Monday, December 29, 2014

Pondering the Angelus with Art: into a New Year

The Royal Doors from a Romanian Church seem to be a fitting representation of our prayer as we prepare to go through the doors of 2014 into a new Year. May we take the Angel's greeting with us so that we, too, recognize how "highly favored" we are every day. Every day of 2015 may we respond, "Be it done to me."

Monday, December 22, 2014

Pondering the Angelus with Art

In these final days of Advent, Gabriel appears to be informing all of us of an unexpected and earth-changing event.

Contemporary Italian artist Bruno Grassi gave Sr Sergia permission to photograph his version of the Annunciation. Grassi's goal in sacred art is to create a work that makes a person "want to pray." His work frequently depicts Mary, and angels (winged or wingless, as Gabriel is here) are also common. But could you tell that this was an Annunciation if not for the title? What other insights might the painting offer before you told someone what the artist's inspiration really was?

Photo of Bruno Grassi's Annunciation by Sr Sergia Ballini, FSP; taken with the artist's permission.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Pondering the Angelus with Art

I have no specific information at all about the provenance of this depiction of the Angelus, which appears to be on the doors of a Tabernacle. The photo was taken by Sr Adele Carrara, FSP, who has passed on to the true Life beyond this one and is not responding to questions concerning artwork. Pauline graphic designer Sister Sergia Ballini suggests that the style represents the Italian Tyrol (Trentino-South Tyrol), an autonomous district in Italy that once formed part of the Austrian Empire. I just think it's charming.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

A printable Angelus card

Sister Mary Lou Winters, FSP over in the UK has designed a lovely two-sided holy card to help promote the Angelus. Download the pdf files (front and back) and bring them on a flash drive to your local print shop; feel free to have as many copies made as you wish.

The card measures 2.91 x 4.13 inches, which may correspond more to European dimensions than our typical American paper sizes, but a print shop will be able to work with that.

Download the front side here.

Download the reverse (the actual Angelus prayer) here.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Pondering the Angelus

Today's Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception invites us to contemplate the Angelus in the great arc of salvation history. The Archangel Gabriel was sent to Nazareth to announce that God was about to fulfill the promise he had made in the Garden of Eden: "I will put enmity between you [the serpent] and the woman, between your offspring and hers..." Gabriel's words reveal that Mary is the new Eve; Paul will call her son the "second Adam," the first member of a renewed humanity.

This remarkable depiction of the Annunciation reminds us of the whole sad story of Adam and Eve; we see the Angel pushing them, naked, out of the garden, a garden that becomes a time machine, since Mary's open house is set right amidst the grass and flowers and scampering rabbits, a reminder that Mary, conceived without sin and clothed in grace, is the new Garden of Paradise. In the upper left corner, God the Father, surrounded by glory, seems to be both repeating his promise for our first parents to hear while at the same time sending the Holy Spirit upon Mary. (Rare is the Renaissance Annunciation that does not feature God the Father in some way, keeping a strong Trinitarian faith before our eyes.)

Praying in the spirit of today's feast of the sinless Virgin, we can consider Mary's response to the Angelic message not only an immediate reply to the mission held out to her, but her response to God the Father for having readied her from the first instant of her life for this mission. "Be it done to me!"

Giovanni di Paolo, The Annunciation and the Expulsion from Paradise
Samuel H Kress Collection,  National Gallery of Art

The National Gallery of Art website includes this commentary:
Giovanni di Paolo's Annunciation is believed to be one of five predella panels that belonged to the lower portion of a large, as yet unidentified, Sienese altarpiece. The central area of the panel shows the most important part of the painted narrative -- the Archangel Gabriel announcing the impending birth of the Christ Child to the Virgin Mary. Outside her elegant Italian Gothic house, a lush garden reflects the spring season of the Annunciation. The fertile landscape also provides an appropriate setting for the secondary representation at the left -- Adam and Eve's dramatic expulsion from the Garden of Eden. Giovanni used the figure of God the Father, who occupies the celestial realm in the upper left corner, to link the Expulsion to the Annunciation. God both points out the exiled couple's disgrace and looks ahead toward the Annunciation in anticipation of divine redemption. Finally, at the right, Joseph warms his hands at a fireplace, symbolic of Jesus' future birth in the winter.

Disregarding naturalistic detail in favor of flat, decorative pattern, Giovanni was nevertheless aware of current Renaissance experiments in linear perspective, as exemplified by the receding floor tiles in both the central loggia and Joseph's cubicle. The artist's decision, however, not to follow realistic spatial and scale relationships completely, and his use of willowy, elegantly dressed figures, place him firmly within the medieval pictorial tradition, now reappearing as the International Style.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Pondering the Angelus with Art

In this lovely image by Tommaso del Mazza, we see something that is typical and atypical at the same time. Typically for Annunciations in this era, God the Father is depicted in a heavenly realm--here in a "mandorla" formed of Seraphim. But this is no bust of an elderly ruler; it is a virile figure that can remind the viewer of no one but Jesus, "the perfect reflection of the Father's being." That it is, in fact, the Father (and not his Word and Image) may be reinforced by the halo, in which there is no hint of the cross.

Tommaso del Mazza (Master of St. Verdiana) (Italian, active 1377 - 1392)
The Annunciation, about 1390 - 1395, Tempera and gold leaf on panel
Unframed: 128.3 x 92.1 cm (50 1/2 x 36 1/4 in.)
Framed: 158.1 x 105.4 x 11.4 cm (62 1/4 x 41 1/2 x 4 1/2 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Praying the Angelus with Art: This Week's Image

From St Alban's Cathedral (St Albans, England), a detail from the Annunciation window: