13 Icons from the Bible, with footnotes, #9

 

Giovanni da Milano (Italian, born Lombardy, active Florence 1346–69)
Madonna and Child with Donors, ca. 1365
Tempera on wood, gold ground
27 1/8 x 56 3/4 in. (68.9 x 144.1 cm)
 The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Although from Milan, Giovanni was primarily active in Florence, where the refined naturalism of his figures was influential. This lunette-shaped picture dates from the 1360s and was probably set into an arch above a tomb. It shows the deceased husband and wife welcomed into heaven by the Christ Child. Two realms overlap: the sacred and the temporal, making the illusionistic ledge, the disparity in figure scale, and the clasped hands resonate with meaning. More

Giovanni da Milano (Giovanni di Jacopo di Guido da Caversaccio) was an Italian painter, known to be active in Florence and Rome between 1346 and 1369.

His style is, like many Florentine painters of the time, considered to be derivative of Giotto’s. Vasari misidentified him as a student of Taddeo Gaddi, a noted Giotto protégé.

Hailing from Lombardy, the earliest documentation shows Giovanni in Florence on October 17, 1346, under the name Johannes Jacobi de Commo, listed amongst the foreign painters living in Tuscany. More Giovanni da Milano.

Giotto di Bondone, (Italian, Florentine, 1266/76–1337)

The Adoration of the Magi, ca. 1320

Tempera on wood, gold ground

17 3/4 x 17 1/4 in. (45.1 x 43.8 cm)

 The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Dating to about 1320, this panel is one of seven showing the life of Christ. Nothing is known of their early history beyond the fact that they were painted for a Franciscan church or convent; however, the masterly depiction of the stable, the carefully articulated space, and the columnar solidity of the figures testify to Giotto’s reputation as the founder of European painting. The impetuous action of the kneeling king, who picks up the Christ Child, and Mary’s expression of concern translate the Biblical account into deeply human terms. “He made art natural, and gave it gentleness” (Ghiberti, ca. 1450). More

The Adoration of the Magi (anglicized from the Matthean Vulgate Latin section title: A Magis adoratur) is the name traditionally given to the subject in the Nativity of Jesus in art in which the three Magi, represented as kings, especially in the West, having found Jesus by following a star, lay before him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, and worship him. More The Adoration of the Magi

Giotto di Bondone (1266/7 – January 8, 1337), known mononymously as Giotto, and Latinized as Giottus, was an Italian painter and architect from Florence in the late Middle Ages. He is generally considered the first in a line of great artists who contributed to the Renaissance.

In his Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, the late-16th century artist and art historian Giorgio Vasari describes Giotto as making a decisive break with the prevalent Byzantine style and as initiating “the great art of painting as we know it today, introducing the technique of drawing accurately from life, which had been neglected for more than two hundred years.”

Giotto’s masterwork is the decoration of the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua, also known as the Arena Chapel, completed around 1305. This fresco cycle depicts the Life of the Virgin and the Life of Christ. It is regarded as one of the supreme masterpieces of the Early Renaissance.[4] That Giotto painted the Arena Chapel and that he was chosen by the Commune of Florence in 1334 to design the new campanile (bell tower) of Florence’s Cathedral are among the few certainties of his biography. Almost every other aspect of it is subject to controversy: his birthdate, his birthplace, his appearance, his apprenticeship, the order in which he created his works, whether or not he painted the famous frescoes in the Upper Basilica of Saint Francis in Assisi, and his burial place. More Giotto di Bondone

RUSSIAN ICON

The Pokrov Mother of God, c.1890

Protection of the Mother of God

12.25 x 14 inches

Private property

In this detailed and complex rendering over 45 individually painted and identified figures are painted. In the centre the Virgin spreading her mantle or veil over the members as a sign of protection. She is flanked by a gathering of saints, each clearly identified with inscriptions within their haloes. The borders intricately incised.

The Russian word Pokrov (Покров), like the Greek Skepi (Σκέπη), has a complex meaning. First of all, it refers to a cloak or shroud, but it also means protection or intercession.

RUSSIAN ICON

The Pokrov Mother of God, c.1890

Top Detail

Below the Virgin appears to a Roman in a dream (lower right) and the Holy fool Andre points to the Mother of God to his disciple Epifaniy.  

RUSSIAN ICON

The Pokrov Mother of God, c.1890

Bottom Detail

Blessed Andrew the Fool-for-Christ was a 10th century fool-for-Christ, famed for his vision of the Protection of the Mother of God. 

Blessed Andrew loved God’s Church and the Holy Scriptures, and he had a strong desire to devote himself totally to God. He took upon himself a very difficult and unusual ascetic feat of fool-for-Christ; that is, he acted as if he were insane.

Seeming to be insane, Andrew was brought to the Church of St. Anastasia for his care. There St. Anastasia appeared to him in a dream and encouraged him to continue his ascetic feat. He was driven off the church property because of his faked madness and had to live on the streets of the capital city, hungry and half-naked. For many years the saint endured mockery, insults, and beatings. He begged for alms and gave them away to the poor. The beggars to whom he gave his last coins despised him, but Andrew endured all his sufferings humbly and prayed for those who hurt him.

St. Andrew’s holy wisdom and extraordinary spiritual beauty were revealed when he removed his mask of folly. This occurred when talking to his spiritual father, a presbyter of Hagia Sophia, or to his disciple Epiphanius.

For his meekness and self-control, the saint received from the Lord the gifts of prophecy and wisdom, saving many from spiritual perils. Like the apostle Paul, he was taken to the third sky and had the honor of seeing Lord Jesus Christ himself, angels and many holy saints, yet he was surprised not to see the Most Holy Virgin.

While praying at the Blachernae church, it was St. Andrew who, with his disciple, the Blessed Epiphanius, saw the Most Holy Mother of God, holding her veil over those praying under her Protection. The synaxarion states that upon seeing this vision, St. Andrew turned to his companion and asked, “Do you see, brother, the Holy Theotokos, praying for all the world?” Epiphanius answered, “I do see, holy Father, and I am in awe.”

Blessed Andrew died in the year 936 at the age of 66. More Blessed Andrew

RUSSIAN ICON

THE NATIVITY OF THE LORD, 19TH CENTURY. 

13 x 10.5 inches.

Private property

At center is Mary watching over the newborn Christ as an ox and ass look on. To the left the wise men bring gifts, to the right an angel appears to a shepherd. At lower left the devil, in the disguise of an old shepherd, is tempting Joseph to doubt the trust of the Virgin birth. At lower left the midwife Zelomi prepares to wash the newborn child. The upper margin filled with gold stars against a blue scroll of heaven upon which are seen Angels of the Lord watching over the event below. The inscription along the upper margin identifies the subject as ‘The Birth  of Our Lord Jesus Christ’.

In Christian theology the nativity marks the incarnation of Jesus as the second Adam, in fulfillment of the divine will of God, undoing the damage caused by the fall of the first man, Adam. The artistic depiction of the nativity has been a major subject for Christian artists since the 4th century. Since the 13th century, the nativity scene has emphasized the humility of Jesus and promoted a more tender image of him, as a major turning point from the early “Lord and Master” image, affecting the basic approaches of Christian pastoral ministry. More

RUSSIAN ICON

ST. GEORGE SLAYING THE DRAGON, CIRCA 1890

8.75 x 7 inches

Private property

George the mighty warrior plunges his spear into the dragon beneath him as the King and Queen together with their daughter look on. Christ delivers a blessing from above. The borders ornately incised and colourfully decorated. The inscription on the lower margin identifies the subject as ‘The Holy George the Victorious’

Saint George (circa 275/281 – 23 April 303 AD) was a soldier in the Roman army who later became venerated as a Christian martyr. His parents were Christians of Greek background; his father Gerontius was a Roman army official from Cappadocia and his mother Polychronia was from Lydda, Syria Palaestina. Saint George became an officer in the Roman army in the Guard of Diocletian, who ordered his death for failing to recant his Christian faith.

In the fully developed Western version of the Saint George Legend, a dragon, or crocodile, makes its nest at the spring that provides water for the city of “Silene” (perhaps modern Cyrene in Libya or the city of Lydda in Palestine, depending on the source). Consequently, the citizens have to dislodge the dragon from its nest for a time, to collect water. To do so, each day they offer the dragon at first a sheep, and if no sheep can be found, then a maiden is the best substitute for one. The victim is chosen by drawing lots. One day, this happens to be the princess. The monarch begs for her life to be spared, but to no avail. She is offered to the dragon, but then Saint George appears on his travels. He faces the dragon, protects himself with the sign of the Cross, slays the dragon, and rescues the princess. The citizens abandon their ancestral paganism and convert to Christianity. More

RUSSIAN ICON

THE HOLY VENERABLE PAUL OF THEBES, CIRCA 1875

 6.5 x 8.75 inches

Private property

Paul of Thebes, commonly known as Paul, the First Hermit or Paul the Anchorite (d. c. 341) is regarded as the first Christian hermit. He is not to be confused with Paul the Simple, who was a disciple of Anthony the Great. Paul of Thebes was born around 227 in the Thebaid of Egypt.

Paul and his married sister lost their parents. In order to obtain Paul’s inheritance, his brother-in-law sought to betray him to the persecutors. Paul fled to the Theban desert as a young man during the persecution of Decius and Valerianus around AD 250.

He lived in the mountains of this desert in a cave near a clear spring and a palm tree, the leaves of which provided him with raiment and the fruit of which provided him with his only source of food until he was 43 years old; when a raven started bringing him half a loaf of bread daily. He would remain in that cave for the rest of his life, almost a hundred years.

Paul of Thebes is known to posterity because around the year 342, Anthony the Great was told in a dream about the older hermit’s existence, and went to find him. Jerome related that Anthony the Great and Paul met when the latter was aged 113. They conversed with each other for one day and one night. The Synaxarium shows each saint inviting the other to bless and break the bread, as a token of honor. St. Paul held one side, putting the other side into the hands of Father Anthony, and soon the bread broke through the middle and each took his part. When Anthony next visited him, Paul was dead. Anthony clothed him in a tunic which was a present from Athanasius of Alexandria and buried him, with two lions helping to dig the grave. More Paul of Thebes

RUSSIAN ICON

THE NEW TESTAMENT TRINITY, CIRCA 1890

7 x 8.75 inches

Private property

Trinity. The Christian doctrine of the Trinity holds that God is three consubstantial persons, or hypostases—the Father, the Son (Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit—as “one God in three Divine Persons”. The three persons are distinct, yet are one “substance, essence or nature”. In this context, a “nature” is what one is, whereas a “person” is who one is.

According to this central mystery of most Christian faiths, there is only one God in three persons: while distinct from one another in their relations of origin (as the Fourth Lateran Council declared, “it is the Father who generates, the Son who is begotten, and the Holy Spirit who proceeds”) and in their relations with one another, they are stated to be one in all else, co-equal, co-eternal and consubstantial, and each is God, whole and entire”. More Trinity

RUSSIAN ICON

THE HOLY VENERABLE MARY AND SAINT CONSTANTINE, CIRCA 1890

9 x 7.5 inches.

Private property

Colourfully painted on an intricately incised field. Christ delivers a blessing at top. Probably a wedding gift to the newlyweds named Mary and Constantine.

Constantine the Great (27 February c. 272 AD – 22 May 337 AD), also known as Constantine I or Saint Constantine, was a Roman Emperor from 306 to 337 AD. His father became Caesar, the deputy emperor in the west, in 293 AD. Constantine rose through the ranks to become a military tribune under the emperors Diocletian and Galerius. In 305, Constantius was raised to the rank of Augustus, senior western emperor, and Constantine was recalled west to campaign under his father in Britannia. Acclaimed as emperor after his father’s death in 306 AD. Constantine emerged victorious in a series of civil wars against the emperors Maxentius and Licinius to become sole ruler of both the west and eastern Empires by 324 AD.

As emperor, Constantine enacted many administrative, financial, social, and military reforms to strengthen the empire. The government was restructured and civil and military authority separated. The first Roman emperor to claim conversion to Christianity, Constantine played an influential role in the proclamation of the Edict of Milan in 313, which decreed tolerance for Christianity in the empire. He called the First Council of Nicaea in 325, at which the Nicene Creed was adopted by Christians. 

He built a new imperial residence at Byzantium and renamed the city Constantinople after himself. It would later become the capital of the Empire for over one thousand years. His more immediate political legacy was that, in leaving the empire to his sons. His reputation flourished during the lifetime of his children and centuries after his reign. The medieval church upheld him as a paragon of virtue while secular rulers invoked him as a prototype, a point of reference, and the symbol of imperial legitimacy and identity. Critics portrayed him as a tyrant. Trends in modern and recent scholarship attempted to balance the extremes of previous scholarship.

Constantine is a significant figure in the history of Christianity. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, built on his orders at the purported site of Jesus’ tomb in Jerusalem, became the holiest place in Christendom. More Constantine

Simone Martini (Italian, Siena, active by 1315–died 1344 Avignon)

Saint Andrew, ca. 1326

Tempera on wood, gold ground

22 1/2 x 14 7/8 in. (57.2 x 37.8 cm)

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Andrew the Apostle (from the early 1st century – mid to late 1st century AD), also known as Saint Andrew was a Christian Apostle and the brother of Saint Peter.

The name “Andrew”, like other Greek names, appears to have been common among the Jews, Christians, and other Hellenized people of Judea. No Hebrew or Aramaic name is recorded for him. According to Orthodox tradition, the apostolic successor to Saint Andrew is the Patriarch of Constantinople. More Andrew the Apostle 

Most references to Andrew in the New Testament simply include him on a list of the Twelve Apostles, or group him with his brother, Simon Peter. But he appears acting as an individual three times in the Gospel of John. When a number of Greeks wish to speak with Jesus, they approach Philip, who tells Andrew, and the two of them tell Jesus. (It may be relevant here that both “Philip” and “Andrew” are Greek names.) Before Jesus feeds the Five Thousand, it is Andrew who says, “Here is a lad with five barley loaves and two fish.” And the first two disciples whom John reports as attaching themselves to Jesus are Andrew and another disciple (whom John does not name, but who is commonly supposed to be John himself). Having met Jesus, Andrew then finds his brother Simon and brings him to Jesus. Thus, on each occasion when he is mentioned as an individual, it is because he is instrumental in bringing others to meet the Saviour. In the Episcopal Church, the Fellowship of Saint Andrew is devoted to encouraging personal evangelism, and the bringing of one’s friends and colleagues to a knowledge of the Gospel of Christ. More Andrew

 

Andrew is said to have been martyred by crucifixion at the city of Patras (Patræ) in Achaea. Early texts describe Andrew as bound, not nailed, and crucified on a cross of the form called crux decussata, now commonly known as a “Saint Andrew’s Cross” 

Simone Martini (c. 1284 – 1344) was an Italian painter born in Siena. He was a major figure in the development of early Italian painting and greatly influenced the development of the International Gothic style. 

It is thought that Martini was a pupil of Duccio di Buoninsegna, the leading Sienese painter of his time. According to late Renaissance art biographer Giorgio Vasari, Simone was instead a pupil of Giotto di Bondone, with whom he went to Rome to paint at the Old St. Peter’s Basilica, Giotto also executing a mosaic there. Martini’s brother-in-law was the artist Lippo Memmi. Very little documentation of Simone’s life survives, and many attributions are debated by art historians. More

Master of the Straus Madonna, ACTIVE IN FLORENCE CIRCA 1380–1420

MADONNA AND CHILD WITH SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST, SAINT ANTHONY ABBOT, SAINT CATHERINE OF ALEXANDRIA AND SAINT MARGARET 

Tempera and gold on panel

101 x 58.8 cm.; 39 3/4  x 23 1/8  in

Private Collection

The Madonna and Child or The Virgin and Child is often the name of a work of art which shows the Virgin Mary and the Child Jesus. The word Madonna means “My Lady” in Italian. Artworks of the Christ Child and his mother Mary are part of the Roman Catholic tradition in many parts of the world including Italy, Spain, Portugal, France, South America and the Philippines. Paintings known as icons are also an important tradition of the Orthodox Church and often show the Mary and the Christ Child. They are found particularly in Eastern Europe, Russia, Egypt, the Middle East and India. More Madonna and Child

John the Baptist (sometimes called John in the Wilderness) was the subject of at least eight paintings by the Italian Baroque artist Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571–1610).

The story of John the Baptist is told in the Gospels. John was the cousin of Jesus, and his calling was to prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah. He lived in the wilderness of Judea between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea, “his raiment of camel’s hair, and a leather girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey.” He baptised Jesus in the Jordan, and was eventually killed by Herod Antipas when he called upon the king to reform his evil ways. More

Saint Anthony or Antony (c. 251–356) was a Christian monk from Egypt, revered since his death as a saint. He is known as the Father of All Monks. His feast day is celebrated on January 17 among the Orthodox and Catholic churches and on Tobi 22 in the Egyptian calendar used by the Coptic Church.

The biography of Anthony’s life helped to spread the concept of Christian monasticism, particularly in Western Europe via its Latin translations. He is often erroneously considered the first Christian monk. Anthony was, however, the first to go into the wilderness (about ad 270), a geographical move that seems to have contributed to his renown. Accounts of Anthony enduring supernatural temptation during his sojourn in the Eastern Desert of Egypt inspired the often-repeated subject of the temptation of St. Anthony in Western art and literature.

Anthony is appealed to against infectious diseases, particularly skin diseases. In the past, many such afflictions, including ergotism, erysipelas, and shingles, were historically referred to as St. Anthony’s fire. More Saint Anthony

Saint Catherine of Alexandria is, according to tradition, a Christian saint and virgin, who was martyred in the early 4th century at the hands of the pagan emperor Maxentius. According to her hagiography, she was both a princess and a noted scholar, who became a Christian around the age of fourteen, and converted hundreds of people to Christianity. She was martyred around the age of 18. Over 1,100 years following her martyrdom, St. Joan of Arc identified Catherine as one of the Saints who appeared to her and counselled her.

The Eastern Orthodox Church venerates her as a Great Martyr, and celebrates her feast day on 24 or 25 November (depending on the local tradition). In the Catholic Church she is traditionally revered as one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers. In 1969 the Catholic Church removed her feast day from the General Roman Calendar;[4] however, she continued to be commemorated in the Roman Martyrology on 25 November. More Saint Catherine

Margaret is celebrated as a saint by the Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches on July 20 and on July 17 in the Orthodox Church. Her historical existence has been questioned. She was declared apocryphal by Pope Gelasius I in 494, but devotion to her revived in the West with the Crusades. She was reputed to have promised very powerful indulgences to those who wrote or read her life, or invoked her intercessions; these no doubt helped the spread of her cultus.

She was a native of “Antioch” and the daughter of a pagan priest named Aedesius. Her mother having died soon after her birth, Margaret was nursed by a Christian woman five or six leagues from Antioch. Having embraced Christianity and consecrated her virginity to God, Margaret was disowned by her father, adopted by her nurse, and lived in the country keeping sheep with her foster mother (in what is now Turkey). Olybrius, Governor of the Roman Diocese of the East, asked to marry her, but with the demand that she renounce Christianity. Upon her refusal, she was cruelly tortured, during which various miraculous incidents occurred. One of these involved being swallowed by Satan in the shape of a dragon, from which she escaped alive when the cross she carried irritated the dragon’s innards. The Golden Legend, in an atypical passage of skepticism, describes this last incident as “apocryphal and not to be taken seriously”. She was put to death in AD 304.

As Saint Marina, she is associated with the sea, which “may in turn point to an older goddess tradition,” reflecting the pagan divinity, Aphrodite. More Margaret

Master of the Straus Madonna(active 1385-1415 in Florence), Italian painter. His oeuvre has been reconstructed around a Virgin and Child (formerly in Percy S. Straus collection, New York). Of over 30 surviving panels painted in Florence and its environs, the Master’s only dated work is the small, incisive Man of Sorrows (1405; Warsaw, National Museum) (below).

One of the most individual and lyrical Late Gothic Tuscan painters, he bridges the gap between Agnolo Gaddi and Lorenzo Monaco. His slender, pale figures blend spiritual evanescence with Giottesque solidity of form. Like Starnina and influenced in part by Spinello Aretino and the Giottesque revival, his graceful yet quietly compelling figures were important for the generation of Masolino in the last years of the Late Gothic style. More Master of the Straus Madonna

Maestro della Madonna Strauss

Imago Pietatis, c. 1405

Man of Sorrows

Tempera on panel

37 × 21.8 cm (14.6 × 8.6 in)

Museum in Warsaw

Man of Sorrows is paramount among the prefigurations of the Messiah identified by Christians in the passages of Isaiah 53 in the Hebrew Bible. It is also an iconic devotional image that shows Christ, usually naked above the waist, with the wounds of his Passion prominently displayed on his hands and side, often crowned with the Crown of Thorns and sometimes attended by angels. It developed in Europe from the 13th century, and was especially popular in Northern Europe.

The image continued to spread and develop iconographical complexity until well after the Renaissance, but the Man of Sorrows in its many artistic forms is the most precise visual expression of the piety of the later Middle Ages, which took its character from mystical contemplation rather than from theological speculation”. Together with the Pietà, it was the most popular of the andachtsbilder-type images of the period – devotional images detached from the narrative of Christ’s Passion, intended for meditation. More

Master of the Straus Madonna(active 1385-1415 in Florence), see above

Acknowledgement: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Chiswick Auctions

Images are copyright of their respective owners, assignees or others

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Author: zaidangallery

I search Art History for Beautiful works that may, or may not, have a secondary or unexpected story to tell. I then write short summaries that grow from my research. Art work is so much more when its secrets are exposed

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