Liars and Loopholes: The Wedding Portrait

Liars and Loopholes
Subterfuge in Art
Curated by Tessia Phillips

Van Eyck,  The Wedding Portrait, 1434

Van Eyck always wins with the subtleties. Every mundane or simple object pictures represents something of sanctity. The mirror pictured behind the couple reflects the minister, or perhaps the artist, while oranges to the left of the groom symbolize fertility. Van Eyck does not need to paint the artist directly, because he finds his way around the conventions of the story with the mirror. He also does not need to explicitly announce the bride’s pregnancy, because though her oversized dress could be interpreted as simply the style of the day, the fertility fruit says what Van Eyck cannot.

Ability to symbolize the sanctity of marriage with clogs, a dog, and a broom, is a rare gift possessed by Van Eyck - and this piece specifically. The common dog name “Fido” derives from the Latin word meaning “to trust.” The small whisk brook symbolizes domestic care, while the cast aside clogs indicate that the marriage is taking place on holy ground. Van Eyck masters complexity in mundanity in order to achieve maximum impact with minimal, but precise detail.

  • 7:00 AM

Liars and Loopholes: World Upside Down

Liars and Loopholes
Subterfuge in Art
Curated by Tessia Phillips


Pieter Bruegel, World Upside Down, 1559

Pieter Bruegel spent the majority of his artistic career doing whatever he wanted anyway, but this particular piece highlights his ability to... make fun of proverbs, making them both artistic and hilarious. In a lovable and comic way, Bruegel, simply put, paints blasphemy. He uses this work to illustrate the absurdity of the literal.

My personal favorite example of Bruegel finding and capitalizing on a loophole is visible in the top left corner. Literally, the proverb says, “He pisses on the moon.” If finding an excuse to paint a man peeing out of a window isn’t impressive enough, Bruelel uses a moon sign outside a shop to serve as the actual moon’s replacement. "Putting a hood on the Devil" and "carrying a cauldron too hot" are also depicted proverbs. In his ability to mock the literal with the visual, Breugel finds the hilarity in preachy morality.

  • 7:00 AM

Loopholes and Liars: Self Portrait

Loopholes and Liars
Subterfuge in Art
Curated by Tessia Phillips

Sofonisba Anguissola, Self-Portrait, 1556

When people want what they want, and they want it badly enough, they will have it. Even the most tight knit systems have loopholes, and even the tallest gates have a way around. Intellect, creativity, and strategic thinking are often the keys to success in spotting the loophole, and capitalizing on it. While writers use objects and people to symbolize a larger idea or meaning, artists have the added luxury of creating larger- scale twists.

In the portrait above, Sofonisba Anguissola paints…herself. But women could not paint themselves. Portraits of women (especially by women) were taboo, and religious works took the front seat of artistic pursuits. Here, Anguissola finds the loophole. “Not allowed to paint a portrait of myself? It’s not, you see? It’s a religious scene (where the woman painted is obviously me), I just happened to expand the scale so you can see me creating this sacred work.” The creativity and skill in artists combine in works to dodge social bullets, technical struggles, and stick the eye of the needle through every loophole.

  • 7:00 AM

Beauty in Death: The Third of May 1808

Beauty in Death
An Investigation of the Divine Demise 
Curated by Tommy Dunn

Francisco Goya, The Third of May 1808, 1814

Obviously, Goya’s painting differs from all of the other paintings I have chosen. While the others depict the killings of traditional Christian martyrs, I thought this painting would work for a modern interpretation of my theme—it provides a great example of a modern martyrdom. The scene in this painting occurred just after Napoleon’s invasion of Spain in 1807-1808. Napoleon had proven a rather popular dictator in Spain for some time, helping to set up something of a puppet ruler in the new King Ferdinand. However, the people quickly grew tired of Napoleon’s rule. On the second of May in 1808, they staged armed rebellions against the tyrant in Madrid. Napoleon’s general issued a decree that anyone caught with a weapon in the uprisings would be shot to death the next day. French soldiers executed many this way on May 3rd, 1808.

Goya’s depiction of these executions is one of the most famous paintings in the world. The young Spanish rebel stands with his hands held high in the air, declaring his innocence. The men to his left all await a similar fate. Goya skillfully uses light/dark contrast, brilliantly illuminating in white the boy about to be executed to highlight his innocence. His fallen comrades lie on the ground to his right. The French soldiers lean menacingly towards the victim. Goya hides their faces—they appear as inhuman killing machines. Most disturbing by far about this painting is the face of the unknown victim. Pure fear plays across his face as he stares down his certain doom. The more I look at this painting, the more emotionally powerful it becomes. It forces the viewer to realize that this is the end of the line for this young life. I think that this is why I like this painting so much. Goya does a supreme job of conveying a sense of loss and destruction as the French soldiers senselessly kill hundreds of civilians. While he may not have been holy, I think that this poor man is the true definition of a martyr. He died defenseless for a cause he truly believed in. And his death carries with it a certain sense of purpose. He may have died without accomplishing his goal, but the war raged on and his people eventually prevailed five years later. Goya memorialized this hero’s death in one of the most emotionally powerful paintings ever created.

  • 7:00 AM

Beauty in Death: Crucifixion of Saint Peter

Beauty in Death
An Investigation of the Divine Demise 
Curated by Tommy Dunn

Caravaggio, Crucifixion of Saint Peter, 1600

Caravaggio’s Crucifixion of Saint Peter depicts Peter’s death in an unusual way. While being crucified upside down would certainly feel both painful and humiliating, Saint Peter betrays little emotion as the assistants raise him up on his cross. Rather than seeming timid or fearful, Peter appears in control of the procedure. His muscular arms seem perfectly capable of ripping the cross into splinters. The laborers complete the inversion of power. Rather than lording over him, they seem to struggle to lift Saint Peter’s holy mass up onto the cross. All of them have their faces averted in reverence, and they seem to melt into the background. Only Saint Peter himself is illuminated. His skin looks bleached, but he exudes power. His muscles combined with a full beard illustrate his power. His face sags with fatigue, but he does not look defeated. I think the stark relief created by the lighting injects emotion into the piece. The deep, dark spaces add gravity to the painting. They seem like spaces beckoning Saint Peter to his grave. However, Saint Peter is protected, bathed in holy light. He stares into the source of the light.

This painting shows the serenity of the holy figure in the face of adversity contrasted with his obvious impending doom. Whether a martyrdom painting was created to protest a war or to advance a religious ideology, it almost invariably contains these two themes. Additionally, this painting exemplifies how a great painter like Caravaggio can create true beauty from even the most intense suffering.

  • 7:00 AM

Beauty in Death: Stoning of Saint Stephen

Beauty in Death
An Investigation of the Divine Demise 
Curated by Tommy Dunn

Cigoli, Stoning of Saint Stephen, 1597

Saint Stephen died a truly gruesome death. In ancient Jerusalem, stoning was an acceptable punishment for blasphemy, and Saint Stephen had a talent for stirring up anger with words. Almost immediately after the death of Jesus, Saint Stephen preached to the Jewish population of Jerusalem that Jesus was in fact the son of God. The story goes that he challenged the Synagogue-goers to a debate and won with divine intervention. The leaders of Jerusalem hated him for this. They dragged him to a court where he stood accused of blasphemy. He responded to these accusations by launching into a lengthy diatribe against the people of Israel. He identified them as cowards who rejected prophets out of hand because they feared change. He claimed that even though they worshipped false idols, they persecuted those who followed the real God. Maybe he tried to enrage the court. If he did, he succeeded. The crowd got so angry that they abandoned concluding the trial. After he identified Jesus as the son of God one last time, they dragged him out into the town square and stoned him to death. Interestingly the future Saint Paul watched in the crowd before his conversion and indicated that he approved of proceedings.

Cigoli’s painting depicts Stephen’s moment of salvation in the midst of torment. He lies in the street, bloodied and nearing unconsciousness, but he makes no effort to avoid the stones. He has eyes only for God and Jesus at his side. These divine figures at the top of the painting seem to press down on the mortals below, coming closer to Saint Stephen. Additionally, God and Jesus float on ominous black clouds, possibly a sign of the torment that awaits those who persecuted Stephen. While almost everyone in the crowd looks rabidly at the execution, one girl in the bottom left seems to protest the killing. It is unclear who she is, but out of everyone in the painting, only she wears white. Saint Stephen, however, sees none of this. He remains unaffected by the brutality as he gracefully awaits his entry to heaven.

  • 8:00 PM

Beauty in Death: Saint Sebastian

Beauty in Death
An Investigation of the Divine Demise 
Curated by Tommy Dunn

El Greco, Saint Sebastian, 1614

Paintings of Saint Sebastian tied to a pole are some of the most common martyrdom images in art. However, Saint Sebastian did not actually die tied to that stake. The archers whom Diocletian had commanded to kill him in the purges shot him full of arrows and left him for dead, but he miraculously survived. He was saved by a Christian widow in Rome. Brought to her house, he performed a miracle when he restored the sight of a blind girl with the power of Christ. Diocletian lived near to where he hid, but he was safe within the house. However, after a while he could not contain himself. Sebastian loudly taunted Emperor Diocletian as he walked by the safe house. Diocletian found himself face to face with someone he had ordered killed. Enraged, he ordered his soldiers to take Sebastian and beat him to death in an alley, where Sebastian was martyred for the second time.

This depiction of Sebastian is easily identifiable as an El Greco. Sebastian’s elongated body leads to an unusually small head. El Greco does a great job of creating movement in a scene where it really does not exist. Sebastian himself seems to twist skywards; his face strains upwards. Behind him, the classic El Greco clouds swirl around in a vortex centered on Sebastian’s emaciated torso.

El Greco painted a much more famous version of this scene earlier in his career, but I like this one better. I like his later style much more than his more by-the-book earlier works. In particular, I like the colors here and the small town in the background. I think this one also does a much better job of showing Sebastian’s separation from his torture. His eyes point skyward, and while he seems near swooning, he does not seem like he feels pain. He makes a connection with the divine. While he may not die here, this scene certainly belongs as a martyrdom.

  • 7:00 AM

Beauty in Death: Martyrdom of Saint Cosmas and Damian

Beauty in Death
An Investigation of the Divine Demise 
Curated by Tommy Dunn

Fra Angelico, Martyrdom of Saints Cosmas and Damian, 1430

The twin brothers Cosmas and Damian traveled the Mediterranean healing people for free and extolling the virtues of the Christian faith. They famously healed a wounded white man in Africa by grafting a dead black man’s leg onto his below the knee. Despite their good works and the love they met wherever they went, they fell victim to Diocletian’s purges. They were captured and ordered to recant Christianity. Their captors tortured them endlessly and heinously in every way they could dream up—still to no avail. Finally, the exasperated local leader of the purges decides to behead the duo along with several of their brothers who supported them to the end.

Fra Angelico’s use of color here really brings out the scene for me. The sanguine, menacing reds of the blood and the outfits of several of the figures contrast with the cool, comfortable blues that permeate the painting. I have always liked Fra Angelico’s color schemes. He uses a simple palate, and yet I think that his color scheme is every bit as powerful as the more nuanced colors of the masters who came after him. His colors make bold statements—what they lack in complexity they make up for in power. This painting falls slightly outside the normal bounds of the theme that I have chosen. While it of course depicts martyrdom, the saints here have already been beheaded. There is no moment of salvation or connection with the divine. However, this painting shows that art can take a truly ugly scene such as this, where no redemption is present, and transform it into something beautiful while still getting the meaning of the story across. That is the power of Fra Angelico’s painting. Even in a brutal scene like this, he finds beauty.

  • 7:00 AM

Beauty in Death: Martyrdom of Saint Matthew


Beauty in Death
An Investigation of the Divine Demise 
Curated by Tommy Dunn

Jan de Beer, Martyrdom of Saint Matthew, 1535

Accounts vary as to how Matthew was martyred, or whether he was even martyred at all. Many sources claimed that he lived his days out in relative peace, going around to different lands—sources disagree on where he went—and proselytizing. However, several painters including Caravaggio and Jan de Beer above have painted a specific legend about Matthew that probably is not true. This legend tells that Matthew took up residence preaching in Ethiopia after the death of Christ. He preached there for several years, in good stead with the king. However, one day the king took a liking to his niece. Matthew rather harshly told him how disgusting such love was. The king, not used to being rebuffed, did not take well to Matthew’s counsel. The king ordered him executed by soldiers while Matthew delivered mass.

Jan de Beer here paints Matthew stretched out vulnerably face down on the ground. His face looks tired and haggard. He carries a bible in his hand. He crawls towards his assailant. He seems completely surprised by the situation. Jan de Beer, a Dutch painter, does his best with his limited knowledge of what Ethiopia might look like. In Jan’s painting, the king himself looks on coldly as his goon takes care of Matthew. The tone of this painting differs from almost every other work I will talk about. In most paintings, the saint looks heavenward in an expression of some sort of hope. However, in this work Matthew has no time to think. I think this represents an interesting step towards a realistic depiction of martyrdom by de Beer. Most painters who painted martyrdoms tried to include some sort of message of hope or at least a moral in their painting. De Beer, on the other hand, appears simply to have painted a man dying. Perhaps this is because he was part of the Northern Renaissance and placed less emphasis on the divine. No matter the reason, de Beer’s otherwise undistinguished painting represents a significant departure from traditional images of martyrdom.

  • 7:00 AM

Beauty in Death: Crucifixion of Saint Philip

Beauty in Death
An Investigation of the Divine Demise 
Curated by Tommy Dunn

Jusepe de Ribera, Crucifixion of Saint Philip, 1639

Saint Philip, one of Christ’s disciples, benefited from a glorious martyrdom. Philip found himself sentenced to death after offending an official in the city of Hierapolis—Philip converted the man’s wife to Christianity. Philip, like Peter, asked his captors to crucify him upside down. He and several other conspirators were to be executed, including Saint Bartholomew. However, the proconsul of Hierapolis had underestimated Philip’s powers. While hanging upside down on a crucifix, he delivered a sermon that so entranced execution-goers and passers-by alike that many of them converted on the spot. He convinced them to free Saint Bartholomew. They offered to let him down from his cross as well, but he refused and thus died there several days later.

Ribera paints St. Philip as his captors raise him onto the cross. I find this painting deeply disturbing. To me, St. Philip seems as though he is already close to death. His skin is pale and almost lifeless. His torso looks frightening. It caves in below his rib cage. The weakness forms a stark contrast with his robust arm muscles—as my eye moves down the piece it looks like he decays in front of me. Ribera deftly shades the work to bring out every grotesque curve in Philip’s body. No salvation presents itself in this painting—this is an image of suffering. Ribera oddly chooses to contrast Philip’s crucifixion with a brilliant blue sky.

Despite this moment of pain, Philip in a way emerges triumphant. He comes out a saint, able to convert the masses from his crucifix. Philip’s story illustrates the common Christian theme of redemption borne of suffering.

  • 7:00 AM

The Crucifixion


Crucifixion
Curated by Bryan Lundgren

Rembrandt, The Crucifixion, 1633

The Crucifixion 
by Rembrandt closes my exhibit.  In the painting, the audience discovers Jesus painfully paying for our sins.  The global community needs to take Jesus’s commandments (love and peace for each other), so He - along with innocent people - will not suffer.  Do not get me wrong: I am guilty of these problems.  But let us forgive the past and fix the future.      
  • 7:00 AM

The Crucifixion


Crucifixion
Curated by Bryan Lundgren

Salvador Dali, The Crucifixion, 1951

In The Crucifixion, Salvador Dali illustrates Jesus’s death.  Jesus stares down hoping for peace and tolerance. The reader can understand Dali’s motives by the position of the cross, which focuses on the light of Heaven. 

Americans sometimes forget or take for granted our first amendment rights. People often show anger towards political and religious views. Others often reject people for mentioning different political ideology.  Society notices this with Benghazi terror attack or disagreements on US budget. Adults illustrate anger and fury if disagreeing on these issue, as they think “their way” is the best way. The ability to speak and tolerate other ideas makes The United States free. It does not matter if you are ten years old or a top political figure.  Americans have the right to express  themselves.  I do not mean to say that one should ridicule other ideas or religions; but we must remember to give people a chance to express themselves.

Jesus begs for tolerance and peace.  The more we understand each other and accept different views, the closer our soul reaches “The Light.”
  • 7:00 AM

The Crucifixion


Crucifixion
Curated by Bryan Lundgren

Crucifixion in St. Philip Anglican Church

The stained-glass of The Crucifixion in St. Philip Anglican Cathedral presents Good Friday in church. When praying at mass, this image reminds us of the pains Jesus had. In church, Catholics receive the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. As starting a new beginning, society needs to undertake the challenges of poverty and peace. In doing so, we repay Jesus.

If society follows Jesus’s covenant (love thy neighbor), our world would unite as one. Poverty and violence would cease. And we would repay Jesus for all his wonderful works.
  • 7:00 PM

The Crucifixion


Crucifixion
Curated by Bryan Lundgren
Murillo, The Crucifixion, 1617–1682 

In The Crucifixion, Murillo displays Jesus looking upon the kind and humble. Murillo uses the crucifixion to display the Holy Eyes on the righteousness. Today’s society can learn from this image. 

With the twenty-first century media, Americans and the world recognize the terrible events humans preform.  Without a doubt, society needs to notice and take actions against these tragedies.  But often, people fail to notice the outstanding works of others.

For example, the media heavily cover the negative actions of Islam.  With the upturning violence in Cairo Egypt, news reports display radicals hating America.  But few people notice the majority of Muslims supporting democracy and freedom in the midst of violence.  

Positive actions do not always have to be life threatening. Truth and honesty has been covered-up by the media’s crime stories. Society sees smiles and kindness enlightening people’s day. But such a recognition has been abandoned.    

Reading The Crucifixion has significant value.  Society need to remember whom Jesus staring upon.  The idea of noticing the good and fixing the bad will develop a peaceful strength which Jesus longs for.

  • 7:00 AM