Gerard van Honthorst

Gerard van Honthorst, “Saint Sebastian”, circa 1623, Oil on Canvas, 101 x 117 cm, The National Gallery, London, United Kingdom

Born in November of 1592 in Utrecht, an important trade center of the Northern Netherlands, Gerard van Honthorst was a Dutch Golden Age painter who was known for his artificially lit scenes. In his early career in Rome, he had great success painting in a style influenced by the work of Caravaggio. Upon his return to the Netherlands, Honthorst became a prominent portrait and allegorical painter. 

The son of a decorative painter, Gerard van Honthorst initially trained under his father and finished his education under painter and printmaker Abraham Bloemaert, a painter of historical subjects and an early advocate of the emerging Baroque style. Bloemaert was an important teacher who would train most of the Utrecht painters who were influenced by Caravaggio’s style. Upon completion of his education, Honthorst traveled to Rome where he lodged at the palace of Vincenzo Giustiniani, an aristocratic banker and art collector whose collected paintings and sculptures totaled over fifteen-hundred pieces. 

Honthorst was influenced by the contemporary artists in Giustiniani’s collection, particularly those works by Caravaggio, Bartolomeo Manfredi and the Carracci family of artists. The technique used by these artists to depict light in their canvases strongly impressed the young artist. While lodged at Giustiniani’s palace, Honthorst painted his 1617 oil on canvas “Christ Before the High Priest”, a work in which lighting plays a particular importance. The scene of Jesus questioned by the priest Calaphas takes place at night with the only source of light being a candle in the center of the table. Jesus and Calphas are illuminated by that candle; all the secondary figures in the room are shrouded in darkness.

Gerard van Honthorst acquired an important patron in Rome, Cardinal Scipione Borghese, a member of the Borghese family and also the patron of Caravaggio and  Gian Lonrenzo Bernini. Through the Cardinal, Honthorst received important commissions at Monte Compatri and Santa Maria della Vittoria in Rome. He also received work from the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Cosimo II de’ Medici. In 1620, Honthorst returned to Utrecht and through his new work increased his reputation in the Dutch Republic and abroad. 

In 1623, the year of his marriage, Honthorst became president of Utrecht’s Guild of Saint Luke, a city guild of painters and other artists in early Europe. His reputation was such that the English envoy at the Hague, Sir Dudley Carleton, recommended his work to Lord Dorchester and the Earl of Arundel, courtier to King James I and King Charles I. Queen Elizabeth of Bohemia, the sister of Charles I, commissioned Honthorst as portrait painter and as drawing-master for her children. He was invited to England in 1628 where he painted several portraits, a vast allegorical scene featuring Charles and his queen as Apollo and Diana, and an intimate group portrait “The Four Eldest Children of the King of Bohemia”. 

Upon his return to Utrecht in 1652, Gerard van Honthorst, still retained by Charles I, painted a 1631 group portrait of the king and queen of Bohemia and all their children. He also painted scenes from “The Odeyssey” for Lord Dorchester, historical scenes in 1635 for Christian IV of Denmark, and a portrait of Countess Leonora during her visit to the Hague. Honthorst opened a second studio in the Hague where he painted portraits of the members of the court, employed a large number of assistants to make replicas of royal portraits, and taught students, each paying one hundred guilders a year.   

A prolific artist, Gerard van Honthorst passed away in April of 1656. Many of his paintings, cultivated in the style of Caravaggio, involved tavern scenes with musicians, gamblers and people dining. He was very skilled in the art of  chiaroscuro, the strong use of contrasts between light and dark to affect the whole composition.

In November of 2013, the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC purchased Honthorst’s 1623 “The Concert” from a private collection in France. The painting went on display for the first time in two-hundred and eighteen years at a special installation in the National Gallery’s West Building in November of 2013. It is now on permanent display in the museum’s Dutch and Flemish galleries. 

Notes: Gerard van Honthorst was one of the first artists to portray Saint Sebastian as a half-length figure, slumped forward in a seated position. The pose was subsequently adopted by other followers of Caravaggio in Utrecht, including Hendrik te Brugghen and Jan van Bijlert in the mid-1620s. The painting “Saint Sebastian” was most likely painted shortly after Honthorst’s return to Utrecht from Rome in 1620.

Top Insert Image: Pieter de Jode II, “Gerrit (Gerard) van Honthorst”, Engraving, From Cornelis de Bie’s “Her Golden Cabinet”, Publisher Joannes Meyseens, Antwerp, 1661

Second Insert Image: Gerard van Honthorst, “Saint Peter Penitent”, Date Unknown, Oil on Canvas, 110.2 x 97.4 cm, Private Collection

Third Insert Image: Gerard van Honthorst, “Old Woman Examing a Coin”, 1623, Oil on Canvas, 75 x 60 cm, The Kremer Collection, Amsterdam

Bottom Insert Image: Gerard van Honthorst, “The Denial of St. Peter”, 1622, Oil on Canvas, 111 x 149 cm, Minneapolis Institute of Arts

André Durand

Paintings by André Durand

Born in Ottawa, Ontario in 1947, André Durand is a Canadian photographer and painter of Irish ancestry who works within the European Hermetic tradition. At the age of seventeen, he left Canada with his wife Ludmilla to emigrate to Europe. Through its history, Hermeticism was closely associated with the idea of a primeval, divine wisdom that was revealed to ancient sages. Hermeticism remains influential within esoteric Christianity, particularly in the  Christian mystical tradition of Maartinism. The anonymously written 1967 French tome “Meditations on the Tarot”, later edited and published by Robert Powell in 1980, summarizes the theory and practices of Christian Hermeticism.

Best known for his allegorical portraits of such figures as Princess Diane, Durand’s mythologically inspired paintings are the foundation of his work. These pieces display his deep understanding of the rituals and myths of both Christian and Classical traditions. Influenced by Michelangelo, Rubens and Titian, Durand tries to unite his religion with his art; however, he approaches the subject with the objective and philosophical criteria of a Neo-modernist. 

In 1970 André Durand painted a series of images inspired by the dancers of the British Royal Ballet. His 1972 portrait of Irish novelist Elizabeth Bowen, whose work often bears heavily on the psychology of its characters, is housed in London’s National Portrait Gallery. Durand  has also received international acclaim for his official portraits of Pope John Paul II and the fourteenth Dalai Lama.

In 2000, Durand became artist in residence at London’s Kingston Upon Thames University. A major exhibition in 2006, entitled “Durand Wholly Pictures” and which covered six years of work, was displayed in churches and cathedrals in the county of Sussex. These works depicted devotional Christian narratives set in traditional  Sussex landscapes. In November of 2007, André Durand produced his oil on linen “Daniel in the Lions’ Den”; the sale of the painting and its limited edition prints benefited the Demelza Hospice Care for Children, a charity in Kent that provides support to life-limited children and their families.

After his return to Italy, André Durand visited the commune of Torre del Greco in Naples and the coastal town of Sperlonga, known for its sculptures and Roman sea grotto at the Villa of Tiberius. At the invitation of the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Sperlonga, he opened a studio at the museum as artist in residence for two years. From 2010 to 2012, Durand began a series of round formal paintings on the subject of the Stations of the Resurrection, many of which contain the Grotto of Tiberius in the background.

Durand published several art photography volumes of his work in 2012. Most notable among them is the “Fotograf ando Statue per Anno”, an image collection of the statuary in Sperlonga’s National Archeological Museum. Containing text co-written by the museum’s director Marisa de’Spagnolls, this volume of sculptural work is the only comprehensive photographic archive of the museum’s collection. 

André Durand’s work has been featured in many solo exhibitions in Italy and England. These include, among others, “Frammenti Classici” in 1995 at London’s Archeus Fine Art; the 2000 “Soggetti Italianizzati” at the Galleria Albemarle in London; and “Via Lucis e Lagrime di San Pietro” at Galleria Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome. Durand’s work is in many private collections and the permanent collections of the Scottish National Gallery and London’s National Portrait Gallery. He currently lives and works in Sperlonga, Italy.

Images of André Durand’s work, a manifesto on Neo-modernism, enquiries for commissions, and contact information can be found at the artist’s site:

Second Insert Image: André Durand, “Saint Christopher Cynocephalus”, 2010, “Sacred” Series, Oil on Linen, 167.5 x 112 cm

Third Insert Image: André Durand, “Narcissus”, 2001, “Mythology” Series, Oil on Linen, 61 x 48 cm, Private Collection, Rome

Bottom Insert Image: André Durand, “Giordano Bruno Burning”, 2000, “Profane” Series, Oil on Linen, 203.2 x 167.6 cm

Lucas van Leyden

Lucas van Leyden, “The Standard Bearer”, circa 1510, Engraving, 11.8 x 7 cm, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Lucas van Leyden, “The Pilgrims”, circa 1508, Engraving, 15.1 x 11.9 cm, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Painter and printmaker Lucas van Leyden was born in the city of Leiden in the province of South Holland, the Netherlands. He was among the first Dutch artists of genre painting, an accomplished engraver and woodcut printmaker. 

There is some controversy over the date of his birth as there is no confirming documentary evidence available. Finnish painter and art historian Karel van Mander suggests that Lucas was born in 1494 and was a prodigy having executed, in 1508 at the age of fourteen, his earliest dated engraving “Mohammed and the Monk Sergius”. Other scholars believe it more likely that Lucas was born circa 1489, which would have made him nineteen years old at the execution of the early print.

Outside of his existing dated artwork, there is very little historical documentation of Lucas van Leyden’s life. He is first mentioned in a 1514 register as a member of the civil guard in Leiden. In both 1515 and 1519, Lucas’s name appears in a list of crossbowmen for the city of Leiden. It is known that Lucas married Elisabeth van Boschhuysen, the daughter of a Leiden magistrate, sometime around 1515.

There is equally some controversy on the artistic training of Lucas van Leyden as there is very little documentation on his relationship with the two men responsible for his training. It is likely Lucas  received his first instructions in art from his father, Huygh Jacobsz, who is listed in Leyden’s municipal archives as being a painter in the city in 1480. There is evidence that Lucas was in the workshop of Cornelis Engelbrechtsz, who is considered the first important painter from the city of Leyden. 

Several scholars believe that Lucas van Leyden’s early paintings and engravings suggest that he had entered Engebrechtsz’s workshop with an already well-developed personal style, most likely influenced  by the teachings of his father. Lucas was familiar with the numerous works of the engraver Marcantonio Raimondi, whose motifs Lucas reworked in his early paintings and engravings. Raimondi’s studies of nudes inspired Lucas in his later works, particularly in his altarpieces where he was an early adapter of the Italian-style nude figure. 

Lucas was friends with and influenced by both master engraver Albrecht Dürer and Romanist painter Jan Gossaert. Albrecht Dürer’s diary entry and his silverpoint portrait drawing of Lucas, now in the Musée Wicar in Lille, confirm the two artists met each other in Antwerp in 1521. According to Karel van Mander, Lucas made a second journey through the southern Netherlands, circa 1527, at which time  he met Jan Gossaert in the city of Middleburg.

Lucas van Leyden is thought to have developed the technique of etching on copper, instead of iron, plates. The softness of the copper plate made it possible to combine etching and line engraving in the same print. One of the earliest examples of Lucas’s use of this technique is his 1521 portrait of the Holy Roman Emperor Masimilian. Lucas was also among the first engravers to use an aerial perspective in his prints.

Seventeen paintings directly attributed to Lucas van Leyden survive in collections; a further twenty-seven paintings are known through contemporary copies or drawings of them made by printmaker and publisher Jan de Bisschop in the later seventeenth-century. From 1513 to 1517, Lucas created a series of woodcut engravings called “The Power of Women”, a theme which was extremely popular in Renaissance art and literature. Consisting of two large and small sets of prints, the series includes “Samson and Delilah”, “The Fall of Man” depicting Adam and Eve, and “Herod and Herodias”, shown with their daughter holding the head of John the Baptist on a plate.

Lucas van Leyden’s health deteriorated drastically following his trip to southern Netherlands in 1527. Lucas, who thought he had been poisoned by an envious colleague, was often ill and bedridden. He died in the summer of 1533.

Top Insert Image: Lucas van Leyden, “The Apostle Peter”, circa 1510, Engraving, 11.4 x 6.9 cm, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam,

Middle Insert Image: Lucas van Leyden, “Christ Before Annas”, 1521, Engraving, 11.4 x 7.6 cm, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Bottom Insert Image: Lucas van Leyden, “The Beggars (Eulenspiegel)”, 1520, Etching and Engraving, 17.5 x 14.1 cm, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York


Photographer Unknown, Horus

Horus, in the ancient Egyptian religion, was one of the most important deities. The god appeared in the form of a falcon, whose left eye was the moon, representing healing, and whose right eye was the sun, representing power and the intrinsic substance of the heavenly bodies. Falcon cults were evident in late predynastic times and became widespread throughout Egypt. 

In the beginning stages of Egypt’s ancient religion, Horus was believed to be the god of war and the sky. As the religion progressed, Horus was seen as the son of Osiris and Isis, the divine child of the holy family triad. He is depicted as a falcon wearing a crown with a cobra, and later, wearing the Double Crown of the united Upper and Lower Egypt. The hooded cobra, worn by the gods and pharaohs on their foreheads, symbolized light and royalty. 

One of the oldest cultures in human history, ancient Egyptians are well-known for pioneering the fields of art, medicine, and the documentation of discoveries as mythological tales. The Egyptians mastered the integration of anatomy and mythology into artistic symbols and figures. The Eye of Horus was used as a sign of prosperity and protection, derived from the myth of Isis and Osiris. Comprised of six different parts, each an individual symbol, the Eye of Horus has an astonishing connection between neuroanatomical structure and function.

For those interested in the possible scientific speculation of the ingenuity of ancient Egyptians’ insight into human anatomy and physiology, a treatise, entitled “The Eye of Horus” by Karim ReFaey, Gabriella C. Quinones, William Clifton, and others can be found at the Cureus site, located at:

Michele Giambono

Michele Giambono, “Man of Sorrows”, ca  1420-1430, Tempera and Gold on Wood Panel,  47 x 31.1 cm, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Born in Venice circa 1400, Michele Taddeo di Giovanni Bono, known as Giambono, was an Italian painter whose work reflected the International Gothic style with a Venetian influence. There are no known portraits of Michele Giambono and very little is known of his personal life, except for knowledge of a marriage in 1420 and his death circa 1462 in Venice.

Giambono was active as an artist between the years 1420 and 1462. He was influenced by the works of Jacobello del Fiore, a Late-Gothic style painter whose mature work displayed a local Venetian style;  Gentile da Fabriano, a painter of altarpieces and frescoes, whose 1423 “Adoration of the Magi” is regarded as one of the masterpieces of the international Gothic style; and Antonio di Puccio Pisanello, one of the most distinguished fresco painters and medalists of the early Italian Renaissance. 

Michele Giambono is known for his mosaic designs in the Mascoli Chapel of San Marco in Venice. In the left vault of the chapel, two elaborately decorated mosaics depict the Birth, the Presentation at the Temple, and the Annunciation. On the right side of the chapel, the life of the Virgin is continued with the Visitation and the Death, or Dormitio Virginis. The architectural elements in the mosaics are triangular in shape, slightly askew with rounded arches of Corinthian and Florentine style.

The paintings attributed to Giambono include “St. Chrysogonus on Horseback”, circa 1450, done in the International Gothic Style with suggested movement and gilded highlights; “Virgin and Child”, located at Galleria Franchetti in Venice and completed circa 1450, a painting by which Giambono became one of the first Italian artists to use iconographic images in a Christian context; “Portrait of a Man”, a tempera and silver on wood panel painting,  which is one of very few surviving early fifteenth-century Venetian portraits; and the five panel “Polyptych of Saint James”, located at Gallerie dell’Accademia in Venice.

Michele Giambono’s small, tempera and gold on wood panel painting, “The Man of Sorrows”, is one of his earliest known works, executed between 1420 and 1430. The central, well-rendered figure of Jesus was conceived as a focus for meditation. He is depicted upright in his tomb, his hands extended to display his wounds, and his  blood and crown of thorns rendered in relief. A diminutive Saint Francis , standing on the left, receives the Stigmata and becomes a surrogate for the viewer. Elaborately framed, with the reverse painted to imitate porphyry, a stone with imperial associations, the painting would have been a precious object of devotion, perhaps for a Franciscan friar. The pattern on the deteriorated background derives from Islamic textiles.

Note: The International Gothic is a period of Gothic art which began in Burgundy, France and northern Italy in the late fourteenth and early fifteenth-century. It then spread rapidly through Western Europe, although, most of the style’s development occurred in Italy. Initially a style of the courts of nobility, it gradually spread, becoming more robust in appearance, to the mercantile classes and lower nobility. Artwork of the period is known by the use of light, bright colors and especially gold in panel paintings, illuminated manuscripts, tapestries, and polychromed sculptures. Stylistic features included a dignified elegance, a more practiced use of perspective in the modeling and setting, and an attention to realistic detail in plants and animals. 

Top Insert Image: Michele Giambono, “Virgin and Child Enthroned”, circa 1440-1450, Tempera and Gold on Linden Wood, 121.5 x 56.5 cm, Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest

Bottom Insert Image: Michele Giambono, ‘San Grisógono a Caballo”, circa 1450, Oil on Panel, 199 x 134 cm, Venice


Francesco Mochi

Francesco Mochi, “Saint Veronica”, 1629, Marble, 500 cm, Basilica di San Pietro, Vatican City

One of the most individual sculptors of his age, Francesco Mochi was born in July of 1580 at Montevarchi, Italy. His initial training was with Santi di Tito, one of the most influential painters of the fundamental Baroque style. Mochi also studied under Mannerist sculptor Giambologna, who exposed him to pictorial clarity and the importance of ability and design in drawing. Mochi moved to Rome circa 1599 and trained in the studio of sculptor Camillo Mariani, whose work in Venice and Rome formed a base for the Baroque style of the seventeenth century.

Francesco Mochi worked in many of the thriving cities of central Italy, including Florence, Rome, Piacenza, and Orvieto. His early career was aided by the powerful Farnese family who brought him many commissions. Mochi worked with sculptor Stefano Maderno on the papal commission for the Cappella Paoline in the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome, where his travertine sculpture “Saint Matthew and the Angel” now resides. 

Mochi’s first major work was the dual-statue composition “Annunciation of the Virgin by the Angel”, which he completed in full by 1608. The polished smoothness of the marble surfaces and the audacity of Mochi’s composition is considered to have signaled the end point of Mannerism and the rise of the Baroque period. In the period between 1612 and 1620, Mochi created two works, commissioned by the Farnese family, consisting of monumental bronze equestrian statues of Ranuccio and Alessandro Farnese, both Dukes of Parma, which were erected in Piazza Cavalli in Piacenza. 

The statue of Ranuccio Farnese, executed first, is linked in style and type to earlier Renaissance models that depicted the rider as peacemaker and statesman, for example Giambologna’s Cosimo de’ Medici. However, in the statue of Alessandro Farnese, Francesco Mochi broke entirelynew ground to create the first dynamic equestrian monument of the Baroque. In an unprecedented manner, he used the device of a billowing cloak to unify the rider with the bulk of the horse and to create the illusion of warlike energy. During the casting, Mochi quarreled with the founder and took over the job himself; other than sculptor Domenico Guidi, he was the only major Roman sculptor with the expertise to cast his own work.

Finished with the equestrian statues, Francesco Mochi returned in 1629 to Rome, which was now dominated by the exuberant Baroque style of Gian Lorenzo Bernini, who was fully in charge of major commissions. Mochi, whose work was no longer fashionable, was becoming increasingly bitter and disappointed as the number of commissions he received decreased. One of the requests he did receive in this period was a commission for Pope Urban VIII, which was given to him by Bernini, to sculpt a statue which would be placed in one of the four niches at the crossing piers in Saint Peter’s Basilica.

One of the four larger-than-life sculptures in the crossing of the Basilica, “Saint Veronica” displaying the lost Veil of Veronica, executed between 1629-1632, is the best known masterpiece of Mochi’s work. Gian Bernini provided models for three of the statues but gave Mochi free-reign with the design for Saint Veronica. Influenced by Hellenistic sculpture, Mochi conceived the figure in strongly emotional terms: In agony, Saint Veronica holds the Veil, a lost relic of the Christ’s passion, in trembling outstretched hands. Spiraling, thin, drapery folds create an illusion of motion, as though the figure is rushing from the niche in an effort to present the viewer with the miraculous imprint of Christ’s countenance upon the veil. 

Compared to the heroic calm of the figures designed by Gian Bernini, especially his design for the statue of Saint Longinus, Francesco Mochi’s work, both original and audacious, received much criticism and, due to its excessive motion, was seen to be unsuitable and overstepping the decorum of the Basilica. More and more frequently after this criticism, Mochi lost commissions to Bernini and high-Baroque sculptor Alessandro Algardi, and even had planned commissions rescinded or his finished work rejected by the patrons. Seen by his contemporaries as being a difficult and bitter man, Francesco Mochi died on the 6th of February in 1654.

Top Insert Image: Francesco Mochi, “Saint Veronica”, 1629, Detail, Marble, Saint Peter’s Basilica, Rome, Italy

Middle Insert Image: Francesco Mochi, “Bust of a Youth”, 1630s, Marble on Variegated Black Marble Socle, 40.5 x 33 x 29 cm, Art Institute of Chicago

Bottom Insert Image: Francesco Mochi, “Angel of Annunciation”, 1603-1609, Marble, Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, Orvieto, Italy

Paul Marc Joseph Chenavard

Paul Marc Joseph Chenavard, “The Divine Tragedy”, Full Canvas and Detail, 1865-1869, Oil on Canvas, 400 x 550 cm, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Paris

Painter Paul Marc Joseph Chenavard was born in Lyon on December 9, 1808, to a bourgeois family of comfortable circumstances. After considering all his possible careers, he decided in favor of art, which took him to Paris in 1825 to begin his studies. Chenavard entered the École des Beaux-Arts in 1825, and studied, alongside his friend and fellow painter Joseph Guichard, in the studio of neoclassicist Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, and later in the studios of painters Louis Hersent and Eugène Delacroix.

On the advice of Ingres, Chenavard traveled to Italy in 1827 to study the works of the master painters in Florence, Milan, Rome and Venice. In addition, he took interest in the work of the German school, even copying the Nazarene movement’s Johann Friedrich Overbeck’s murals at the Villa Massimi. After two years Chenavard returned to Paris, where he executed his first historical painting, “Luther Before the Diet of Worms”, in which Luther refuses to recant his writings before the assembly of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. 

For the 1831 decorative competition of the Salle des Séances de la Chambre in the Bourbon Palace, Chenavard’s painting, “Marat Apostrophizing the Marquis of Dreaux-Brezé”, received praise from Delacroix and historical painter Antoine-Jean Gros, but it was not acceptable by King Louis Philippe V. In 1841, some time after returning from Rome, Chenavard  exhibited his “Martyrdom of St. Polycarpus”, which was followed five years later by the painting “Dante’s Hell”, similar in style to the dynamic composition and illusionistic perspective seen in the work of Antonio da Correggio. 

An interest in the story of society rapidly became a dominant force in Chenavard’s life to such an extant that he felt contemporary art failed because it ceased to concern itself with greater concepts. Under the influence of German philosophy and painting, he considered art’s aim had to be humanitarian and civilizing. In 1848, the forthcoming decoration work for the Pantheon gave him the opportunity to fulfill that force in his life. Chenavard gathered several assistants, all former students of the Academy in Rome, each of which assisted individually in the design work, whose ideas he combined and redesigned.

In April of 1848, Paul Chenavard presented his plans for the decoration of the Pantheon with a circle of historical subjects. The sketches were approved by Ledru-Rolliin, the Minister of the Interior in the new French revolutionary government. However, a movement soon developed to return the Pantheon to the Church; the Archbishop of Paris, upon seeing Chenavard’s plans, declared the ideas too anticlerical to be accepted, and discontinued the project. In 1885 when the Saint Genevieve church once more became the Pantheon, Chenavard was both too old and angry to resume the task; French art had also, at that time, moved away from his esoteric historical romanticism. 

In 1853, Paul Chenavard was made a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor; and two years later, at the Universal Exposition in Paris, where a large number of his paintings were shown, he received a first class medal. His next, and last, Salon painting was the 1869 “The Divine Tragedy”, which expressed in veiled terms his anti-religious sentiments and his faith in human reason. Originally placed in Paris’s Salon Carrée where it attracted much attention, it was later moved, possibly at the instigation of the clerical authorities, to an obscure gallery in the rear. With this last disappointment, the public career of Chenavard virtually came to an end.

Paul Chenavard retired to a life of a gentleman of leisure in Lyon, traveling occasionally, but painting very little. His sketches of the Pantheon project were shown together in Lyon in 1876 for the last time, accompanied with a brochure by his friend Charles Blanc. To the city of Lyon, Chenavard left his money, his prints, and his own works. He died in Paris in 1895 and was buried in Lyon’s new Loyasse Cemetery, an burial area with elaborate graves in various architectural styles.  

Insert Images: 

Top: Felix Bracquemond, “Paul Chenavard”, 1860, Etching on Thin Paper, 9.8 x 14.9 cm, British Museum, London

Bottom: Gustave Courbet, “Paul Chenavard, Munich”, 1869, Oil on Canvas, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lyon, France   

Michelangelo Merisi de Caravaggio

Michelangelo Merisi de Caravaggio, “Saint Francis of Assisi in Ecstasy”, c. 1594-1595, Oil on Canvas, 92.5 x 127.8 cm, Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut

While most other Italian artists of his time followed the conventions of late Mannerist painting, Caravaggio painted the Biblical stories as dramas, staging the events of the sacred past as if they were contemporary, often working from live models whom he depicted in starkly modern dress. He also developed a highly original form of chiaroscuro, using extreme contrasts of light and dark to emphasize details of gesture or facial expression, a style that greatly influenced later artists.

“Saint Francis of Assisi in Ecstasy” was the first of Caravaggio’s religious canvasses. Completed between 1594 and 1595, it was presumably painted as a commission from Cardinal Francesco Maria Del Monte, a diplomat and art connoisseur during the reign of Pope Sixtus V, and executed during the time that Caravaggio was living in Palazzo Madama, the home of Cardinal Del Monte.

The painting is based on the story told by Brother Leo, secretary and confessor to Saint Francis of Assisi. In the story, Francis retired in 1224 to the wilderness with a small group of his followers  to contemplate God. At night on the mountainside, Brother Leo saw a winged seraph, one of the higher Orders of angels, come down amidst dazzling light as a fiery figure nailed to a cross of fire.

From the seraph’s wounds in its heart, hands and feet came streams of fire and blood, which pierced the hands and feet of Francis with nails and stabbed his heart with a lance. As Francis shouted, the fiery image merged into his body; Francis sank down unconscious in his blood with the wounds of the Stigmata on his body.

In Caravaggio’s “Saint Francis”, the violent confrontation described by Brother Leo is not depicted. Instead, a gentle angel, larger than the unconscious saint, is shown holding Francis, while Francis’ followers are seen dimly in the darkness of the painting’s mid-ground. 

Caravaggio’s version of this 13th century subject is more intimate than Giotto di Bondone’s 1297 “Stigmatization of Saint Francis” or Giovanni Bellini’s 1480 “Saint Francis in the Desert” with its rocky landscape. Caravaggio’s work shows no sign of blood or the Stigmata, just a wound shown in the Franciscan robe of the saint. Francis rests peacefully in the arms of a boyish figure wearing a white robe and golden wings; both figures lit by Caravaggio through a chiaroscuro effect.

Note: An interesting read is “Caravaggio’s Secrets” by Leo Bersani and Ulysse Dutoit by The Mit Press. An excerpt from the book, Chapter One, “Sexy Secrets”, can be found at:

Saint Irene Nursing Saint Sebastian

Artist Unknown (Florentine School), “Saint Irene Nursing Saint Sebastian”, 1600s, Oil on Canvas, 99 x 123 cm, Private Collection

“Saint Irene Nursing Saint Sebastian” is an incident in the legends of Saint Sebastian and of Saint Irene of Rome. It was not a prominent theme in the biographical literature of the saints until the latter years of the Renaissance. It became popular as a painting theme after 1610, eventually becoming a frequent subject until about the 1670s. By the 18th century, the subject became still less common, with the figure of Saint Irene being replaced by an angel.

In his biographical stories, Saint Sebastian survives his first “martyrdom” by a multitude of arrows during Roman emperor Diocletian’s persecution of Christians. He was, according to tradition, untied from the tree, or post, and his wounds treated by Saint Irene, an active Christian in Rome, whose husband had previously been executed. Saint Sebastian, later in life, undergoes his second “martyrdom”, this time suffering fatal injuries by thrown stones.

The scenes of Saint Irene tending to Sebastian are often shown taking place in darkness, typically in one of the catacombs of Rome, which was the subject of archeological examination in the early 1600s. Baroque artists often painted the scene as nocturnal, with illumination provided by a lantern, torch or candle, in the chiaroscuro style, an effect of contrasted light and shadow created by light falling unevenly or from a particular direction.

Saint Sebastian’s death is firmly located in Rome, where he was the third patron saint, with churches dedicated to him built on the legend’s locations of events. The Saint Sebastian and Saint Irene scene is found as an independent subject in the works of painters Georges de La Tour, Jusepe de Ribera, and Trophime Bigot. Although the subject was mainly painted by Italian artists, the scene were also painted by a number of artists from the Netherlands, including Hendrick ter Brugghen, a follower of Caravaggio, and Mannerist painter Joachim Wtewael.

Nahum B Zenil

Nahum B. Zenil, “Angel-Demonio”, 1991, Oil and Ink on Heavy Paper, 72 x 52 cm.

Nahum B. Zenil is a Mexican artist who often uses his own self-portrait as the principal model for a cultural critical interpretation of Mexico, especially concerning homosexuality and mestization. His art is often compared to that of Frida Kahlo, in which the self becomes the principal object of their paintings letting the viewer discover the artists as individualsas well as the broader social and cutural aspects of their work.

Born in the state of Veracruz, Zenil enrolled in 1959 at the Escuela nacional de Maestros in Mexico City from which he graduated in 1964. He later entered the Escula Nacional de Pinture y Escultura in 1966. Zenil is one of the founding members of the Serman Cultural Gay Festival which occurs yearly at the Museum of the University of Chopo.

Alfonso Ossorio

Alfonso Ossorio, “Saint Martin and the Beggar”, 1940, Ink, Gouache, and Watercolor on Paper, 52 x 37 cm, Ayala Museum, Manila, Philippines

Born in August of 1916 in Manila, Alfonso Ossorio was an abstract expressionist artist of Hispanic, Filipino, and Chinese heritage. At the age of fourteen, he moved to the United States and attended Portsmouth Abbey School in Rhode Island, graduating in 1934. Ossorio studied fine art at Harvard University from 1934 to 1938, and continued his studies at the Rhode Island School of Design. He became a United States citizen in 1933.

Discovered by art dealer and collector Betty Parsons, Alfonso Ossorio had his first show, featuring his Surrealist-influenced works at New York’s Wakefield Gallery in 1940. Following World War II service in the US Army as a medical illustrator, tasked with drawing surgical procedures on injured soldiers, he took some respite in the Berkshires, a region in western Massachusetts known for its outdoor activities. It was there at the 1948 Tanglewood Music Festival that Ossorio met Edward Dragon, a ballet dancer, who would be Ossorio’s life-long partner. 

Through his connection with Betty Parsons, Ossorio became acquainted with the work of Jackson Pollock. Becoming both an admirer and a collector of Pollock’s expressionist work, he and Pollock soon developed a close friendship and reciprocal influence on each others work. Later in 1951, through critic and art historian Michel Tapié, Ossorio established a contact between Pollock and the young Parisian gallery owner Paul Facchetti who realized Pollock’s first solo exhibition in Europe in 1952.

In Paris in 1951, Ossorio and Edward Dragon frequently met with artist Jean Dubuffet and his wife Lili. While they were visiting, Jean Dubuffet wrote the text for his monograph on Ossorio entitled, “Peintures Initiatiques d’Alfonso Ossorio” and introduced Ossorio to art critic and collector Michel Tapié. Tapié organized a one-man show at the Studio Paul Facchetti of Ossorio’s small, luminous “Victorias Drawings”, which Ossorio made while visiting the Philippines. Produced using Ossorio’s experimental drawing technique of wax-resistant crayon on Tiffany & Co. stationary, the works in this series are counted as some of Ossorio’s most innovative. 

Dubuffet’s interest in art brut opened up new vistas for Ossorio, who found release from society’s preconceptions in the previous unstudied creativity of insane asylum inmates and children. In the 1950s, Ossorio began to create works resembling Dubuffet’s assemblages. He affixed shells, bones, driftwood, nails, dolls’ eyes, cabinet knobs, dice, costume jewelry, mirror shards, and children’s toys to the panel surface. Ossorio called these assemblages congregations, with the term’s obvious religious connotation.

On the advice of Pollock, Ossorio and Edward Dragon purchased an expansive 60-acre estate, The Creeks, in East Hampton, Long Island, New York, in 1951, where they lived for more than forty years. Alfonso Ossorio died in New York City in 1990. Half his ashes were scattered at The Creeks estate and the other half came to rest nine years later at Green River Cemetery, alongside the remains of many other famous artists, writers and critics. 

Alfonso Ossorio’s works can be found at The Creeks, the Harvard Art Museum in Massachusetts, the Honolulu Museum of Art, the Housatonic Museum of Art in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, DC, among others.

Book of Kells

Chi-Rho Page, Book of Kells, 800 AD, Trintiry College, Dublin

The Book of Kells, known also as the Book of Columba, is an illuminated manuscript Christian Gospel book in Latin, containing the four Gospels of the New Testament together with tables and introductory texts. It was created in a Columba monastery in either Britain or Ireland around 800 AD.

The illustrations and ornamentation of the Book of Kells combines traditional Christian iconography with ornate motifs of Hiberno-Saxon art. The existing manuscript comprises 340 folios and, since 1953, has been bound in four volumes. The leaves are on high-quality vellum; the insular script is in iron gall ink, and the colors were derived from a wide range of substances, many imported from distant locations.

The Cho-Rho page dwells almost entriely of the name of Christ, or rather on its traditional abbreviation into the “Chi-Rho” symbol. In this illumination the Chi is the dominant form, an X with uneven arms, somewhat resembling a pair of curved pliers. The Rho stands in its shelter, with its loop turned into a spiral. There is also an Iota, an I, the third letter, passing up through this spiral. All three letters are abundantly decorated, their curves drawn out into flourishes, embellished with discs and spirals, filled with dense tracery and punctuated with occasional animals and angels.

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Claus Sluter

Claus Sluter, “Well of Moses”, 1395-1404, Cloister of the Chartreuse de Champmol, Dijon, France

Claus Sluter was an influential master of early Netherlandish sculpture, who moved beyond the dominant French taste of the time and into highly individual monumental, naturalistic forms. The works of Claus Sluter infuse realism with spirituality and monumental grandeur.Sluter’s influence was extensive among both painters and sculptors of 15th-century northern Europe.

The six-sided “Well of Moses”, now lacking its crowning Calvary group, which made the whole a symbol of the “fountain of life,” presents six life-sized prophets holding books, scrolls, or both. The figures, beginning with Moses, proceed counterclockwise to David, Jeremiah, Zechariah, Daniel, and Isaiah. Moses was placed directly below the face of Christ, and the location of Zechariah, father of John the Baptist, was at Jesus’ back, as befits a precursor.

Zechariah looks down sadly as Daniel vigorously points to his prophecy. On the other side of Daniel, and serving to balance Daniel’s passionate temperament, is the calm reflective Isaiah. This juxtaposition reveals Sluter’s use of alternating naturalistic balances. The head and torso fragment of Christ from the Calvary reveal a power and intensity of restrained expression that conveys overwhelming grandeur. Suffering and resignation are mingled, a result of the way the brow is knitted, though the lower part of the face, narrow and emaciated, is calm and without muscular stress.

The “Well of Moses” was originally painted in several colours by Jean Malouel, painter to the duke, and gilded by Hermann of Cologne. The figures of the composition dominate the architectural framework but also reinforce the feeling of support that the structure provides through their largeness of movement.

William Blake

William Blake, “God Judging Adam”, 1795, Copper Etching, 42.5 x 52.7 cm, Tate Museum

A nude and aged Adam, newly aware of his own nakedness and mortality, hangs his head before a fiery chariot bearing the divine maker whom he resembles exactly. For many years, this image was thought to represent Elijah in the fiery chariot. Recently, it has been connected to a passage in Genesis 3:17-19 in which God condemns Adam for tasting the forbidden fruit.

The print was made using a unique method of Blake’s invention. A plate etched in relief was used to print the design; then colors were painted onto millboard, or a similar surface, and printed onto the sheet like a monotype. Finally, Blake enhanced the print by hand with watercolor and ink.

Remedios Varo

Remedios Varo, “Creating with Astral Rays”, 1955, Oil on Canvas

The visionary lone painter, Remedios Varo, typically portrays herself sitting at a desk engaged in magical work, embarking on a journey to unlock true meaning, or dissolving completely into the environment that surrounds her. As a well-studied alchemist, seeker, and naturalist, however dreamlike her imagery may appear, it is in fact reality observed more clearly; Varo painted deep, intuitive, and multi-sensory pictures in hope to inspire learning and promote better individual balance in an interconnected universe.

Interestingly, and understandably, it was not until the last 13 years of the artist’s life, having fled war-torn Europe, found home in Mexico (amongst a community of other displaced Surrealists) and finally become free of ongoing financial constraints, that Varo was able to paint prolifically. Every work completed by Varo demonstrates profound technical skill and an extraordinary insight into human nature.

Although an avid believer in the inter-relatedness of all things and people, including the inter-weave of sound, light and image, her paintings are not typically populated by multiple figures. Instead we are usually introduced to an isolated creaturely hybrid thinker/artist character, reminiscent of St. Jerome in his study or a wise crone wandering in search of new discoveries.Varo repeatedly situates mystical machines in her pictures.

While in most cases such industrial looking devices function to make products that can be touched, held, and made use of, Varo’s structures are here to process that which we cannot see. As our emotions and psychological lives are intangible and invisible, it is useful to investigate them within some kind of known parameters, i.e. within a previously encountered system. Therefore, such apparatus, however made strange, help us to communicate what would be otherwise unspeakable ideas.

Orthodox Calendar

OC (Orthodox Calendar)

OC (Orthodox Calendar) is the title of wall calendars and videos first published in 2012, featuring nude and semi-nude photographs of members of the Orthodox Church. The calendar is the brainchild of a group composed mostly of Orthodox eastern Europeans of the former communist region. The primary goal was to create the very first organized global effort against homophobia in the Orthodox Region. At the same time, the calendar takes an ironic approach to the Orthodox Church itself, which in recent years has been embroiled in artist repression, questionable behavior and homophobia.

Through their unconventional and bold images, OC’s creative Team seeks to counteract the negative and outdated influences of most of the Orthodox Church leadership. While recognizing that change might not come quickly to the official Orthodox Church position, OC nonetheless believes that at least it can encourage people (believers or not) to reflect and realize that there is an urgent need for an update in values as part of the modern society.

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