Sunday, January 17, 2016

There Was A Wedding At Cana In Galilee

Giuseppe Maria Crespi, Marriage Feast At Cana
Italian, c. 1686
Chicago, Art Institute
There was a wedding at Cana in Galilee,
and the mother of Jesus was there.
Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding.
When the wine ran short,
the mother of Jesus said to him,
“They have no wine.”
And Jesus said to her,
“Woman, how does your concern affect me?
My hour has not yet come.”
His mother said to the servers,
“Do whatever he tells you.”
Now there were six stone water jars there for Jewish ceremonial washings,
each holding twenty to thirty gallons.
Jesus told them,
“Fill the jars with water.”
So they filled them to the brim.
Then he told them,
“Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.”
So they took it.
And when the headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine,
without knowing where it came from
— although the servers who had drawn the water knew —,
the headwaiter called the bridegroom and said to him,
“Everyone serves good wine first,
and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one;
but you have kept the good wine until now.”
Jesus did this as the beginning of his signs at Cana in Galilee
and so revealed his glory,
and his disciples began to believe in him.
John 2:1-11 (Gospel Reading for January 17, 2016, Year C Cycle)

Agostino Ciampelli, Marriage Feast At Cana
Italian, c. 1600
Paris, Musee du Louvre, Departement des arts graphique
The Church’s Christmas Season came to an official end last Sunday with celebration of the Baptism of the Lord.  This week in the readings for Cycle C (2015-16 liturgical year) we begin reading about the public ministry of Jesus, which begins with this miracle, performed at one of life’s most ordinary events , a wedding feast, performed, perhaps prematurely, at the behest of Mary, His mother.  
Jan Steen, Marriage Feast At Cana
Dutch, 1665-1670
Dublin, National Gallery of Ireland
Theologically, the account is loaded with multiple layers from which we can examine it:  there is the element of an epiphany, in which Jesus’ power is revealed; there is the change of the element of water into a choice wine which forecasts the greater change of bread and wine into Body and Blood; there is the presence of the Second Person of the Trinity which imparts of blessing to the human event of a wedding leading to the recognition of marriage as a sacrament; there is the role of  Mary in gently nudging Him to be who He is and her trusting prompt to the servers “Do whatever He tells you”, knowing that her observation will be acted upon.  

All of these possible threads and others besides have been expounded on by preachers and theologians for centuries.  But what of artists?  How have their works imagined this miraculous event?

Early images, say from the Carolingian period through the early Renaissance, often depicted the miracle at Cana as part of a series of images that appear within the same frame. 
Psalter (Hours of Guiluys de Boisleux
France (Artois), 1246-1260
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS 730, fol. 13r

Since this is the first miracle of Jesus recorded anywhere in the Gospels and a third type of ephiphany it frequently appears with the Presentation of Jesus, the Flight Into Egypt, the boy Jesus in the Temple or His baptism by John the Baptist.  
Book of Hours
German (Franconia), 1204-1219
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M739, fol. 20v

St. Salvatoris of Pruem
German (Pruem), 986-1001
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Latin 9448, fol. 26v

Sacramentary of St. Stephan of Limoges
French (Limoges, St-Martial), 11th-12th Century
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Latin 9438, fol. 24r

Psalter, Use of Paris
French (Paris), 1200-1225
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Nouvelle acquisition latine 1392, fol. 3r
English (Oxford), 1200-1220
London, British Library
MS Royal 1 D X, fol. 3v

However, this is not always true.  Others combine the miracle at Cana with another scene or scenes from the life of Christ, including:

·         Other miracles  
Historien Bibel
German (Swabia), 1375-1400
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M268, fol. 27r

·     Other scenes from the life of Christ - In the two images shown below, the scene of Cana is combined with the scene of the overturning of the tables of the money changer in the Temple, an
Bible historiale of Guiard des Moulins
French (St.-Omer), 14th Century
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 152, fol. 385
        event from a much later period in the life of Jesus.

Attributed to Hand B of the Munich Psalter
English (Oxford), 1200-1225
London, British Library
MS Arundel 157, fol. 6v

·         Old Testament precedents  
Gold Scrolls Group, Typologische tagerelen uit het leven van Jezus
Flemish (Bruges), 1435-1445
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M648, fol. 3r

Moving on toward the point at which the subject stands alone are works that portray the miracle of Cana as a discrete picture within a series of pictures illustrating the life of Christ.  This kind of work occurs in the great high Medieval/early Renaissance cycles of fourteenth-century Italy at Assisi, Padua and Siena, by Torritti, Giotto and Duccio. 
Jacopo Torritti, Marriage Feast at Cana
Italian, 1290
Assisi, San Francesco (Upper Church)
Giotto, Marriage Feast at Cana
Italian, 1304-1306
Padua, Arena Chapel

Duccio, Marriage Feast at Cana
Italian, 1308-1311
Siena, Museo dell'Opera del Duomo

Giusto de'Menabuoi, Marriage Feast at Cana
Italian, 1376-1378
Padua, Baptistry

One charming Siennese cycle, the Meditationes vitae Christi, owned by the Bibliotheque nationale de France in Paris (1330-1340, MS Italien 115), contains what amounts to a comic strip version of the Bible as page after page shows all the steps of the story, from the time the servants lay the table, through Mary’s recognition of the problem to the end, when everyone, including Jesus, contentedly sits sipping the good wine. 
Italien 115, fol. 79

Italien 115, fol. 80

Italien 115, fol. 81v
Italien 115, fol. 82

Italien 115, fol. 82v

But, another stream of independent images the miracle by itself had been developing as well, in sculpture as well as in painting and in other parts of the Christian world as well as in Europe.  
Carolingian Ivory, Marriage Feast at Cana
German, 820-870
London, British Museum
Gospel Lectionary
Austria (Salzburg), 1070-1090
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M780, fol. 17r

The earliest images present the bare bones of the narrative.  There is Jesus, Mary and the servers (or at least the water jars), sometimes the bride and groom appear as well.  
Coptic Gospel Book
Egypt (Damietta), 1178-1180
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Copte 13, fol. 224v

Workshop of Pacino da Bonaguida
Scenes from the life of Christ and
the life of the Blessed Gerard of Villamagna
Italian (Florence), 1315-1325
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS 643, fol. 6r

Sermons of Maurice de Sully
Italian (Milan or Genoa), 1320-1330
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 187, fol. 6
Lives of The Virgin and of Christ
Italy (Naples), ca. 1350
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 9561, 142v

Master of the Parement de Narbonne
Tres belles heures de Notre-Dame de Jean de Barry
French (Paris), c.1380
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Nouvelle acquisitions latine 3093, fol.68

Pseudo-Jacquemart & collaborators
Grandes heures de Jean de Berry
French  (Paris), 1409
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Latin 919, fol. 41
If  you look closely at these two images you will notice
that the later, 1409, painting is an almost exact copy of the
earlier manuscript.  As both were painted for the Duke
of Berry (for whom the famous Tres Riches Heures was
also painted) it opens a window into the world of the
artists working at this time as they absorbed each
other's ideas.

However, beginning around 1500, the number of people increase to include not only the bride, groom and servers,
Master of the Catholic Kings
Spanish, c. 1495-1497
Washington, National Gallery of Art
Juan de Flandres
Spanish, 1500-1504
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Gerard David, Marriage Feast at Cana
Flemish, c. 1500
Paris, Musee du Louvre
Hieronymous Bosch, Marriage Feast at Cana
Dutch, 1561
Rotterdam, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen

but their families, the guests, the musicians, until one could say that, if not a cast of thousands, there is at least a cast of scores.  

Paolo Veronese, Marriage Feast at Cana
Italian, 1563
Paris, Musee du Louvre
The height of this trend is the great painting, dated 1562, by Veronese now in the Louvre.  Over 130 people appear in this picture, according to the commentary on the Louvre website.1

Tintoretto, Marriage Feast at Cana
Italian, 1561
Venice, S. Maria della Salute
No doubt due to the fame of the Veronese painting and a contemporary work by Tintoretto this “cast of hundreds” approach held sway.

Frans Francken II, Marriage Feast at Cana
Flemish, 1642
Toulouse, Musee des Augustins
Mattia Preti, Marriage Feast at Cana
Italian, c. 1655-1660
London, National Gallery

Juan de Valdes Leal, Marriage Feast at Cana
Spanish, 1660
Paris, Musee du Louvre
Jan Steen, Marriage Feast at Cana
Dutch, 1676
Pasadena, Norton-Simon Foundation

Sebastiano Ricci, Marriage Feast at Cana
Italian, 1712-1715
Kansas City, MO, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
Jean Jacques Lagrenee le Jeune
French, 1781
Fontainebleau,  Musee national du chateau de Fontainbeleau

It wasn’t until the nineteenth century that artists began to simplify their presentation of the miracle, stripping the added details and returning to the minimalist narrative of the early works.  
Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld, Marriage Feast at Cana
German, 1819
Hamburg, Kunsthalle
James Tissot, Marriage Feast at Cana
French, 1886-1894
New York, Brooklyn Museum

Plate, Marriage Feast at Cana
French (Sarreguemines, Lorraine), c. 1900
Sarreguemines, Musee de la Faience

Atelier Charles Lorin
Marriage Feast at Cana
French (Chartres), 1910-1914
New York, Church of St. Jean Baptiste

Eventually, in a work like that of the 1953 print by Stanley Spencer even the figure of Jesus seems to have disappeared and the title applied to what appears to be an ordinary wedding dinner, dominated by a multi-tiered cake. 
Stanley Spencer, Marriage at Cana
English, 1953
Swansea, Glynn Vivian Art Gallery

© M. Duffy, 2016

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