The Suicide

The Suicide, Alexandre-Gabriel Decamps, 1836
Here we shall drag them, and through the mournful wood
Our bodies will be hung: with every one
Fixed on the thornbush of its wounding shade. 

-- Inferno, Dante, Canto XIII

Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States as of 2007, right after, oddly, nephritis (an inflammation of the kidneys), but it certainly receives more press than kidney disease. The ranks of the suicides in Dante’s Inferno are growing year by year, and more thorny trees sprouting in the seventh circle. Here, Alexandre-Gabriel Decamps’
The Suicide depicts an artist who decided to end it all, his face shrouded in shadow. The dark, gloomy atmosphere of the painting weighs heavily on the viewer’s mind, calling to mind the dark consequences of such an act.

Christian theology firmly opposes suicide. In Corinthians, potential suicides are admonished with “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit... You are not your own, you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Dante’s famous
contrapasso method for determining sin and punishment gives the suicides’ fate as becoming trapped within thorny, tough trees and bushes, boughs constantly broken by nesting harpies. The sinners they share the circle with the profligates, as they run from the black dogs that hound them through the forest. The dark, brooding atmosphere of the ring echoes the mindset of gloom and self-doubt that leads many to self-harm. As a final punishment, when the souls regain their bodies on the day of judgement, they may not inhabit them again, “for justice must forbid / Having what one has robbed oneself of." Instead, the corpses will hang from the trees and bushes of the macabre wood, like a particularly tasteless haunted house.

Decamps was perhaps inspired in this work by the death of his contemporary Léopold Robert, whose paintings were harshly criticized and who took his own life in 1835. The painting, in shades of sepia and brown, gives a mere suggestion of detail in the background, and brings the shoulder of the dead man forward in stark, chiaroscuro-like contrast. A shelf of art supplies is visible, including a palette, and the gun used to do the deed sits in a weak patch of sunlight from an unseen window, with the artist’s outflung hand leading the eye to it in an almost accusatory fashion. The gloomy, brooding nature of the painting, as well as the events inspiring it, provoked a wave of discourse on the harshness of artistic criticism and the melancholy tendencies of artists, perhaps partly as a result of said harshness.

So, please be nice to artists. We need not have them transforming themselves into shrubbery.

  • 7:00 AM

Morte di Francesca da Rimini e di Paolo Malatesta

Alexandre Cabanel, Morte di Francesca da Rimini e di Paolo Malatesta, 1870

When we read there of how the longed-for smile
Was being kissed by that heroic lover,
This man, who never shall be severed from me,

"Trembling all over, kissed me on the mouth.
That book — and its author — was a pander!
In it that day we did no further reading."

While the one spirit spoke these words, the other
Wept so sadly that pity swept over me
And I fainted as if face to face with death,

And I fell just as a dead body falls.

Inferno, Dante, Canto V

The story of Francesca da Rimini and Paolo Malatesta is a tragic one of two lovers kept from each other because of her prior commitment to his brother, Gianciotto. The engagement was a seal to the end of a war between her and his father, but Gianciotto was an ugly and disformed man, therefore Francesca would never knowingly agree to the marriage. In place of Gianciotto, they sent his younger, more attractive brother, Paolo, to bring the marriage contract to Francesca.

She fell in love with him instantly and signed, only to find out the next day that she had been tricked. Paolo and Francesca continued to meet in secret, but as all secrets go, theirs was found out shortly after. Gianciotto came home from a meeting early, because he heard about the affair. Walking in on an unsuccessful escape, Gianciotto went to stab his brother, but out of instinctual love, Francesca stepped in front of the blade, dying instead. More enraged than before, Gianciotto successfully ended his brother's life.

In Dante's Inferno, he meets the lovers in the second circle of hell. There, she tells Dante about her husband and how he has been sentenced to the ring for familial betrayal, named Caina, after Cain and Abel, while Francesca and Paolo are kept in hell for adultery. 

  • 7:00 AM

Figure and Boats

Thomas Hart Benton, Figure and Boats, 1920
I came into a place mute of all light,
Which bellows as the sea does in a tempest,
If by opposing winds 't is combated.

The infernal hurricane that never rests
Hurtles the spirits onward in its rapine;
Whirling them round, and smiting, it molests them.
-Inferno, Dante, Canto VII

As a local painter from a town outside of Kansas City, Missouri, Thomas Hart Benton grew up in the 1880s. His father did not approve of his painting, so he sent him off to military school. Benton's mother, on the other hand, was artistically inclined. He ended up devoting the majority of his life to art, obviously not taking his father's side. His work caused much controversy. Many people praised him for creating pieces that were realistic to the time period. Others thought of him as a drunk hillbilly or even an "okie baroque."

Benton regularly paints scenes of small town mayhem, which could be a product of his parents' relationship, or his own dealings with his parents. His father wanted Benton to follow in his footsteps and become a politician. Benton's mother supported him 100 percent She was totally invested in his life, emotionally and economically, at least until the day he married at the age of 33. Benton studied art at the Chicago Art Institute, and eventually moved to New York. Even as he established himself as an artist, Benton was still considered a drunken hillbilly.

In this piece, everything pulls and flows to the center. The circular patterns of the waves moves the eye in circles, like a whirlpool. Ending up at the person in the left hand corner. As one looks further into the piece, there is a house, standing on what seems to be a cliff. In Canto VII, Dante talks about a tower. In comparing the two works, the tower and house match up. This composition correlates with Dante's Inferno a great deal. With the winding river and the canoe at the base of the cliff, along with the figure depicting one of the many shades that are described in the text. Figure and Boats adds to the mystery and eeriness of Dante's Inferno.

  • 7:00 AM


AND THE MOON BECAME AS BLOOD, Howard Finster, 1976
But keep your eyes below us, for coming near
Is the river of blood—in which boils everyone
Whose violence hurt others.’ O blind desire
Of covetousness, O anger gone insane—
That goad us on through life, which is so brief,
To steep in eternal woe when life is done.” 
-Canto XII of Dante’s Inferno; First Ring of the Seventh Circle

According to Dante’s Inferno, a boiling river of blood runs through the 7th Circle of Hell full of the souls of those who drew the blood of others in their lives. These shades of the world’s murderers are kept submerged in their agonizing baptism by Chiron, the centaur who trained Achilles, and his legion of horse-men. While Dante and Virgil are led by Chiron along the crimson river, Dante recognizes the faces of many infamous men, such as Atilla the Hun and well-known Italian war lords of Dante’s time. And if these murderers try to climb out of the river, the centaurs pelt them with arrows and kick them back into the current of boiling blood. Though being fantastically utilized, Dante borrows his river of blood imagery from older Christian texts that artist/preacher Howard Finster also depicts in his paintings.

Finster's AND THE MOON BECAME AS BLOOD portrays a scene from the Book of Revelations, the final book of the Bible that discusses the apocalypse. In the Book of Revelations, Angels on God’s command turn all the water into blood, which kills all the living creatures in the sea. God does this because he wishes to punish those who “have shed the blood of the holy ones and the prophets, and [the angels that have] given them blood to drink; it is what they deserve” (Revelations, 16: 6). The origin of Dante’s river of blood could possibly be taken from chapter 16 in Revelations. But one cannot know for certain; but like a good student, Finster clearly cites his sources.

Bible quotes label every little action occurring in AND THE MOON BECAME AS BLOOD, which is a common feature of Finster’s work. Finster believed God came to him in visions and told him to spread His word through art. One such vision occurred when Finster examined a spot of wet paint on his finger. Staring back up at him was a face. This face told Finster to make 5,000 paintings, which would preach the Word of God. So Finster warns his viewers what could become of them in the end days as Dante warns his readers what awaits them in the afterlife. Of course, the idea of drinking blood appears more than once in Christian theology.

Every Sunday, Christians drink the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Some Christians believe that the Eucharist symbolizes the body and blood, while others believe it to be the literal flesh of Christ. Churchgoers consume the wine/blood because this will cure them of their human inclination towards sin and grant them entrance into Heaven. Finster places a winepress full of blood in AND THE MOON BECAME AS BLOOD while Dante places Dionysius (the Greek god of wine) in his river of blood. The connection between wine and blood exists in both works. The blood of Christ (wine) and water for baptism are essential to the life a Christian and these two sacred liquids have been taken away in AND THE MOON BECAME AS BLOOD and Dante’s Inferno. The sinners in Revelations must consume the Blood of God while the murders in Hell must forever be baptized in a pool of boiling blood.

Besides dealing with theology, Finster also plays with symmetry in AND THE MOON BECAME AS BLOOD. Finster cuts the painting in two equal halves between the sea of blood and the piece of dry land with a blurry white border. It makes AND THE MOON BECAME AS BLOOD look like two different paintings smashed together, similar to the borders between the Circles of Hell within Inferno. The portions put together create the whole. Each half of the painting has an upper blue or gray level with two round shapes in them. In the upper half, these orbs are the sun and the moon. In the lower portion, the orbs are the wine press and fountain of blood. All four spheres are objects being tampered with by the angels. And then blood borders the lower portions of the painting. Symmetry also exists between the two angels spilling their vials into the seas. These are the two rivers of blood within the first and second circles of AND THE MOON BECAME AS BLOOD

  • 7:00 AM

Uncle Jimmy Green and Student

Uncle Jimmy Green and Student, Daniel Chester French, 1924
I am no Aeneas or Paul:
Not I nor others think me of such worth,
And therefore I have my fears of playing the fool
To embark on such a venture. You are wise:
You know my meaning better than I can tell.
Inferno, Dante, Canto II

Forgive this foray into the personal, but please stay while enough to hear the words. 

Last week, I had the pleasure to see old friends. Six of us attended the opening of Terry Evans' stunning retrospective "Heartland" at the Nelson-Atkins Museum. After the reception, and the reception-after-the-reception, we retired to Cafe Trio for more communion and laughs. Four of us attended high school together: Dave, the country director of Liberia for the International Rescue Committee fresh from four years with Mercy Corps in Iraq (his mother is the artist above); Phillip, the gentleman farmer and artist from Oskaloosa; his high-school sweetheart, spouse and ace ad woman Sally; and me, the book critic turned English and Art History teacher. We were joined by my dearest, early childhood education expert Jennifer; and David's charming Scottish friend Ashley, who has seen international relief action in Sierra Leone, Darfur, the West Bank, and Iraq. Later we were joined by David's sister, Corey, who directs the education program at the Citi Performing Arts Center in Boston.

Please be patient, the exposition nears its end. As so often the case with folks who have known each other for more than 25 years, friendly fire can be the biggest danger. Openings get exploited immediately, and foibles of the past become the grist for present chuckles. As so often the case, I faced such an attack, with four fellow graduates of Salina Central High finding the bead. They fired. 

At least I thought so at the time. After an amusing recollection of mini-scandal involving four junior high and high school teachers, I was deemed "Mrs. Sackrider." "You're so Mrs. Sackrider." "Totally." A gauntlet taunt, to be sure. 

Mrs. Sackrider, now Barbara Werth, was an English and Humanities teacher at Salina Central High for many moons. Her look was what one would expect - flowing skirts, a beaded chain for reading glasses and an undisputed passion and knowledge for all things literary and artistic. She was also the woman who introduced me to modern art, the beauty of El Greco skies and the poetry of Dante. 

In the moment, I turned defensive - I am not Mrs. Sackrider. My approach is different, my interests are different, my emphasis on writing different. Of course, that merely opened the floodgates. I took heat for the similarities in sartorial choices - what is the flowing print skirt but an analogue to the sweater vest? Didn't I major in Humanities at college? Wasn't I teaching her class? I stumbled for answers, thinking somehow I needed to differentiate myself from one of my first mentors. 

After considering this for a few days, I offer my friends a response, "Damn right I am Barbara Sackrider." And I will add to it: I am happy to even be considered with people like Nancy Presnal, Larry Patrick, Garry Armour, Gerry Masinton, Philip Barnard, Cheryl Lester, Tom Lorenz, Ted Johnson, Art Crumm, Mac Gratwick, or Robert Demeritt. What I didn't realize in the silliness of the moment - teachers do make a difference in kids' life. However, I need to remember that as a teacher, it should never be about me. 

Mrs. Sackrider introduced me to Dante. I am merely passing it along. For this post I have chosen the image of the James Woods Green and Alfred C. Alford. Green was the dean of the University of Kansas Law School for 41 years. Alford was killed in the Spanish-American War. The statue was crafted by Daniel Chester French, who also sculpted the Abraham Lincoln statue that sits in the Lincoln Memorial. The student looks toward the East and the sunrise, the teacher looks toward the West. For the next couple of weeks, I hope that the students of Art History at Barstow can show you the sunrise - how the curious students of today engage the world of art and literature - just as my friends and I did 25 years ago. 

  • 7:00 AM

Madonna and Child

Martini Madonna and Child, 1326

Martini contrasts Florentine art with his magnificent and well-trained French Gothic art skills. He, like Duccio, was a leader in the Sienese School through the 14th and 15th centuries, and molded work with brilliant colors and delicate features. He focused mainly on miraculous events. Unlike the rigidness of byzantine art work, the Sienese school trained its students to create dramatic events and to literally bring light to their significance. The softness of such paintings is well demonstrated here by Martini. The school lived in Seina for most of his lifetime and temporarily in Florence, but at the turn of the 16th century, Siena fell to Florence and ceased the majority of Seniese painting. 

Most believe that Martini learned his trade from Duccio, but Renaissance art biographer, Giorgio Vasari, claims acquired his skill from Giotto. Duccio seems to make more sense to others because of their bond at the Sienese School where Giotto did not attend. Although, Giotto and Martini worked together at Old St. Peter's Basilica where the Nevicella mosaic is dedicated to Giotto. Whether Diccio or Giotto taught Martini, Martini infiltrated a growing Gothic art form in the 13th century and created wonderful pieces in his time. This particular Madonna and Child, assigned to Martini by the Siena government, and was created as a portable altarpiece that eventually joined his other works in a larger altarpiece in Seina's town hall, Palazzo Pubblico. 

  • 7:00 AM

Christine de Pizan Writing in Her Study

Unknown, Christine de Pizan Writing in Her Study, 1344

Isolated in her room, Christine writes literally a cut away from others. The first Eurpoean woman deemed a ‘professional’ writer, Christine remains in a league by herself throughout her lifetime. Regal blue robes and a gold tablecloth create in Christine’s study a sense of importance and ornateness. The study by itself, alone and surrounded by designs and patterns, swallows Christine in decoration, making her gown and table the least decorative, but most eyecatching, parts of the composition.

One of the earliest versions of a feminist, Christine’s blue robes create cause for connection between Christine, Madonna, and all women. Perhaps based on her early need to provide for her three children, Christine became self-sufficent and self-reliant from need and ability early in her life. Christine sits with her window barricaded, closed away from external worldly turmoil, and open, however to the philosophies and literature explored on the pages of her writing.

  • 10:29 PM

The Betrayal of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane

Duccio, The Betrayal of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, 1308

Jesus answered and said, “You will become the thirteenth, and you will be cursed by
the other generations—and you will come to rule over them. In the last days they will
curse your ascent to the holy [generation]." - The Gospel of Judas

The betrayal of Jesus by Judas in the Garden of Gethsemane may be the most tragic of all the stories concerning the life of Christ. For the payment of 30 pieces of silver, Judas handed his master and friend to the Pharisees. While Jesus prayed in the garden, Judas approached him and identified him with a kiss. Beset with grief over his actions, Judas later hung himself. This betrayal has been immortalized in our language, the name "Judas" having become synonymous with "traitor," and a "Judas kiss" the term for a symbol of friendship used to do harm to another.

But how is his condemnation deserved? How can Judas be condemned as a traitor if his actions fulfilled ancient prophecies of the Jewish faith? A Gnostic text discovered in the 1970s and likely written in 2 CE, known as the Gospel of Judas, suggests that Judas acted on Jesus' instruction. Though the gospel is tattered and missing many lines of text, it grants incredible insight into a new interpretation of the events surrounding the betrayal.

The work depicts him as the most trusted of all of the disciples, as he is the only one entrusted with carrying out the betrayal. The text itself consists largely of conversations between Jesus and Judas, the latter sharing his visions with the former. These visions include one of a great mansion whose doors cannot be opened and another in which he is stoned to death by his fellow disciples. In their final discussion, Jesus explains his purpose on earth to Judas, and the role that he is to play in it. No longer a traitor to Christ, he is the catalyst to the salvation of the human race, and in return for his role in the completion of prophecy becomes the first of the "holy generation." Jesus warns his disciple that mortal men shall rail against him for his actions, but that he will rule over them in Heaven. 

Despite the negative reception that the gospel has received from religious figures, it has recently gained popularity (though an admittedly small amount) among Gnostic sects and non-denominational Christians who have long struggled with the questions surrounding Judas Iscariot's life and legacy. 

  • 7:00 AM

Christ's Charge to Peter

Perugino, Christ's Charge to Peter,  c.1481
Perugino's painting tells three stories: one in the foreground and two in the middle ground. The former displays the story of Jesus bestowing to Peter the keys of heaven. The story is taken from Matthew 16:19, where Christ says to Peter, "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven". Henceforth, the idea that Peter awaits in the afterlife, keys at the ready, granting or denying entry into heaven. The middle ground displays two scenes: the Rendering of the Tribute Money on the left, and the stoning of Jesus on the right. The Rendering of the Tribute Money comes from Mark 12:13-17, where the Pharisees question Jesus on taxes. The Stoning of Jesus comes from John 10:31: "Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him."

Perugino painted this with symmetry in mind. The key sits at the exact center of the foreground, with equal amounts of followers gathered behind Jesus and Peter. The background has three buildings: the temple of Solomom, situated directly in the center, and two arches to either side of it. Perugino divides the ground into tile-like sections, adding to the symmetrical nature of the painting.

  • 7:00 AM

Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry: October

Limbourg Brothers, Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry: October, 1413

The book of hours, as seen in Shrek, is a prayer book that came in to popularity in the early 15th century. The most common type of surviving illuminated transcript, books of hours normally consisted of prayers, psalms, and meditations. Being an illuminated manuscript, in addition to the text, the book contained decorations. The decorations required highly-detailed work, especially with the miniatures - small-scaled medieval paintings that were popular at the time of illuminated manuscripts. The most impressive surviving book of hours is Les Tres Riches Heurs, painted by the Dutch Limbourg brothers. They began the work in 1413 and left it incomplete at their deaths in 1416. They were still in their thirties, and their cause of death most likely due to the plague that was ravaging Europe. The book of hours was completed seventy years later by a French painter Jean Colombe around 1485.

The Limbourg brothers painted the Tres Riches Heures for Jean de France, Duke de Berry, who was the third son of John II and an important member of nobility in 15th century France. He was a connoisseur of visual arts of the medieval period, and loved art and literature. His collection consisted of castles, gems, and a magnificent collection of books, which included the Tres Riches Heures. The Limbourg brothers painted on 206 vellum leaves, the highest quality available at the time. Vellum is the highest quality of parchment, which was normally reserved for important manuscripts, and lasted far longer than papyrus.

The painting for the month of October gives the most accurate and complete view of the Louvre of Charles V. The Louvre, originally a fortress in the 12th century, underwent several alterations before becoming the museum we know today. It was altered by Charles V in the 14th century, then converted into a residence in the early-16th century under Francis I. In the early 18th-century there was wide spread talk of creating a gallery, to showcase the Royal collection. The Royal museum became reality under Louis XVI and became free to the public, with 537 paintings, three days of the week after the fall of the monarchy. The museum's collection would continue to increase through Napoleon’s military conquests.

  • 7:00 AM

Ulm Minster

Ulm Minster, 1377-1880
Originating in France during the High medieval period, Gothic architecture had begun to spread across Europe. Comprised of flying buttresses, pointed arches, and ribbed vaults, Gothic architecture is most commonly seen in Cathedrals, abbeys, and churches of Europe, such as the Ulm Minster in Ulm, Germany. Construction began in 1377 under Ulrich Ensingen. It’s Gothic style battled the popular Romanesque style that had already existed around Europe. Often known as a Cathedral due to its impressive size, but it was never seated by a bishop.

The Ulm Minster abandoned the symmetrical balance of a two-tower cathedral to a single spire and tower, which reached a height of 620ft. The spire was supposed to be shorter but the height was increased in the plans to surpass the Cologne Cathedral, also in Germany, which was the tallest building in the world from 1880-1884. The Ulm’s tower was designed in 1482 and the spire was constructed in the nineteenth century, when the use of cast iron could be implemented into the construction. It surpassed the Cologne Cathedral and became the tallest building in the world for 11 years, from 1890-1901.

In 1944 the town of Ulm was severely hit by air raids during World War II. The town suffered massive damage, nearly all the buildings in the town square were destroyed. Near the town square the Ulm minister suffered minimal damage. The spire standing and looking over the town to this day as one of Germany’s most visited landmarks.

  • 7:00 AM

Milan Cathedral

Milan Cathedral, completed in 1858 by Carlo Amati and Giuseppe Zanoia
Taking almost 500 years to complete (1386-1858), the Milan Cathedral (Duomo di Milano) weighs down upon the earth with its intricately chiseled walls and doorways, its Gothic style beautifully exemplified. The grandeur of the space almost swallows the humans within it, the small creatures around the edifice actually being people. The symbolic aspect of weight and attachment to the earth combined with the delicate, airy top stretching to the heavens earns the title of the fourth largest cathedral in the world and the largest in Italian territory to the grand structure. The design of the cathedral shows such attention to detail and such reverence for what the cathedral reaches for that it seems less daunting and more welcoming to the average religious pilgrim.

Dedicated to Saint Mary Nascent (who apparently isn't a real person who ever existed, and the only reference of her ever is that this cathedral is dedicated to her), the cathedral used to be Saint Ambrose's "New Basilica" on site with an adjoining basilica. After a fire damaged the structure, architects repaired and compounded it to its current glory. Especially in the photo, light gravitates to the edifice, exaggerating its ethereal tips, almost like the fingers of angels joining the site to heaven in a far more powerful way than by the attempts of humans.

  • 7:00 AM

Raising of Lazarus

Duccio, Raising of Lazarus, 1310

Lazarus has been dead for four days, but now he stands in his burial shroud leaving the tomb with his eyes wide open. The smell must have been pretty bad because the onlooker in black dress socks covers his nose from the smell. Lazarus somehow defies physics by hopping to an upright position with his hands and feet tightly wrapped in linen cloth, sort of like a winning a two-legged burlap bag race at a family picnic without falling over. All we see of Lazarus is his ashen face, while the rest of the painting jumps out in vivid colors. Clearly, this guy was once dead.

Maybe when Duccio painted The Raising of Lazarus in 1310 people were accustomed to seeing this scene. The crowd on hand does not look particularly happy or eager to see poor Lazarus. Jesus, however, with his outstretched arm and a large decorative plate around his head, looks determined and compassionate. Duccio portrays Jesus as sure of himself, understanding the future meaning and significance of this miracle. The only person in the painting, a woman in a bright red robe, understands what has just happened. She, alone, directs her attention to Jesus, not to the smelly, wrapped, former corpse in the tomb.

Here, dozens of witnesses who had come to mourn the death of Lazarus instead witness the dude standing and breathing. How could this be anything but the awesome power and divine intervention of a benevolent God trying to make a point?

  • 7:00 AM

Santa Trinita Madonna

Cimabue, Santa Trinita Madonna, 1280-90

The foundations of Christ's kingdom is portrayed in Cimabue's Santa Trinita Madonna. Originally hung in the high alter of the Santa Trinità church in Florence this painting exemplifies fine byzantine style. Here Madonna and her child rest atop a throne surrounded by angels. This pattern is commonly referred to as a maesta, which was used by painters to portray the virgin as the queen of paradise.

Cimabue paints this Madonna, which greatly resembles Duccio's Rucellai Madonna, while retaining the Byzantine elements of the painting. The large, golden elaborate throne envelops the painting, with the angels pressing inwards to frame Madonna. The same framing is seen below the throne as the four prophets support her, Jeremiah and Isaiah on the far ends while Abraham and King David sit directly underneath the throne.

The painting rests on a gold background, further emphasizing the Byzantine heritage and style. Although some elements remain true to fashion, the architectural beauty of the throne is used to create a feeling of depth. A tension is felt in the painting as the angels on the outside force weight onto either side of the throne. This spatial theme is used to almost present a three dimensional element to the painting, as the movement flowing downwards toward the base. Cimabue provides intense emotion within the subjects of his paintings, this vitality characterizes much of Cimabue's work creating a unique style.

  • 7:00 AM

Saint Francis Receiving the Stigmata

Giotto, Saint Francis Receiving the Stigmata, 1295
St. Francis seems utterly too big for the world that surrounds him. The houses and trees resemble nothing more than dollhouse figurines. Giotto memorializes St. Francis in the painting by allowing him to consume the canvas; even Christ seems to appear miniature in comparison to Francis. He kneels before an all powerful Jesus takes over the other part of the canvas. Giotto’s cloudless sky needs no sun for Jesus, and even though he may appear smaller, he still holds a pivotal place in the canvas. The gold in Saint Francis Receiving the Stigmata painted in 1295 would be illuminated in the glow of candles in a church. The painting allows the viewer to remember what has been sacrificed for the passage into Heaven. People who search out the canvas all know the story of Jesus’ sacrifice, and St. Francis’ faith, yet Giotto reinvents the story. While the story and words may have lost their meaning, the painting touches people still. However hard the life of a Christian may be and whatever hardships they encounter, they have heavenly figures looking out for them.

The bottom of the painting serves a more practical purpose, giving the viewers a chronological view of St. Francis’ life. To the far left, there sleeps the Pope who is visited by Saint Peter. While, in the middle of a deep sleep he dreams of an unknown monk who is saving the collapsing church. The middle image is of the Pope welcoming St. Francis and a number of his followers. In the meeting he blesses the new Franciscan order. The last image to the right portrays Francis doing what he loves most, being one with nature. The birds point to the left while the church falls to the right, all point to the middle scene that shows the orders obedience to the church.

St. Francis as righteous as he is, never veers far from his path. His halo shows his divinity and separation from others, but do not hesitate to approach him. His frock, the color of the ground, still shows his connection to Earth.

  • 7:00 AM