a bench draped in fabric which also drapes the wall behind her, forming a kind of cloth of state. She sits in an open, groin-vaulted loggia, an open prayer book on her knee, and responds gently to the approach of Gabriel, her gesture mirroring his. Gabriel appears to have just landed, his wings still half open, his knees just beginning to bend. He is dressed in a magnificently embroidered tunic, which from its soft folds appears to be made of fine silk. His wings, in shades of gold, are eyed, like the tail feathers of the peacock.

Detail of the hand of God the Father

From the upper left corner of the picture, the hands of God send streams of golden light toward her and, on those beams, the Holy Spirit is seen as a dove descending (just above Gabriel's head).






Detail of center of the picture





Above the column that divides Gabriel and Mary is an image of Jesus, presented as a bust in relief. Thus, all the Persons of the Trinity appear in some way within the picture. On Mary's side of the space, seated on the iron cross bar between the pillars, is a swallow, symbolic of the Incarnation.2








Detail of left side of painting.









The entire left side of the painting is occupied by a garden filled with highly detailed representations of plant life. And, in this garden appears the scene from Genesis in which Adam and Eve are being driven out of the Garden of Eden by an angel. This angel bears a striking resemblance to Gabriel himself. And Eve bears a resemblance to Mary.



We see here the tipping point of salvation history. Mary is being invited to participate in righting the wrong done by Adam and Eve. Her obedient "fiat" (Be it done to me) will cancel their disobedience in eating the forbidden fruit.



The equation between Mary and Eve is an old one in Christian thought. Already in the 2nd century Irenaeus, bishop of Lugdunum in Roman Gaul (modern Lyons, France) had written in his treatise Against Heretics “thus also it was that the knot of Eve's disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. For what the virgin Eve had bound fast through unbelief, this did the virgin Mary set free through faith.”3




This equation of Mary and Eve derives from the New Testament equation of Christ with Adam made by St. Paul who, in his great reflection on the Resurrection in Corinthians I, states “For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead came also through a human being. For just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life…” (I Corinthians 15:21-22).

This equation between Jesus and Adam and between Mary and Eve was a familiar one in medieval art. For example, in the Klosterneuburg Altarpiece by Nicholas of Verdun, one of the greatest works of 12th century art, the plaques that illustrate Biblical events are arranged in three rows:  scenes before the Law of Moses on the top, scenes of the Old Testament after the Law of Moses on the bottom, and related scenes from the New Testament in the middle.

Thus, the plaque of the Annunciation is placed between the annunciation to Abraham of the birth of Isaac (top) and the annunciation of the birth of Samson to Samson’s previously barren mother (bottom). 4 All of these annunciations have about them an element of the miraculous, but only the Annunciation to Mary will result in the birth of the Son of God.

Nicholas of Verdun, Annunciation of the Birth of Isaac
Top Row - Events Before the Law
Mosan School, 1181
Klosterneuburg Abbey, Austria


Nicholas of Verdun, Annunciation of the Birth of Jesus
Middle Row - Events Under Grace
Mosan School, 1181
Klosterneuburg Abbey, Austria


Nicholas of Verdun, Annunciation of the Birth of Samson
Bottom Row - Events Under the Law
Mosan School, 1181
Klosterneuburg Abbey, Austria

In the Biblia Pauperum produced in the late 15th century by the Rambures Master, now in the Meermano Museum at the Hague, the Annunciation is placed between the Temptation of Eve, in which the half-human, half-reptile tempter approaches Eve and the annunciation of a sign from heaven by an angel to Gideon. The sign given to Gideon is that dew had formed only on a fleece, not on the underlying ground. This miraculous dewfall is itself a type of the Virgin Birth, which Gabriel is about to announce.
Rambures Master, Temptation of Eve, Annunciation, Sign for Gideon
from Biblia pauperum
Hesdin or Amiens, ca. 1470
The Hague, Meermano Museum 
MS MMW 10 A 15, fol. 21r

What Fra Angelico is showing us in the Prado altarpiece is the moment just before the world begins anew. Gabriel has not yet announced his mission. When he does, Mary's yes will begin the new creation, with Jesus as the new Adam and Mary herself as the new Eve in a new Garden of Eden of the spirit.

For more on the iconography of the Annunciation see the following links:



© M. Duffy, 2012, updated 2017
_______________________________
1. Kanter, Laurence. "Fra Angelico: A Decade of Transition (1422-32)" in Fra Angelico, New York, New Haven and London, The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Yale University Press, 2005, pp. 80-83. This is the catalogue of an exhibition of the work of Fra Angelico held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, October 26, 2005 - January 29, 2006.

2. Ferguson, George. Signs and Symbols in Christian Art, New York, Oxford University Press, 1966, pp. 25-26.

3. Irenaeus of Lyons, Against Heresies (Adversus haereses), Book III, Chapter 22, Section 4. Translated by Alexander Roberts and William Rambaut. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0103322.htm>.

4. The arrangement of the plaques is detailed at http://ftp.sunet.se/pub/etext/wiretap-classic-library/Latin/Malin/verdun.txt

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Purification of the Temple

Jacopo Bassano, Purification of the Temple
Italian, 1585
Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado
"Since the Passover of the Jews was near,
Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves,
as well as the money changers seated there.
He made a whip out of cords
and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen,
and spilled the coins of the money changers
and overturned their tables,
and to those who sold doves he said,
"Take these out of here,
and stop making my Father's house a marketplace."
His disciples recalled the words of Scripture,
Zeal for your house will consume me.

(John 2:13-17)

Excerpt from the Gospel for the Third Sunday of Lent, Year B


The episode in which Jesus comes to the temple in Jerusalem and drives out the traders who had established their businesses within its walls is one of the most dramatic of the events of His life, prior to the Passion. The writers of the Synoptic Gospels place it in the early days of what we now call Holy Week, the last week of Jesus’ life and may have been the last straw that gave the Jewish temple faction their excuse for stage managing His crucifixion. On the other hand, John, the writer of the Gospel used on the Fourth Sunday of Lent in Year B of the reading cycle, places it earlier in Jesus ministry. Its actual chronology in His life is, however, less important than its meaning.

Valentin de Boulogne, Purification of the Temple
French, ca. 1620-1625
St. Petersburg, Hermitage Museum
In Jesus’ time the second temple, built only in recent decades by Herod the Great, had certain requirements. First, there was a temple tax, which needed to be paid. It could not be paid by using Greek or Roman coins, which were marked by images of the gods or of deified emperors. Therefore, there were merchants who provided the services that we today call foreign exchange, buying the unacceptable coins in exchange for allowable coins (at a profit, of course).

In addition, to supply pilgrims with the animals needed for the temple sacrifices, there were traders who provided the animals, among them oxen, sheep and doves. While all these businesses served legitimate purposes related to the temple worship, they had encroached on areas of the temple that were off limits for such activities, therefore, defiling the sanctity of those areas. And this is not even to mention the potential for corruption that the association of commerce and the temple rituals could cause: bribes, kickbacks, price gouging, etc. Jesus reacted to this by an outburst of spontaneous, prophetic action.

Rembrandt, Jesus Overturning the Tables
of the Money Changers
Dutch, 1626
Moscow, Pushkin Museum





The image of the outraged Jesus, assembling a makeshift whip out of cords, and then driving these merchants out of the temple is one that still astonishes. Indeed, it may be more astonishing today than at times in the past.







The image of Jesus that today exists in many minds is more that of a gentle guru than an outraged and zealous prophet. A couple of centuries of “gentle Jesus meek and mild”, accepting and affirming everyone and everything, have blinded us to the possibility that some things might actually matter to Him.  It is a huge stretch of the imagination to picture a Jesus who would create a whip out of cords and use it to drive people out of the building or who would overturn the foreign exchange tables, spilling the piles of coins to the floor.

Purification of the Temple
From Gospel Book of Matilda
Italian, late 11th century (ca.1090)
New York, Morgan Library
MS M 492, fol. 84r (detail)







This wasn’t the way earlier centuries saw this episode.

As far as I have been able to determine, the earliest images of the Purification occur during the Middle Ages in manuscript illumination and wall painting.

Early images seem to be more like symbolic representations of the event than imaginative records of it. 









Purification of the Temple
Wall painting
German (Rhineland)
1151-1165
 Schwartz-Rheindorf
St. Clement's Church

Purification of the Temple
Detail - the Moneychangers
Schwartz-Rheindorf
St. Clement's Church

Purification of the Temple
Detail - Dove Sellers
Schwartz-Rheindorf
St. Clement's Church

Hand B of the Munich Psalter, Purification of the Temple
English (Oxford), First quarter of the 13th century
London, British Library
MS Arundel 157, fol. 6v(detail)

Master of the Harvard Hannibal, Purification of the Temple
From Meditationes vitae Christi
French (Paris), 1420-1422
London, British Library
MS Royal 20 B IV, fol. 92 (detail)

Giotto, Purification of the Temple
Italian, 1304-1306
Padua, Arena Chapel
The beginnings of a more realistic view of the event.  In Giotto's painting the defensive reaction of one of the traders
implies an actual action, not a symbolic one. 

Scenes from Holy Week
From Angevin-Hungarian Golden Legend
Hungary or Italy, 1320-1345
New York, Morgan Library

Master of the Hours of Margaret of Cleves, Purification of the Temple with Old Testament prototypes
 (Darius Purifying the Temple, Jesus Purifying the Temple, and Judas Maccabeus Purifying the Temple)
From Biblia pauperum
Netherlands, ca. 1405
London, British Library
MS King's 5, fol. 7

During the Renaissance and later periods, as artists became more comfortable with using such tools as scientific perspective, this changed and the representations of the Purification or Cleansing of the Temple began to show more violence.

Lorenzo Ghiberti, Purification of the Temple
Italian, 1403-1424
Florence, Baptistery

Rambures Master, Purification of the Temple
From Biblia pauperum
Hesdin or Amiens, ca. 1470
The Hague, Museum Meermanno-Westentrianum
MS MMW 10 A 15, fol. 27r (detail)

In these two images (from Ghiberti's doors to the Baptistery of Florence cathedral and from the 1470 Biblia pauperum) there is no doubt that the action of Jesus is a real action, as the other figures react to it. 

The level of violence and the number of figures and animals involved increased over time, until by the Baroque period, Jesus sometimes became lost in the crowd.
Pieter Aertsen, Purification of the Temple
Dutch, 1570-1575
Sold at Christie's Amsterdam on November 9, 1998

Jacopo Bassano, Purification of the Temple
Italian, 1580
London, National Gallery
El Greco, Purification of the Temple
Greco-Spanish, 1570
Washington, DC, National Gallery of Art
El Greco, Purification of the Temple
Greco-Spanish, 1610
London, National Gallery
Valentin de Boulonge, Purification of the Temple
French,  ca. 1618
Rome, Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica
Jacob Jordaens, Purification of the Temple
Flemish, 1640-1645
Paris, Musee du Louvre
Giovanni Battista Castiglione, Purification of the Temple
Italian, 1645-1655
Paris, Musee du Louvre
Here Jesus is a tiny figure in the background, almost swallowed  up by the crowds of animals and people scattering before Him.
Luca Giordano, Purification of the Temple
Italian, ca. 1675
St. Petersburg, Hermitage Museum
Jean Restout and Jean Jouvenet, Purification of the Temple
French, 1754-1757
Paris, Mobilier nationale


Cosmas Damian Asam, Purification of the Temple
German, 1731-1732
Osterhofen (Bavaria), Church of St. Margaret
During the 18th century, and into the 19th century and beyond, artists began to expand the temple setting to concentrate more on the surroundings of the Purification.  Consequently, it is as if the viewpoint of the artist has moved from the mid- to close range into a long distance view.

Giovanni Pannini, Purification of the Temple
Italian, ca. 1724
Madrid, Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection

Bernardo Bellotto, Purification of the Temple
Italian, 1773
Warsaw, National Museum

Joseph Mallard William Turner
Purification of the Temple
English, ca. 1832
London, Tate Gallery
At the same time the image of Jesus became more and more that of the gentle, meek, quiet victim. And, in keeping with this, the images of the Purification of the Temple become quieter, assuming, once again, a more symbolic character. This time, however, the world presented to our view is not the barely indicated one of the medieval image, but the carefully constructed, even archaeological, setting of 19th century historicism.

Raymond Balze, Purification of the Temple
French, 1850s
Montauban, Musee Ingres
James Tissot, Purification of the Temple
French, 1886-1894
New York, Brooklyn Museum
William Brassey Hole, Purification of the Temple
English, 1906


© M. Duffy, 2012

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Illustrating the Parables -- The Parable of Dives and Lazarus

Master of the Codex Aureus of Ecternach, The Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man
From the Golden Gospels of Echternach
German (Echternach), c. 1030
Nuremberg, Germanisches Nationalmuseum
MS Hs 156142, fol. 78r


"Jesus said to the Pharisees:
"There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen
and dined sumptuously each day.
And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores,
who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps
that fell from the rich man's table.
Dogs even used to come and lick his sores.

When the poor man died,
he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham.
The rich man also died and was buried,
and from the netherworld, where he was in torment,
he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off
and Lazarus at his side.

And he cried out, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me.
Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue,
for I am suffering torment in these flames.'
Abraham replied, 'My child,
remember that you received what was good during your lifetime
while Lazarus likewise received what was bad;
but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented.
Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established
to prevent anyone from crossing
who might wish to go from our side to yours
or from your side to ours.'
He said, 'Then I beg you, father, send him
to my father's house,

for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them,
lest they too come to this place of torment.'
But Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the prophets.
Let them listen to them.'
He said, 'Oh no, father Abraham,
but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.'
Then Abraham said,
'If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets,
neither will they be persuaded
if someone should rise from the dead.'"
(Luke 16:19-31)

The excerpt from Luke that is the Gospel reading for Thursday of the second week of Lent presents the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, a pauper who begged at the rich man’s door. (This poor man should not be confused with the other Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha, whom Jesus raised from the dead.)

Lazarus and the Rich Man
From a Gospel Lectionary
German (Tegernsee), 12th Century
Munich, Bayerisches Staatsbibliothek
MS Clm 2939, fol. 98r

In this parable, it seems to me that Jesus, through the Evangelist, is addressing three separate themes:  the importance of charity to the poor; the congruence between the life one lives and the reward for that life; and the difficulty which would be faced by those who spread word of Him and His mission.

The Story of Lazarus and the Rich Man
France, c. 1085-1100
Moissac, Abbey of Saint-Pierre, South Portal



The Story of Lazarus and the Rich Man, Detail - Lazarus in the Bosom of Abraham
France, c. 1085-1100
Moissac, Abbey of Saint-Pierre, South Portal



In death the rich man and the pauper have outcomes inverse to the lives they lived on earth.  The poor man, neglected in life, is welcomed to Abraham’s bosom (an image of heaven) on account of his actions and patience.  The rich man, who spent his life in fine clothing and self-indulgence, ignoring poor Lazarus whom he could have helped, finds himself in a place of torment. 

His desperate plea for an intervention by Lazarus, aimed at saving his brothers from his own fate, is countered with Abraham’s cynicism, an obvious reference to the reality of Luke’s experience. 
'If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets,
neither will they be persuaded
if someone should rise from the dead.'" 

Not surprisingly, this parable was a favorite Biblical passage during the Middle Ages, an era in which the worlds of rich and poor were closer together than they are in the contemporary West.  It appeared everywhere:


In Sculpture


Lazarus with Abraham and Dives in Torment
French, c. 1150-1160
Bryn Athyn (PA), Glencairn Museum



Death of the Rich Man
Italian, 1174-1189
Monreale, Cathedral



Lazarus in Abraham's Bosom
Italian, 1174-1189
Monreale, Cathedral



In Wall Painting

Lazarus at the Rich Man's Door, The Rich Man at Dinner
German, 1376-1488
Zierenberg, Protestant Church (painted before the Reformation)




In Miniature Painting

Deaths and Reward of Lazarus and the Rich Man
From the Huntingfield Psalter
English, c. 1212-1220
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M 43, fol. 21r
Here Lazarus dies in poverty, lying on the ground.  Angels receive his soul and he rests in the bosom of Abraham.  The rich man, on the other hand, dies in his bed, but demons snatch his soul and force it into the mouth of Hell.

Perhaps most surprising is its frequent appearance in the prayer books of the very rich and powerful.  It was clearly a message for them on how they were expected to live their own lives.

Jean Colombe and Workshop
Deaths of Lazarus and the Rich Man
From the Hours of Anne of France
French (Bourges), c. 1470-1471
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M 677, fol. 279r
Jean Colombe and Workshop
Lazarus and the Rich Man
From the Hours of Anne of France
French (Bourges), c. 1470-1471
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M 677, fol. 277r




Master of Edward IV, Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man
From Vita Christi by Ludolf of Saxony
Flemish (Bruges), c. 1487-1490
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M 894, fol. 94r
This miniature tells the entire story in one picture.  In the foreground we see the rich man at table in his house, while Lazarus begs at the door.  In the left background, however, we see the eventual outcome, with the rich man in flaming torment, while Lazarus is held in heaven by Abraham.


Jean Poyer, Lazarus and the Rich Man
From the Hours of Henry VIII (yes, that Henry VIII)
French (Tours), c. 1495-1505
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS H 8, fol. 134v


Master of James IV of Scotland
The Rich Man at Table, Lazarus at
the Door, Death of Lazarus
From the Spinola Hours
Flemish, c. 1510-1520
Los Angeles, J. Paul Getty Museum
MS Ludwig IX 18, fol. 21v
  
Master of James IV of Scotland,
The Rich Man in Torment, Lazarus
in Heaven
From the Spinola Hours
Flemish, c. 1510-1520
Los Angeles, J. Paul Getty Museum
MS Ludwig IX 18, fol. 22r






























The images reflected every aspect of the parable.  Portrayed were:


The luxury of the rich man

The Montbaston Master,  The Rich Man at Dinner and Lazarus at the Gate
From Somme le rois with the Gospels and the Compainte de Notre Dame by Laurence of Orleans
French (Paris), c. 1325-50
London, British Library
MS Royal 19 C II, fol. 100r


The Rich Man and Lazarus
From the Confessio amantis by John Gower
English, c. 1465-1475
New  York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M 126, fol. 141r

The Rich Man at Table, Lazarus at the Door
from Book of Hours
French (Paris), c. 1475-1485
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M 130, fol.96r


Master Francois, The Rich Man at Table and Lazarus at the Gate
From the City of God, Vol. I by Saint Augustine of Hippo
French (Paris), c. 1475-1480
The Hague, Meermano Museum
MS RMMW 10 A 11, fol. 16v


Robert Boyvin, Lazarus Begging at the Rich Man's Table
From a Book of Hours
French (Rouen), c. 1495-1503
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M 261, fol. 81v


Jean Pichore Workshop, The Rich Man at Table, Lazarus Barred at the Door
From a Book of Hours
French (Paris), c. 1500
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Latin 923, fol. 69v


Follower of Jean Pichore, The Rich Man at Table and Lazarus at the Door
From a Book of Hours
French (Paris), c. 1510-1520
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M 286, fol. 71v


Lazarus Begging at the Door While the Rich Man Dines Inside
Dutch, c. 1510
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Cloisters Collection


Lazarus at the House of Dives
Flemish, c. 1520
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Cloisters Collection




The Miserable State of Lazarus (especially the passage regarding his sores and his relationship with the dogs)


Lazarus at the Rich Man's Door
From the Pictorial Bible of the Abbey of St. Bertin
French (St. Omer), c. 1190-1200
The Hague, Koninklijk Bibliotheek
MS KB 76 F 5, fol. 16r (detail)


Lazarus at the Rich Man's Door
From a Bible historiale by Guiard des Moulins
French (Saint-Omer), 14th Century
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de Frane
MS Francais 152, fol. 413v



Master of Catherine of Cleves and/or the Masters of Zweder van Culemborg, Lazarus and the Rich Man
From the Missal of Eberhard von Greiffenklau
Dutch (possibly Utrecht), c. 1450-1500
Baltimore, The Walters Art Museum
MS W. 174, fol.  125r


Jean Colombe, Lazarus at the Rich Man's Gate
From the Vita Jesu Christi by Ludolph of Saxony
French (Bourges), c. 1475-1500
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 178, fol. 67r



Their Respective Deaths


Deaths of Lazarus and the Rich Man
From the Sermons of Maurice de Sully
Italian (Milan or Genoa), c. 1320-1330
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS  Francais 187, fol. 27v (detail)
Each of the characters literally breathes forth their soul.  The soul of Lazarus is received by an angel, while that of the rich man is forced from him by one devil, while another devil snatches it.


The Fate Which Awaited Each of Them at Death


Lazaarus Brought to Abraham in Paradise
From Pelerinage de l'ame by Guillaume de Digulleville
French (Rennes), c. 1425-1450
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 376, fol. 113r


Hieronymous Cock After Lambert Lombard, The Death of Dives
From the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus Series
Flemish, c. 1550-1570
London, Trustees of the British Museum
The Latin inscription reads "Dives dies and is buried in Tartarus".  


Hieronymous Cock After Lambert Lombard, The Death of Lazarus
From the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus Series
Flemish, c. 1550-1570
London, Trustees of the British Museum
The Latin inscription reads "On the other hand, the beggar dies, and is carried into Abraham's bosom."

    Dives Is Carried Away by Devils
    Flemish, c. 1590
    London, Victoria and Albert Musesum


    David Teniers the Younger, The Rich Man Led to Hell
    Dutch, ca. 1647
    London, National Gallery

    Pierre Drevet, The Rich Man in Torment
    French, c. 1680-1738
    Philadelphia, Museum of Art
    The Latin inscription literally reads "As much in the days of mortality, I was filled with honors and tasted with delights, as many dreadful torments and horrible tortures, I now suffer for an eternity".  In a free translation it might read "While I lived I was honored and tasted of delights, now for eternity I suffer torments and tortures equal in measure to those honors and delights."



    The Confrontation Between the Tormented Rich Man and Abraham

    The Rich Man Pleading with Abraham
    From the Pictorial Bible of the Abbey of St. Bertin
    French (St. Omer), ca. 1190-1200
    The Hague, Koninklijk Bibliotheek
    MS KB 76 F 5, fol. 16r (detail)


    The Rich Man Pleading with Abraham
    From a Psalter-Hours
    Flemish, c. 1275-1300
    London, British Library
    MS Harley 2930, fol. 157r


    The Rich Man Pleading with Abraham
    From a Book of Hours
    Flemish (Liege), c. 1300-1310
    Baltimore, The Walters Art Museum
    MS W37, fol. 30r


    The Rich Man Pleading with Abraham
    From Vies de la Vierge de du Christ
    Italian (Naples), c. 1350
    Paris, Bibliotheque national de France
    MS Francais 9561, fol. 156v



    Jean Bandol and others, The Rich Man Pleading with Abraham
    From Grande Bible historiale completée by Gerard des Moulins
    French (Paris), c. 1371-1372
    The Hague, Meermano Museum
    MS RMMW 10 B 23, fol. 504v

    Master Francois, The Rich Man Pleading with Abraham
    From the City of God, Vol. I by Saint Augustine of Hippo
    French (Paris), c. 1475-1480
    The Hague, Meermano Museum
    MS RMMW 10 A 11, fol. 16v




    Follower of Master Francois
    From a Book of Hours
    French (Paris), c. 1480-1500
    New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
    MS M 179, fol. 132r


    The Rich Man Pleads with Abraham
    From a Book of Hours
    French (Paris), c. 1495-1505
    New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
    MS M 197, fol. 89v




    Master of the Dresden Prayerbook, The Rich Man Pleads with Abraham
    From the Breviary of Queen Isabella of Castille
    Flemish, c. 1497
    London, British Library
    MS Additional 18861, fol. 252r 
    Here we see the confrontation of the Rich Man with Abraham in contrast with his past life or perhaps in the context of the life of one of his brothers, for whom he is pleading.


    The Rich Man Pleads with Abraham
    From a Book of Hours
    French (Rouen), c. 1500-1520
    New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
    MS M 431, fol. 115r



    Jean Pichore Workshop, The Rich Man Pleads with Abraham
    From a Book of Hours
    French (Paris), c. 1500
    Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
    MS Latin 923, fol. 70r


    Hans Schaeufelein, The Rich Man in Hell and the Poor Lazarus in Abraham's Lap
    From Das Plenarium
    German, 1517
    New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art



    Sebald Beham, The Rich Man in Hell
    From a Series of New Testament Illustrations
    German, 1530
    London, Trustees of the British Museum


    Hieronymous Cock After Lambert Lombard, The Rich Man Pleading with Abraham
    From the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus Series
    Flemish, c. 1550-1570
    London, Trustees of the British Museum
    The Latin inscription reads:  "The rich man is tormented in hell (while) the beggar enjoys consolation in heaven"


    Heinrich Aldegrever, The Rich Man in Hell
    German, 1554
    New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art
    The Latin inscription reads: "Dives here asks Lazarus for a drop of cold water to cool his tongue" and cites the Biblical passage Luke 16:24.



    Later Images

    After the Reformation the diversity of these images declined in both Catholic and Protestant countries.   The emphasis shifted, to focus totally on the portrayal of the rich man’s luxury.  What remained of the rest of the story (that is the reward to each for their lives and the confrontation with Abraham) was shifted to the background or eliminated altogether.  

    This may be explained, in the Protestant countries at least, by emerging Protestant theology.  This proposed that, at death, the soul falls into a kind of sleep, not to be awakened until the Last Judgment.  Therefore, the second part of this parable, with its references to an individual judgment shortly after death (for the rich man pleads that a messenger be sent to his still living brothers) may have been uncomfortable.


    Bernaert van Orley, Story of Dives and Lazarus
    Closed Wings of the Triumph of Virtue Altarpiece
    Flemish, 1521
    Brussels, Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts

    These wings show various elements of the story, though not always in an orderly narrative fashion.  In the left wing Dives feasts in the central space of the panel while at the bottom Lazarus is discovered dead.  At the top angels bear his soul (in a bubble or glass sphere) to heaven.  At the right the rich man is seen on his deathbed at the center.  At the bottom he lies in agony.  At the top Abraham appears bearing Lazarus in his bosom, while surrounded by angels.  (The interior of the triptych depicts the story of Job and is, therefore, not illustrative for the subject of Dives and Lazarus, although the sufferings of Job are related as another example of virtue triumphant.)


    Marcus Geeraerts the Elder, Story of Dives and Lazarus
    Dutch, 1560s
    Utrecht, Museum Catherijneconvent


    Bonifacio Veronese, The Story of Dives and Lazarus
    Italian, ca. 1540-1550
    Venice, Gallerie dell'Accademia
    The emphasis here is on the pleasures other than feasting that are enjoyed by the rich man (female company and music) while Lazarus begs at the outside of the portico.


    Anonymous, Parable of the Rich Man and Poor Lazarus
    Dutch or Flemish, c. 1550-1575
    Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum

    Leandro Bassano, The Parable of Dives and Lazarus
    Italian, c. 1570
    Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado



    Gerard de Jode, Dives and Lazarus
    From Thesaurus Novi Testamenti elegantissimis iconibus expressus continens historias atque miracula do[mi] ni nostri Iesu Christi
    Flemish, 1585
    London, Trustees of the British Museum
    The inscription reads:  "Lazarus lies before the rich man's door, full of sores, and no one offers him (even) a little help."


    Leandro Bassano, Dives and Lazarus
    Italian, c. 1590-1595
    Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum
    Leandro Bassano's version of the parable must have been very popular as there are several versions of this composition extant.


    Juan de Sevilla y Romero,  Dives and Lazarus
    Spanish, 17th Century
    Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado

    Att Pieter Corneliszoon van Rijck, Kitchen Scene with the Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man in the Background
    Dutch, c. 1610-1620
    Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum


    Frans Francken theYounger, Dives and Lazarus
    Flemish, ca.1610
    Private Collection
    There is heavy emphasis on the rich man's luxury.  The scene of Lazarus is pushed to the side.  The ultimate fates of the two men are relegated to the deep background, Lazarus' in the deep left and the rich man's glimpsed through the window-like opening at the right,  above the heads of the feasting guests.  Above the rich man's head a glass globe is suspended.  It is a reminder of his mortality, which he has forgotten.


    Workshop of Domenico Fetti, Dives and Lazarus
    Italian, c. 1618-1628
    Washington, DC, National Gallery of Art
    Again this picture focuses on the feasting.  Lazarus is pushed to the side.



    Bartholomeus van Bassen, Lazarus at the Palace of the Rich Man
    Dutch, c. 1620-1630
    Munich, Bayerische Staatsgemaeldesammlungen, Alte Pinakothek
    In this picture the real subject is the architecture.  Both Lazarus and the Rich Man are almost lost in the composition.



    Hendrik Terbrugghen, Lazarus and the Rich Man
    Dutch, 1625
    Utrecht, Centraal Museum
    Here Lazarus is the brightly lit focal point of the picture, while the rich man is lost in the muted interior.



    Nicolaus Knuepfer, Lazarus at the Rich Man's Gate
    Dutch, c. 1630-1640
    Milan, Pinacoteca di Brera
    Rather unusually both characters in the parable are given equal weight in this mid-seventeenth century picture.



    Barent Fabritius, The Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man
    Dutch, 1661
    Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum
    This picture includes the entire parable.  The beginning description of the two characters is at the center of the image while the deaths of both characters are also shown, the rich man's at the left and Lazarus' at the right.  Above the image of the death of Lazarus is the confrontation between the rich man in hell and Abraham in heaven.



    One exception I have found to the tendency to push the point of the parable into the background (there may be others I haven’t seen) is an image by James Tissot from his series of New Testament illustrations, now in the Brooklyn Museum. Tissot’s image focuses on the confrontation between the tormented rich man and Abraham. However, it does so without showing us the demons and flames of earlier works. The idea of the “great chasm” between them is conveyed through their relative proportions and the use of color, rather than as a definitely fixed boundary.


    James Tissot, The Rich Man Pleads with Abraham
    French, 1884-1896
    New York, Brooklyn Museum



    How the Rich Man Got a Personal Name


    Over the course of the ages there has been one curious development in the story. The rich man, who is not named in the Gospel, acquired a name. He became known as Dives (pronounced “deeves” in English) or Epulon (in French and Spanish) or Epulone (in Italian). Where did this come from?


    In the Vulgate, the Latin text of the Bible translated by St. Jerome in the 5th century, the first sentence of the passage reads: “Homo quidam erat dives et induebatur purpura et bysso et epulabatur cotidie splendide.” The word used for “rich man” is “dives” (pronounced “dee-vez”). The words used for "feasted splendidly every day", which is "epulabatur" comes from a Latin root "epulum". This word is used for meat or food. Indeed, there was a festival in ancient Rome known as the Epulum Jovis, celebrated on the Ides of September (September 15) in honor of Jupiter, the principal male Roman deity. The feasting was led by a special order of Roman priests, the Epulones. Eventually "epulones" came to mean the equivalent of "gluttons". 1


    Master Henri, Sobriety and Gluttony with the Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man
    From Somme le Roi by Friar Laurence
    French (Paris), c. 1295
    London, British Library
    MS Additional 54180, fol. 188v
    Here allegorical figures of Sobriety and Gluttony give us a clue to the interpretation of the Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man as a caution against gluttony.  In the middle register we see the rich man feasting while Lazarus stands at his gate and at the bottom we see the eventual fate of the glutton, whose headgear identifies him as the rich man of the parable.

    As the gulf between the language used in church (Latin) diverged from the spoken languages of Europe these word related to the “rich man” who "feasted daily" began to be understood as a personal name, equivalent to the name of the pauper “Lazarus”.   The English chose to use the Latin word for "rich man" ("dives") as the personal name Dives, while speakers of the Romance languages (Italian, Spanish and French) used the word for "glutton" ("epulone") in their respective languages, hence Epulone, Epulón and Epulon.

    Lazarus too had a future in the world beyond the Bible.  Because his sores were thought to have been the sores of leprosy, places that cared for lepers were often called lazare houses.  And, although this application of his name is not used in the contemporary world, one application still is.  At the end of the Requiem Mass (now the Mass of Christian Burial) the last statement, whether spoken or sung, is the text known as the "In Paradisum".  It is spoken just before the body of the deceased is borne out of the church.  

    It reads: 
    "In paradisum deducant te angeli,
    in tuo adventu 
    suscipiant te martyres, 
    et perducant te 
    in civitatem sanctam Jerusalem. 
    Chorus angelorum te suscipiat, 
    et cum Lazaro quondam paupere 
    aeternam habeas requiem."



    which translates as
    "May the angels lead you into paradise, 
    may the martyrs receive you
    in your coming,
    and may they guide you
    into the holy city, Jerusalem.
    May the chorus of angels receive you
    and with Lazarus once poor
    may you have eternal rest."


    It was set memorably by Gabriel Faure in his Requiem in 1893.


    ©  M. Duffy, 2012, revised and updated 2022

    1.  Natasha Sheldon, "Feasting the Gods: The Epulum Jovis"
    at https://historyandarchaeologyonline.com/feasting-the-gods-the-epulum-jovis/