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Pieta – Meg Spierto

21 Apr



Artist: Michelangelo
Medium: marble
Date: around 1498
Location: St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome
Dimensions: 5 ft x 8.5 ft

Michelangelo’s Pieta is a work of pure genius. It is undoubtedly the most famous Pieta ever depicted. It stands at 5 feet tall and 8.5 feet wide. Michelangelo’s main purpose of this sculpture was to show Jesus in a state of full humanity. This was because humans have a better understanding of His suffering when He is thought of as a man, instead of God. This image is not found in the bible, but it was a very common image of the day. Michelangelo was only around 24 years old when he sculpted this. The way that Mary’s hand is held out upwards towards the sky is a way of showing her son’s sacrifice for mankind.

Michelangelo studied very carefully human anatomy. The anatomy in this sculpture is actually anatomically impossible. He shows his mastery by making the sculpture look completely normal, when in reality the proportions aren’t scientific at all. In this sculpture, Mary is actually much bigger than Jesus. The magnificent drapery of Mary’s dress was put in place to hide the large size of her body in comparison to Jesus’. This was done partly because of the difficultly of having a woman holding the body of a grown man and still making it look natural. Michelangelo does a really great job of making this sculpture look completely natural, even though it is not.

Although this sculpture is about the suffering of Jesus, Mary is arguable the central figure. In other Pietas, she is older and displays agony. In Michelangelo’s work, Mary is young and has a solemn look on her face. She looks gentle and quiet. She knew that Jesus had to die for the world to be saved, so she seems at peace. Michelangelo meant to sculpt Jesus as asleep, not dead, for He would rise again (or awaken) in 3 days.

There are different explanations as to why Mary is such a young woman in this work of art. The first, simplest explanation is that Michelangelo viewed Mary as a very youthful, incorruptible figure. Her youth and beauty would have been seen as a gift from God for her faithfulness and her purity. The second, much more complicated explanation for why Mary was portrayed as such a young woman was because of Michelangelo’s understanding of the Trinity. There is a line in Dante’s divine comedy that calls Mary the virgin mother and the daughter of your son. Michelangelo took this line and applied it to the trinity, saying that Mary was not only the mother of Jesus, but Jesus, being God, was the Father of Mary. Mary’s youthfulness in this sculpture would then be seen as a sign of her daughterhood, with Jesus as her father. The final explanation is that the two figures represent two different points in time. Mary holding Jesus is representing Jesus’ birth. She is young because she is holding her child, the baby Jesus. Jesus is shown as a grown man as His mother holds Him. This would be to foreshadow what was to become of baby Jesus. In this explanation, Mary is looking into the future and what it holds for her son.

There is great meaning behind this piece of art, which is one of the reasons it is so famous. Michelangelo’s craftsmanship and intelligence remain unmatched. This remains one of his greatest works and certainly one of the most famous works, if not the most famous, in Rome.

Wilkin, D., Schultz, B., & Linduff K. (2001). Art Part, Art Present. Fourth Edition. Page 227.


Christ Nailed to the Cross – Kelcee Headlee

20 Apr


Artist: Gerard David

Medium: Oil on oak

Location: National Gallery: London, England

Date: c. 1481

Dimensions: 48.4 x93.9

Gerard David was born between the years of 1450 and 1460. The date is not specified. He was from the Netherlands from a small town called Oudewater, near Gouda. There is not much said about David, but his art depicts many biblical references. No one is certain who David apprenticed under but rumor has it he was an apprentice of Memling.  In 1483, Bruges became the hometown of David. A year after he made residence in the area he became a member of the Bruges Guild of St. Luke.  Around 1511 is when Gerard David would come to Italy for a short amount of time.  He passed away in 1523 in Bruges.

The painter was know for his skill in creating a warm feeling and emotional connection. He enjoyed being able to make an “everyday interpretation” of religious topics.  One of the things that he was praised for most was his ability to unite all aspects of a picture through the use of landscape and color scheme.  From his interpretation on landscape, he would enforce the importance of the idea of “background”.

“Christ Nailed to the Cross” is a picture that allows me to make an instant connection. When I first saw this picture, what caught my attention was the gaze from the character in the picture who was meant to be Jesus. He has this look in His eyes that breaks hearts. Jesus knew His mission coming to earth. He was sent into the world to die for God’s people and future. In previous years, when an individual sinned, they sacrificed an animal. Jesus became the ultimate sacrifice and died for everyone’s sins so that they may have a personal relationship with God and the opportunity to have eternal life in Paradise.

It is in this portrait that you are able to see the love of God in Jesus’ eyes. You can tell that He is willing to die so that His blood pours out and covers our sins.  His blood would pour out just like His love would for us. Hillsong created a song called “Lead Me to the Cross”. There is a specific line in the lyrics to the song that helped me find a deeper meaning to this artifact. Jesus was stretched out on a cross, and He paid my ransom for my sins. His blood was shed for me. His blood came rushing and pouring down just as His love did for us. He walked carrying His cross that should have been mine, was beat and mocked, and died the death of criminals. The only crime He ever committed was sharing the truth of God and loving God’s people unconditionally.  The thought of Jesus dying for me and being able to get an idea of His facial expression while being nailed to the cross has made me so much more appreciative of every blessing that God has given me, including His only Son and His never ending love that brings me to my knees in gratitude and awe.

“…Lead me to the cross

Where Your love poured out

Bring me to my knees
Lord I lay me down

Rid me of myself

I belong to You

Lead me, lead me to the cross


The Apse Mosaic – Juliana Harn

18 Apr




Artist: unknown

Medium: mosaic

Date: c.1200

Location: Basilica of San Clemente, Rome, Italy

San Clemente’s mosaic merges the iconography of Paradise with images of the Church in the contemporary world of the 13th century. Thus its most prominent feature is a vast vine studded with figures of lords and stewards, Doctors of the Church, and peasants engaged in their daily tasks.

The vine is identified as the Church by an inscription along the rim just above the sheep reading, “Ecclesiam Christi viti similabimus isti de ligno crucis Jacobi dens, Ignatiiq[ue] insupra scripti requiescunt corpore Christi quam lex arentem, sed crux facit esse virentem”, “We have likened the Church of Christ to this vine; the Law made it wither but the Cross made it bloom. In the body of Christ above this inscription rest [some] wood from the Cross, a tooth of James, and of Ignatius.”

Although the vine is especially prominent, the entire mosaic really focuses on the cross (or crucifix) in the center. The cross itself is actually a complete crucifixion scene with Mary and St. John on either side below it, and the hand of God the Father above. The risen and reigning Christ is at the very top of the mosaic, above all at the highest point in the arch of the apse. At the bottom, the vine of life grows out of the tree at the foot of the cross, and from the cross flow the four rivers of Eden. (The two stags drinking there allude to the Bible verse “As the hart panteth after the fountains of water; so my soul panteth after thee, O God.” Psalm 42:1)

This mosaic is also one of the best-known representations of the Cross as the “Tree of Life”. Where the Cross goes into the ground, essentially a tree bursts forth and sends its vines out, covering the entire apse. In doing so it reaches and enfolds all of the different people included in the mosaic (see also teachers and preachers, chaplains and farmers, ladies and hunters, nobles and even shepherds). All of human life is brought into contact with the life that flows from the Cross. But not just human life, as the Cross includes includes fish, birds and animals, and all fill up earth and heaven, showing how Christ’s death brought life to everything. God’s hand at the top, carrying the laurel wreath, crowns Christ as the victor over death. The cross is decorated with white doves, which have been interpreted through the centuries as the Apostles who will soon fly to all corners of the world carrying the message of Christ’s victory.

This is a beautiful example of Byzantine-inspired Roman art, and the mosaic has become an important illustration of how the Cross that Jesus died on became Tree of Life for us. For me, this was also one of the first things that we studied in class, and I got to see in real life. When first walking in, I definitely experienced that moment of “Oh, I was just reading about this in a book a few days ago, and wait, now I’m here in real life?! Wait what??” kind of excitement. To be able to read about Roman architecture one day, and go see it within the next few, is one of the most amazingly unique experiences I have ever had, and something I thoroughly appreciate, and will always remember.

Crucifixion – Justin Fink

18 Apr



Artist: Nardo di Cione

Medium: Tempera on wood

Date: Began 1350 Ended 1360

Location: Uffizi Gallery: Florence

Dimensions: 145 X 71 cm

Nardo di Cione was the son of a goldsmith and an active artist from the years of 1343 until 1466. He was from Florence and a member of an artistically talented family.  He had two brothers whose names are said to be Matteo, Jacopo and Andrea. There are three names given, although he only had two brothers.Both of his brothers were part of the Painter’s Guild of Florence, so in order to follow and continue the family tradition, he strived to become part of the elite group.  Not only was he apart of the Painters’ Guild, he had another accomplishment of being admitted into the guild of the stonemasons in 1352.  With the family being so heavily involved in art, they had to have a unique quality about their masterpieces to stick out among the rest. Each brother was known to have their own special quality or technique in their work. His work had a poetic, story telling quality that would pull out human emotions.  There were times where the three di Cione brothers would work together on masterpieces, but the Crucifixion would be a painting that he would create all on his own.

For a portion of his life, he was commissioned by Santa Maria Novella Church in Florence. He created many frescoes and decorated the walls of the Strozzi Chapel.  He also worked with the stain glass and alter pieces. He worked for the church for approximately seven years. An awesome thing about Nardo being commissioned by the church was the fact that his brother was able to work along side him.

The Crucifixion was created during the time of the Medieval and Gothic art period. During this time period, the purpose of art was for the viewer to gain a personal connection with God. The masterpieces were meant to point directly to God so people could experience His glory, imitate His creative design and also reveal God’s Heaven to Earth so that people would want to live in eternity.

This tempera tells a part of the Jesus’ life like all of the art does displayed on this page, but this picture shows his final moments hanging almost lifelessly on the cross.

The death of Jesus is one of the most heartbreaking moments in all of history.  He came to Earth to be a servant to God. Jesus was born unto the world for one purpose. His ultimate mission was to die on a cross for people who scorned him, mocked him, and beat him down. He gave His life for His friends and people who would come to follow His example of living the holy life.  Jesus Christ became the sacrificial lamb for God’s people to save them. He took our sins so that we could have a direct relationship with God. The Holy Trinity longs for the weak, the heartbroken and sinners to come to the foot of the cross and lay their burdens. His death is just as important as His life. It is through His death and resurrection that we are able to have eternal life. His death is what saves and His resurrection is what gives us hope for a better tomorrow and gives us new mercies and grace everyday.

Coup de Lance – Meg Spierto

17 Apr

coup de lance


Title: The Coup De Lance
Artist: Peter Paul Rubens
Date: AD 1630
Location: British Museum

In this highly emotional and cringe-worthy painting, the point is reached where Jesus is already dead. On the left side of this crowded seen, there is a man on the horse. This man is St. Longinus, a Roman soldier. Longinus is from catholic tradition. He is said to have been the soldier who pierced the side of Jesus to ensure that He was dead. This act fulfilled a prophesy from the Old Testament. In John 19 32-37 the reasoning is described. “The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken,” and, as another scripture says, “They will look on the one they have pierced.” (NIV) This painting depicts Longinus as the man piercing Jesus in this passage. In catholic tradition, he is an important man. It is said that after this moment, he soon became a follower of Christ. He was partially blind, and was miraculously healed when the water poured out of Jesus’ side and into his eyes. After this occurrence, he fell to the ground and proclaimed, “Indeed, this was the Son of God” (Mark 15:29). The story goes, that he quit the army soon after. He followed after the apostles and became a monk, starting his ministry for Christ. He was condemned for his faith and tortured. His teeth and tongue were removed, but miraculously he was still able to preach. He was eventually martyred for his belief in Jesus. When he was beheaded, there was a governor who was previously blinded by demons that came into contact with his blood. Just as Jesus’ blood gave St. Longinus sight, so did Longinus’ blood give the governor sight. St. Longinus is a symbol to the Catholic Church of the beauty of Jesus’ death. Focusing on Jesus’ life has to include His death. For Him, there was life after death, so death ends up being just a short moment in His life. While this painting does not focus solely on Longinus, it is a great representation of what Longinus means to the Catholic Church. Jesus lived to save; Longinus is a representation of all mankind because through Jesus’ pain and ultimately death, he is healed. As sinners, we are also healed through Jesus’ sacrifice. St. Longinus is an image to many of how Jesus’ life, and eventually His death, impacted the world, even for generations to come.,_coup_de_lance.aspx

The Lamentation at the Foot of the Cross – Shaila Costanza

17 Apr

lamentation at foot of the cross

Date: c. 1760-60

Artist: Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo

Location: National Gallery, London

Medium- oil on canvas

Dimensions: 80 x 89.2cm

Undeserving love, oh how deep you cut

Deeper than the slashes and whips

And sharper than the nails and spears

A body so beaten, so raw and limp

The result of torture and forgiven lies

His heart was broken, with eyes full of tears

Sinners and believers stand around the site

Pain and joy fill the air with a scent of ignorance

No one understands the significance to come

God’s plan will always stand true

For this day was designed before the beginning of time

A day so meaning full to all, but only accepted by some

No love is greater, than to give your life

For those undeserving and unwilling to believe

Those who are unborn and most you will never meet

The ultimate price was paid

A price higher than that of gold and silver

Unlike any man, death would be beat

A body of wounds and a soul so pure

None can compare to the deed that was done

All was forgiven, all was made whole

Undeserving love, forever in debt

My sins are tossed from as far as the east is from the west

I will praise you Jesus with all my heart and soul

The National Gallery,*/key-facts