This Assumption of the Virgin, c. 1500, by Joachim Patinir, is at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It won't strike everyone as beautiful, but it has considerable appeal for me. First, I love the legend about how all the apostles were able to gather at Mary's bedside as soon as it became known that she was dying. Next, the figures of Christ and God the Father at the top, preparing to welcome Mary, are very nicely done. Finally, the roundels of the Nativity and the Resurrection, in the two upper corners, are remarkable for their detail.
Take a quick look at these drawings and prints from the wonderful collection of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. If you scroll to the bottom of the page, you'll see that the selection just seems to go on and on.
The Google Art Project has six works by outstanding artist Robert Campin. Of these, I am especially taken with this panel of the Trinity done in grisaille. It is the Annunciation Triptych, however, which is the most astonishing. I have found myself drawn back to it again and again over the years.
Recently a dear friend described me as her 'beauty therapist,' that is, someone who leads her to beautiful things that then become her therapy. Wow -- if I had set out to become something wonderful, I don't think I would have dared hope for that description!
Just now I found myself wishing for some 'beauty therapy' of my own, and my eye turned once more toward the Grandes Heures d'Anne de Bretagne. I ended up starting with this portrait of St. John the Evangelist and then I just kept paging forward - it was wonderful. Highly recommended for anyone in need of a beauty vitamin. (Which is, after all, most of us.)
Here's a great example of why I often read Patrick Kurp's blog Anecdotal Evidence. Kurp was reviewing a recent book on the Romantics and science, and suddenly he swerves like so --
I’m reminded of another English text written almost two centuries earlier by the poet and divine Thomas Traherne (1637-1674). Centuries of Meditation is studded with passages suggesting a merging of scientific and spiritual attentiveness to the physical world. For instance: “When Amasis the King of Egypt sent to the wise men of Greece, to know, Quid Pulcherrimum? upon due and mature consideration they answered, The World. The world certainly being so beautiful that nothing visible is capable of more. Were we to see it only once, the first appearance would amaze us. But being daily seen, we observe it not.”
Today is the feast of St. Ambrose of Milan, a late 4th-centure scholar and bishop. St. Ambrose is one of the most eminent of the Doctors of the Church. He appears in a number of excellent artworks, usually with a beard and a bishop's mitre. This portrait is by Bartolomeo Vivarini, done in 1477.
In honor of the season, here is a Nativity by Willem Vrelant or his workshop, done c. 1461. This depiction has the features common to most Nativities of this era: the Christ Child lies naked on the ground; St. Joseph holds a candle; and two tiny angels join Mary and Joseph in adoring the Child.
Note: this page is from the Arenberg Hours, much of which can be seen at the Getty Museum site.
I'm quite taken with a portrayal of Mary that is new to me: Our Lady of Mercy. She is also known as Our Lady of Compassion or, in Italian, the Madonna della Misericordia. The distinctive features of such a portrayal are a capacious cloak extending outward on both sides, and persons wishing her protection beneath it.
Here is an excellent portrayal of Our Lady of Mercy by Luca Signorelli, done in c. 1490. The other main figures are Saint Sebastian and Saint Bernardine of Siena. This work is housed in the Diocesan Museum of Pienza, Siena Province, Italy.
I'm always a little uneasy around the word 'gratitude." Gratitude is a feeling and it's axiomatic that we shouldn't be told how to feel. I'm generally more comfortable with the word "appreciation" which seems to me more an attitude, an orientation, almost an action, than gratitude.
Nonetheless, I will share for today two quotations that seem pretty worthwhile to me - even though they use the G-word.
Contemporary author Melody Beattie says: "Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow."
Still more impressively, Lutheran minister and World War II martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer had this to say on the subject: "In ordinary life we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich."
". . . it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich." -- Powerful stuff!
Have a look at the Annunciation Triptych by Robert Campin. Painted c. 1430, it is owned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City. The detail is just extraordinary, especially in the center panel.
The Bibliotheque Nationale de France has also placed the complete Breviary of Martin d'Aragon online. I first came across many of these images long ago in the early years of the Internet age. I've been looking for the Breviary ever since, and am delighted to have rediscovered it at the Gallica site.
You could start with first image but you're probably better off heading straight for the first mosaic page. Either way, you're in for many a visual treat.