Tuesday, November 1, 2022

The Feast of All Saints


Albrecht Dürer, 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 Angels and Saints
From a Sacramentary
French, c. 870
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Latin 1141, fol. 5v-6r


Christ in Majesty and the Heavenly Jerusalem
French, c. 1080
Saint-Chef, Abbey Church

Giotto, Last Judgment
Italian, 1306
Padua, Scrovegni/Arena Chapel


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

Master of the Dominican Effigies, Christ and the Virgin Enthroned with Forty Saints
Leaf from a Choir Book
Italian (Florence), c. 1340
Washington, National Gallery of Art


Nardo di Cione, Paradise
Italian, c. 1355
Florence, Santa Maria Novella, Cappella Strozzi

Don Silvestro dei Gherarducci, The Court of Heaven
From a Gradual
Italian (Florence), c. 1371-1377
Cleveland, Museum of Art



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


Giovanni di Benedetto and Workshop. Coronation of the Virgin
From a Missal
Italian (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 nationale de France
MS Francais 9141, fol. 23v


Paradise
From the Speculum humanae salvationis
Origin unknown, c. 1400-1450
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Latin 9585, fol. 47v


The Bedford Master, Feast of All Saints
From the Bedford Hours
French (Paris), c. 1410-1430
London, British Library
MS Additional 18850, fol. 126r



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


Fra Angelico, The Last Judgment
Italian, c. 1431
Florence, Museo di San Marco



Hubert and Jan Van Eyck,  The Ghent Altarpiece, Interior
Flemish, c. 1432-1436
Ghent, St. Bavo Cathedral



Fra Angelico, Coronation of the Virgin
Italian, c. 1434-1435
Florence, Galleria degli Uffizi


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
French, c. 1466
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 19, fol. 232r


Filippo Lippi, Coronation of the Virgin
Italian, c. 1467-1469
Spoleto, Cathedral



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. 156r


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 Hours
French (Paris), c. 1400-1425
London, British Library
MS Additional 16997, fol. 137r


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



Christ Surrounded by Saints
From Speculum humanae salvationis
Origin unknown, c. 1425-1450
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Latin 9586, fol. 43v 



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


Master of Jouvenel des Ursins and Workshop, Coronation of the Virgin
From the Hours of Jeanne de France
French (Angers), c. 1452
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Nouvelle acquisition latine 3244, fol. 118r



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



Chief Associate of Master Francois, Hierarchy of Saints
From a Book of Hours
French (Paris), c. 1471-1485
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M 815, fol. 33r


Master of the Exchevainage and Workshop, The Court of Heaven
From the City of God bu Saint Augustine of Hippo
French (Paris), c. 1475-1500
Paris, Biblioitheque national de France
Francais 28, fol. 273v



Master of Mary of Burgundy, Procession of All Saints
From the Hours of Mary of Burgundy
Flemish, c. 1480
Berlin, Staatliche Museen, Kupferstichkabinett
MS 78 B 12, fol. 30v

Jean Poyer, All Saints--Male and Female
From Hours of Henry VIII
French (Tours), c. 1495-1505
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS H 8, 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 M 52, fol. 532v

Master of James IV of Scotland, All Saints
From the Spinola Hours
Flemish (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 France
French (Tours), c. 1515-1520
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M 1166, 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 it virtually impossible to provide any of the figures with identifying attributes.  However, 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 Chevalier
French (Tours), c.1420
Chantilly, Musée Condé
MS 71, fol 27r

Jean Colombe Workshop, All Saints
From a Book of Hours
French (Bourges), c. 1465-1470
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M 248, fol. 127r



Jean Colombe. Paradise
From the Tres Riches Heures du Jean Duc de Berry
French, c. 1485-1489
Chantilly, Musée Condé
MS 65, fol. 126r

Workshop of the Master of the First Prayer Book of Maximilian I, All Saints
From the Spinola Hours
Flemish, 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 Wilhelmshöhe


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, Musée du Louvre

Jan Jakub, Worship of the Trinity 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, Gemäldegalerie der Staatliche Museen zu Berlin


Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Triumph of Religion
Italian, c. 1775-1800
Paris, Musée 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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