Sunday, September 18, 2016

St. Matthew – Tax Man, Apostle, Evangelist, Martyr

Caravaggio, Calling of St. Matthew (detail)
Italian, 1599-1600
Rome, S. Francesco dei Francesi, Contarelli Chapel

"As Jesus passed by, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post.
He said to him, "Follow me."
And he got up and followed him.”
(Matthew 9:9-13)

Thus did Matthew (or Levi as he is called in the Gospel of Mark) become a disciple of Jesus. After the Ascension, Matthew is said to have found his ministry in spreading the good news of salvation to the regions of the Middle East and the Balkans. One of the Synoptic Gospels is attributed to him.

Matthew As An Evangelist

It is as one of the evangelists that Matthew first appears in art. Many of the surviving manuscript copies of the Gospels include so-called Evangelist Portraits, one for each of the four Gospels.

The Evangelists are usually shown seated in the act of writing, although sometimes they stand, holding their books.         
St. Matthew Writing
from the Ebbo Gospels
French, Hautvilliers Abbey (Reims), 816-835
Epernay, Bibliotheque municipale
 MS 1
This miniature demonstrates the attempted revival of
Roman classicism that prevailed in the
Carolingian Empire during the 9th century. 

St. Matthew Writingfrom the Gospels of Sainte-Aure
French, c.850-875
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Arsenal 1171, fol. 17v

St Matthew At His Desk
from Bible
Byzantine (Constantinople), 10th century
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Coislin 195, fol. 9v
This miniature shows the kind of classical
painting which the Carolingian and Ottonian
artists attempted to emulate.
Michael Medovartsev, St. Matthew Writing
from Bible
Byzantine (Russian), c.1475-1500
London, British Library
MS Egerton 3045, fol. 10v
This shows how remarkably stable Byzantine
iconography was, for the Russian painting is
very similar to the Greek painting of 500 years earlier.

St. Matthew, Book of Kells
Irish, ca. 800
Dublin, Trinity College Old Library (TCD)
MS 58, fol. 29r 
This famous Irish manuscript demonstrates
the alternative, abstract insular style
indigenous to Northern Europe outside the
former Roman Empire.
St. Matthew Writing
from the Harley Golden Gospels
German (Aachen), c.875-900
London, British Library
MS Harley 2788, fol. 13v

Saints Matthew and Luke
Byzantine Enamel, 11th century
Paris, Musee de Cluny, Musee national du Moyen Age
Saint Matthew
from the main altar of the Abbey of Grandmont
French Enamel, c.1231
Paris, Musee du Louvre

Jean Bourdichon, Saint Matthew
from the Hours of Frederic of Aragon
Paris (Tours), 1501-1504
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Latin 10532, fol. 350

Atelier of Jean Goujon, Saint Matthew
Wood Inlays from Chapel of Chateau d'Ecouen
French, 1548_
Chantilly, Musee Conde

Matthew and His Symbol

They are often also frequently represented by their associated symbols.  These symbols are derived from, and related to, the four winged creatures, known as the Tetramorph, that stand at the throne of God in the vision of Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1:10) and in the Book of Revelation (Revelation 4:6-7).

Evangelist Symbols 
from Book of Kells
Irish, ca. 800
Dublin, Trinity College Old Library (TCD)
MS 58, fol. 27v
Christ in Majesty Surrounded by the Four Evangelists
and Their Symbols
from Gospels of the Sainte-Chapelle
German (Treves), c.984
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Latin 8851, fol. 1v

Matthew’s symbol is unique. While the other Evangelists are associated with animal symbols (the eagle for John, the lion for Mark and the ox for Luke), Matthew’s symbol is an angel.  So, his symbol serves a dual purpose, the angel is for Matthew, both his symbol and his source of inspiration.  Thus he is frequently shown receiving inspiration in from an angel, his own symbol.  This image accounts for the majority of representations of Saint Matthew from the early medieval through the Baroque periods.  Only a sampling of the available works which use this theme are shown below.

Saint Matthew Writing
from Gospels
French (St. Amand), 875-900
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Latin 257, fol.13
Saint.Matthew Writing
from Bible
German (Mainz), 1025-1050
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Latin 275, fol. 3v

Saint Mattew Writing
from Gospels
French (Meuse), c, 1150-1200
The Hague, Koninklijk Bibliothek
MS 76 E 17, fol. 11v
Master of the Bible of Jean de Sy. Saint Matthew
 from Bible historiale of Guyart des Moulins_
French, 1357
London, British Library
MS Royal 17 E VII_133v

Follower of Jean Fouquet, Saint Matthew Writing
from Book of Hours
French (Tours), c.1470
The Hague, Koninklijl Bibliothek
MS 74 G 28, fol. 17r

Jean Bourdichon, Saint Matthew Writing
from Grandes heures of Anne de Bretagne
French (Tours), 1503-1508
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Latin 9474, fol. 21v

Giovanni Gerolamo Savoldo, Saint Matthew and the Angel
Italian, c.1534
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Jean Goujon_Saint Matthew
from  St. Germain l'Auxerrois church
French (Paris), 1544-1545
Paris, Musee du Louvre

Johannes Wierix after Maarten de Vos, Saint Matthew Writing
from Thesaurus Novi Testamenti elegantissimis iconibus
expressus continens historias atque miracula do[mi] ni
nostri Iesu Christi

Flemish, 1585
London, British Museum
After Pierre Mignard, Saint Matthew
French, c.1700
Versailles, Chateaux de Versailles ed de Trianon

Charles Lemeire, Angel of Saint Matthew from the Tetramorph
Maquette for decoration of cupola of the
Basilica of St.Martin d'Ainay in Lyon
French, 1899-1900
Paris, Musee d'Orsay

Natalia Gontcharova, Saint Matthew
Costume design for the never danced 
Diaghilev ballet "Liturgie"
Russian, 1915-1927
Paris, Centre national d'art et
de culture Georges-Pompidou

I am including this image in this category
 because the 
artist has conflated the angel and
St. Matthew into one 
image through the wing-like
extensions of the figure's draperies.

Scenes From the Life of Matthew

Less frequent have been scenes of Matthew's occupation and of his life-changing encounter with Jesus. Although these do appear occasionally, they were nowhere near as popular a subject.

Calling of Matthew
from Orations of Gregory Nazianzus
Greek, 879-882
Paris, Bibliotheque Nationale de France
MS Grec 510, fol. 87v
This Byzantine manuscript shows scenes from the
New Testament, including scenes of the calling
of the Apostles.  The calling of Matthew is
located in the center of the top row of images.
We can see Matthew, at his tax counting table,
responding to Jesus, who stands to his right.

Calling of Matthew
from Livre d'images de Madame Marie,
Belgian (Hainault), ca. 1285-1290
Paris, Bibliotheque Nationale de France
MS Nouvelle acquisition francaise 16252, fol. 69v

Master of the Coronation Book of Charles V
Matthew collecting taxes
from Bible historiale of Guyart des Moulins
Paris, c. 1350-1356
London, British Library
MS Royal 19 D II, fol.426

Anonymous, Saint Matthew collecting taxes
from Bible historiale of Guiard des Moulins
French (Paris), 1350-1356
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
Ms Francais 162, fol. 165

Marinus van Reymerswaele, Calling of Saint Matthew
Dutch, c.1530-1546
Dublin, National Gallery
However, this changed after Caravaggio. In 1599 Caravaggio received the commission for paintings to decorate the Contarelli Chapel in the Roman church of San Luigi dei Francesi (St. Louis of the French), not far from the Pantheon. All of them broke important ground, artistically, and none more so than the Calling of St. Matthew.
Caravaggio, Calling of St. Matthew
Italian, 1599-1600
Rome, S. Luigi dei Francesi, Contarelli Chapel
It is difficult now for us to imagine the impact that this painting had on the people of Caravaggio’s day. Its dramatic play of lights and darks, called chiaroscuro, had been developed by earlier artists, but had never been used with such a powerful, flickering effect. The faces and gestures of the figures seem to spring out of the dark.  The arrangement of lights and darks divides the composition into two triangles, each of which is centered on one of the two main protagonists, Jesus and Matthew.    Also dramatic is the issue of dress.   While Jesus and His companion appear to be wearing traditional “antique” dress, the contemporary dress worn by Matthew and his cronies is unexpected and moves the scene out of the realm of “somewhere back in time” to “right now”, which is a new and shocking idea.1   This transports the event into the present day and is a reminder that the call extends to us too.  It is as if Jesus had suddenly walked into one of our twenty-first century offices and said to us “Follow me!”  

Caravaggio, Inspiration of St. Matthew
Italian, 1600
Rome, S. Luigi dei Francesi, Contarelli Chapel

The other paintings for the Contarelli Chapel have similar effects of lighting, but they lack the contemporary “punch” of the Calling. They are the Inspiration of St. Matthew, which is derived from the historical type of the evangelist portrait, shows St. Matthew, half standing, half kneeling, at his writing bench, receiving inspiration from an angel, which is, of course, his traditional symbol.

The other is the violent Martyrdom of St. Matthew, which virtually explodes out of the canvas on which it is painted. Horrified by the violent act of St. Matthew’s attacker, the onlookers flee the scene. Some are in contemporary dress (circa 1600), while others are dressed in various “antique” styles.

At the center is the figure of St. Matthew, clad in priestly vestments. Even as his hand is pulled upward by his executioner, as he prepares to use the sword he carries in his right hand, an angel reaches from heaven with the palm of martyrdom, ready for the moment of Matthew’s death.

Caravaggio, Martyrdom of St. Matthew
Italian, 1600
Rome, S. Luigi dei Francesi, Contarelli Chapel

These three paintings had a monumental impact on the history of art in the 17th century. Other artists borrowed various elements for their own work. Some adopted the strong chiaroscuro lighting, others the contemporary settings. Those in the immediate aftermath of Caravaggio (who died young only ten years after completing the Contarelli Chapel paintings) are often known by the group name of the Caravaggisti. 
Valentin de Boulogne. Saint Matthew and the Angel
French, c.1620-1632
Versailles, Chateaux de Versailles et de Trianon

 One of the first (and best) of these was the young French artist, Valentin de Boulogne, who studied Caravaggio's work in Rome before himself dying young there.  His French patrons introduced the style to France, where it had a great influence.

But, nearly every artist in Europe was affected to some extent by these works in honor of St. Matthew for many years to come.

Giovanni Battista Caracciolo, Calling of Saint Matthew (?)
Italian, c.1625-1630
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art
There is some debate about the subject of this painting recently purchased (January 2016) by the Metropolitan Museum
of Art, but in my opinion it does appear to be the Calling of Saint Matthew.  In my reading Matthew is the figure on the
right, shown from behind.  There is definitely money on the table, which is being fingered by the youth with the red turban
who is peering curiously around the figure of Jesus.  Behind Jesus stands what is probably a disciple, possibly Peter.

Lambert Jacobszoon, Saint Matthew and the Angel
Dutch, 1630-1631
Rouen, Musee des Beaux-Arts

Simone Cantarini, Saint Matthew and the Angel
Italian, c.1645-1648
Washington, National Gallery of Art
Attributed to Charles Wautier, Calling of Saint Matthew
Belgian, c.1650
Toulouse, Musee des Augustins

Niccolo Tornioli, Conversion of Saint Matthew
Italian, c.1650-1652
Rouen, Musee des Beaux-Arts

Juan de Pareja, Calling of Saint Matthew
Spanish, 1661
Madrid, Museo del Prado

Rembrandt, Saint Matthew and the Angel
Dutch, 1661
Paris, Musee du Louvre

Jacob Jordaens, Saint Matthew and Two Apostles
Belgian, c.1670
Lille, Palais des Beaux-Arts

Jean-August-Dominique Ingres, Saint Matthew
French, undated
Paris, Musee du Louvre

Very infrequently shown in art are the stories of Matthew's work as an Apostle following the Resurrection and Acension.  These apocryphal stories are found in the various Lives of the Saints but above all in the Legenda aurea or Golden Legend, which was one of the most popular books, outside of the Bible and the Books of Hours, of the medieval period.  Most of the stories focus on the confrontation between Saint Matthew and two magicians at the court of Candace, Queen of Ethiopia.  As the Golden Legend describes it:

"Matthew the apostle, preaching in Ethiopia, in the city that is said Nadaber, found there two enchanters named Zaroes and Arphaxat, which enchanted the men by their art, so that whom that they would, should seem that thy were prived of the health and office of their members. Which were so elevated in pride that they made them to be honoured as gods......
Then came before them a man that said that the enchanters were come with two dragons, which cast fire and sulphur by their mouths and nostrils, and slew all the men. Then the apostle garnished him with the sign of the cross and went out surely to them, and anon as these dragons saw him, anon they came and slept at his feet. Then said Matthew to the enchanters: Where is your craft? Awake ye them if ye may; and if I would pray our Lord, that which ye would have committed in me, I should soon execute on you. And when the people were assembled, he commanded the dragons that they should depart without hurting of any, and they went anon.....
anon a great noise arose, and a great weeping was made for the son of the king which was dead, and when these enchanters might not raise him, they made the king believe that he was ravished into the company of the gods, and that he should make to him a temple and an image. And then the foresaid eunuch, keeper of the queen Candace, made the enchanters to be kept, and sent for the apostle. And when the apostle was come he made his prayer and raised the king's son anon."2
Richard de Montbaston, Saint Matthew and the Magicians
from the Legenda aurea of Jacobus de Voragine_
French (Paris), 1348
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 241, fol. 252v

Jacques de Besancon, Saint Matthew and the Magicians
from the Legenda aurea of Jacobus de Voragine
French (Paris), c.1480-1490
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 245, fol. 104

One further part of the iconography of Saint Matthew, which seems to be largely confined to Northern Europe, is that of his martyrdom.  With the exception of the extremely dramatic painting by Caravaggio discussed above, all the images which I have been able to find are from north of the Alps. Earlier images depict Saint Matthew being killed with by someone using a sword, or a spear or an ax.  Later images often simply reference his martyrdom by showing him holding the weapon that killed him.
Martyrdom of Saint Matthew
from Lives of the Saints by Wauchier de Denain
French (Paris), c.1225-1250
London, British Library
 MS Royal 20 D VI, fol. 30v

Martyrdom of Saint Matthew
from Psalter
German (Hildesheim), c.1230-1240
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Nouvelle acquisition latine 3102, fol. 3

Master of the Roman de Fauvel, Martyrdom of Saint Matthew
from Vies des saints
French (Paris), 1300-1350
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 183, fol. 49

Saint Matthew
German, c.1376-1400
Burg bei Magdeburg, Church of Our Lady
(now Protestant), Upper church

Master of Froendenberger, Saint Matthew
from altar of Our Lady_
German, 1410
Soest, Church of Saint Patrokli

Alabaster Relief, Saint Matthew
English, 1440-1460
London, Victoria and Albert Museum

Hans Strigel the Younger &Thomas Bocksberger, Saint Matthew
German, c.1470
Memmingen, Church of Our Lady
(Now Protestant), Nave

Antonius Wierix after Ambrosius Franckern
Saint Matthew
from Thesaurus Novi Testamenti elegantissimis
iconibus expressus continens historias atque
miracula do[mi] ni nostri Iesu Christi

Dutch, c.1580
London, British Museum

Rubens, Saint Matthew
Belgian, c.1610-1612
Madrid, Museo del Prado
The Church celebrates the feast day of Saint Matthew on September 21st.

© M. Duffy, 2011, 2016
1. Freedberg, S.J. Circa 1600: A Revolution of Style in Italian Painting, Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1983, pp. 59-63.
2. The Golden Legend or Lives of the Saints. Compiled by Jacobus de Voragine, Archbishop of Genoa, 1275. First Edition Published 1470. Englished by William Caxton, First Edition 1483, Edited by F.S. Ellis, Temple Classics, 1900 (Reprinted 1922, 1931.), Volume V, page 71.  Found at: Internet History Source Books: Medieval

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