But This is Your Hour—When Darkness Reigns

“The Arrest in the Garden” from The Passion Altarpiece by Hans Holbein the younger

I had never really studied Hans Holbein the Younger’s artwork, other than the pieces he made when in the court of the Tudors, brought over by Henry VIII. I never knew that he made religious artwork, let alone being influenced by Albrecht Dürer (an artist I like and have reviewed in the past) and Matthias Grünewald (another artist I like and am reviewing tomorrow).

But as I was searching for am image to use to show the arrest of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemene, I found this one and  discovered Holbein’s Passion Altarpiece. 

When creating this piece, Holbein was influenced greatly by the Italian masters, such as Raphael and da Vinci, along with his father, Hans Holbein the Elder.

While he was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him, 48 but Jesus asked him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?”

49 When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, should we strike with our swords?” 50 And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear.

51 But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him.

52 Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple guard, and the elders, who had come for him, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come with swords and clubs? 53 Every day I was with you in the temple courts, and you did not lay a hand on me. But this is your hour—when darkness reigns.” Luke 22:47-53

So we see that Holbein carefully studied the text to present the image of Christ. Like Giotto, and Caravaggio who would come later, Holbein creates a small window onto the world of Christ and scene of the arrest.

We see that there is  great perspective in this, with all the figures in the scene overlapping in confusion and the attack as they surround Jesus and Judas.

The dark tones and chiaroscuro create dramatic flair and a supreme intensity, the flames of the mob and the central figures being highlighted and immediately capturing your eye.

There are two things that really struck me in this image. First, if you look at Jesus as Judas is giving him the kiss to signify his betrayal, a soldier has grasped him. This is one of the few that actually show an arrest in progress, instead of just confusion.

Also if you look at Peter, this is one the fiercest paintings of him. In this image he is not only cutting off a soldier’s ear, but he has knocked said soldier to the ground, slicing off his ear, and continues to pin him down threatening to do more if waved ahead by Christ. I think this perfectly captures Peter as a man of emotion and one who was always quick acting and intense in everything he does.

A powerful and intense painting.

For more on the arrest of Christ, go to The Arrest

For more images of Jesus, go to But That the Scripture May Be Fulfilled

In other news, this marks my 900th post!

It only took us six months to get here, that’s one less than last time.

For the 800th post, go to Every Three Thousand Years, the Stars Align. Unleashing an Army of Monsters: TMNT (2007)

For the 700th post, go to Fan-do or Fan-don’t. There is No Fan-try

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Entry into Jerusalem

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So the first image we are going to look at is the depiction of Jesus Christ entering Jerusalem for Passover, this day now known as Palm Sunday

As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.’

 They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, some people standing there asked, ‘What are you doing, untying that colt?’ They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go. When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields.  Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted,

‘Hosanna![a]’

‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’[b]

Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!’

‘Hosanna in the highest heaven!’ Mark 11:1-10

Now Duccio di Buoninsegna or Duccio was a very popular painter. This is his painting Entry into Jerusalem.

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This is one of the 26 images painted on the back of the Maestà altarpiece. Duccio’s work was closer to the flat Byzantine style, that occurred before this period. His work tends to have no perspective, as in the spacing to create realistic distances, and is usually very staged.

Like most artists of the time, Duccio was more focused on showing all the people and the action, rather than depicting a realistic scene. For instance having all the disciples grouped together to the left, overlapping bodies to show faces clearly, rather than having some completely overpass the others as they would look in a real crowd.

The crowd on the left is interesting, as the children look more like miniature adults. The people too are arranged as steps in a staircase in order to see all of their faces rather than depict them as one would see people grouped together.

Duccio played very close attention to the text and tries to represent every aspect of the story in his artwork. He makes sure the all the players: from disciples to palms to the donkeys to the crowd-have a place in the painting.

Something that is very unique about this particular painting of Duccio’s is that he choose to create a type of perspective in this piece as you can see with the building in the background and the men in the trees, although the men are not quite proportionate.

In the foreground we also see that Duccio has created a strong landscape with rocks and trees. The tree directly behind Jesus’ head is supposed to represent the fig tree that Jesus withers in a later verse, Mark 11:12-26.

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For more on Duccio, go to The Betrayer’s Kiss

For more depictions of Jesus’ entry, go to The Triumphal Entry

Take and Eat, This is My Body

So this year I decided to use a different image for The Last Supper. This image is from the “North” as we Art Historians like to call it. During the Renaissance we have the South and the North. In the South we have Florence, and a move to more realistic images. In essence copying Giotto’s “window onto a world.”

However, in the North, we have England, Brussels, Holland, etc; i.e. Northern Europe. The North focused on other points of interest. They didn’t care about making things realistic or true to life, they instead would often have their figures dressed in modern clothes (using a lot of drapery), focused on patterns, and used lots of symbolism.

This painting is The Last Supper by Dieric Bouts the Elder. In this painting we have Jesus and all his disciples around the table, Judas more off to the side and easily spotted. While some disciples have their own little vignettes, most are wearing the same expression and not as involved in the scene, the focus being more on beauty and perfection rather than realism.

One factor of realism that they do follow is perspective, which you can clearly see from the ceiling and the floor. Just follow the lines of the beams.

Also in the background through a hatch, we have the servants waiting to serve the party. Many believe that one is supposed to be Dieric, painting himself into the scene.

This painting is often seen as the first Flemish painting of The Last Supper, and focuses on Jesus’ role of priest in preforming the Eucharist, rather than the betrayal by Judas.

The Last Supper, Dieric Bouts the Elder, 1464

“On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus’ disciples asked him, ‘Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?’ So he sent two of his disciples, telling them, ‘Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him. Say to the owner of the house he enters, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.’ The disciples left, went into the city and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover. When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve.”–Mark 14: 12-17

“Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, ‘Very truly I tell you, one of you is going to betray me.’ His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant. One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, ‘Ask him which one he means.’ Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, ‘Lord, who is it?’ Jesus answered, ‘It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.’ Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him. So Jesus told him, ‘What you are about to do, do quickly.’ But no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him.  Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the festival, or to give something to the poor.  As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out.”–John 13: 21-30

“While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”–Matt 26: 26-29

“Do this in remembrance of me.”–Luke 22:19

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For the previous painting, go to The Triumphal Entry

For more on The Last Supper, go to Do This in Remembrance of Me

Good Friday

I don’t know about any of you readers, but my family always celebrates Good Friday by not using electronics and trying to focus on God from the hours of 12-3; the times Christ hung on the cross and darkness covered the earth. Not every Christian celebrates this way, but my mom’s family did and it carried on to us.

So the image I wanted to focus on today is The Holy Trinity by Masacio. I did a report on this painting so it is a favorite of mine. Masacio is the first painter to use the rules of perspective in his works. His friend Brunelleschi was the one who came up with it and shared his ideas with Masacio. Masacio structures the fresco with the viewer in mind, making sure that the perspective was drawn according to the relation of how one would look up toward it.  Masacio also styled his painting so that it would resemble a side chapel, he studied the rest of the church and made the barrel vaults and coffers look just like the ones in the real church.

Like Leonardo, Masacio used the number three and triangles a lot. As the painting itself was about the Holy Trinity, God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit (3), creating a whole painting out of trianges and threes connected the physical and spiritual realms. First the painting is divided into three squares; the top of the image to about Christ’s mid-chest, from mid-chest to the groundline that the donors who cominissioned the painting (on the far right and far left) rest upon, and from that groundline to the bottom of the image. Many triangles are made throughiut the image but the most significant being God and the two donors, Jesus, Mary (in purple) and John the Beloved ( in a pinky hue), and Jesus and the two donors.

Masaccio recognized that using this method would not only improve the composition of his image but it would also make the spiritual tone stronger. There is a scripture in the Bible, in John 14:6, that says “No one gets through the Father except through me” and the use of pyramidal composition with the ascending line from Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, and to the Father alludes to this passage.

At the bottom is a skeleton and tombstone; a reminder that soon you will be dead, and should consider where you want to end up.

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“They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means ‘the place of the skull’). Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it.”–Mark 15: 21-23

“Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed…one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”–Luke 23: 32-34

“Pilate had a notice prepared and fastened to the cross. It read: Jesus of Nazareth, the king of the Jews. Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek. The chief priests of the Jews protested to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that this man claimed to be king of the Jews.” Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.” …Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he lovedstanding nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,”  and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.”–John 19: 19-27

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“One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence?  We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”  Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”–Luke 23: 39-43

“At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”)… Someone ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink.”–Mark 15: 33-36

“When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”–John 19: 30

“At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open…When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”–Matthew 27:51-54

“So as evening approached, Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body…Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb.”–Mark 15: 42-46

“The chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’  So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.” “Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.”  So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.”–Matthew 27:62-66

To go to previous Easter posts click on Palm Sunday, The Last Supper or The Betrayal of Christ