s the first Christian martyr, Saint Stephen commands especial reverence. In the sixth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles we read that he was “full of faith and of the Holy Ghost”; that he “did great wonders and miracles among the people”; that when “certain of the synagogue” could not resist his wisdom and spirit, false witnesses were suborned to accuse him of blasphemy, and he was stoned to death, even while praying for his murderers, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.”
The legend of Saint Stephen relates the discovery of his remains alone, and say that four hundred years after his death, by means of a miraculous dream, his relics were found in the tomb of Gamaliel, and were deposited in the Church of Sion, at Jerusalem. Later they were carried to Constantinople, and then to Rome, where they were placed beside those of Saint Lawrence. It is related that when the remains of Saint Stephen were placed in the sarcophagus, Saint Lawrence moved to the left, leaving the right to Saint Stephen, for which deferential act Saint Lawrence is frequently called “the courteous Spaniard.”
On account of this legend Saint Stephen and Saint Lawrence are often seen in the same pictures, in which Saint Stephen is distinguished from Saint Lawrence, or from other saints habited as deacons, by stones, or by wounds on his head. Devotional pictures almost invariably present Saint Stephen in the dress of a deacon, rich with sumptuous embroidery and heavy gold tassels. His symbols are the palm and the Gospel, and stones are at his feet or on his head and shoulders, as in a picture in the Brera, Milan, by Carpaccio.
The text, “They saw his face as it had been the face of an angel,” is the warrant for picturing Saint Stephen as young; and the gentle, calm expression usually given to representations of him is in accord with his forgiveness of his persecutors. In Spanish pictures he is sometimes an older man. In the Berlin Museum, a picture of Saint Stephen and John the Baptist, by Francesco Francia, is interesting and is an example of the best manner of this excellent imitator of Perugino and Raphael.
The Martyrdom of Saint Stephen has been many times represented, and is a subject that can scarcely be mistaken. The picture by Tintoretto, in the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice, presents the saint kneeling in the foreground; the air is full of flying stones, and the ground covered with those that have fallen; he wears the rich dress of a prelate, and his countenance is perfectly serene; beside him is a book, the law of Moses, which Stephen had expounded, and which the Jews violated in thus stoning Siephen. In the upper part of the picture, the Almighty, Christ, and Saint Michael appear. In the middle distance is a motley crowd, three or four men furiously throwing stones.
Almost exactly in the centre of the picture Saint Paul is seated on the ground, with loose garments thrown across his knees; he is a noble, calm figure, his dress being red and black, as is the drapery of the Almighty, which renders these two figures the colour centres of the scene. Of this picture Ruskin says:
It is almost impossible to praise too highly the refinement of conception which withdrew the unconverted Saint Paul into the distance, so as entirely to separate him from the immediate interest of the scene, and yet marked the dignity to which he was afterward to be raised, by investing him with the colours which occurred nowhere else in the picture except in the dress which veils the form of the Godhead. It is also worth observing how boldly imaginative is the treatment which covers the ground with piles of stones, and yet leaves the martyr apparently untouched. Another painter would have covered him with blood, and elaborated the expression of pain upon his countenance. Tintoretto leaves us under no doubt as to what manner of death he is dying; he makes the air hurtle with the stones, but he does not choose to make his picture disgusting, or even painful. The face of the martyr is serene and exulting, and we leave the picture remembering only how ‘he fell asleep’.
In the Royal Gallery at Nuremburg are pictures of the Martyrdom and of the scene when Saint Stephen was before the High Priest. They are by Albrecht Altdorfer, a pupil and imitator of Albert Dürer, and are good and interesting examples of the German school of the sixteenth century.
Cigoli’s Martyrdom of Saint Stephen is in the Uffizi; it is spirited and most pathetic, but the unnecessary ferocity of the stone throwers is extremely painful. Le Brun’s picture of the same scene, in the Louvre, is doubtless his masterpiece. It is as quiet in effect as is possible to such a subject. The moment represented is that when Saint Stephen is dying; the executioners are watching his face, which is turned toward heaven with an expression of trustful submission.
In the Hermitage, Saint Petersburg, is Pietro da Cortona’s picture of this martyrdom. The works of this master are startling in colour and dazzling in the management of lights, which qualities are not well suited to pathetic and religious subjects; however, his originality in the conception of his pictures makes them very interesting.
The scenes in the life of the protomartyr, together with those in the life of Saint Lawrence, were painted by Fra Angelico, on the walls of the chapel of Nicolas V, in the Vatican. A series by Carpaccio is scattered, the Consecration as Deacon being in the Berlin Gallery, the Preaching of Saint Stephen in the Louvre, and the Dispute with the Doctors in the Brera.
In the Madrid Museum there are six scenes of similar subjects by Juan Juanes, which are admirable examples of the work of this imitator of Raphael, who still retained the peculiar characteristics of the Spanish school. He painted religious subjects only, and, like Angelico, began them with prayer and fasting. The colour in the pictures of Juanes is most satisfactory, and he was original in the composition of his works, but there is a severity in all he did which corresponds to his personal character.
Saint Lawrence and Saint Stephen have been so intimately associated in Art and in legend that one is prone to associate them in thought, yet Saint Lawrence lived more than two centuries later than Saint Stephen, and the circumstances in the lives of these young deacons were totally different. Saint Lawrence was a Spaniard who went to Rome and was chosen as his deacon by Sixtus II. After the martyrdom of the Pope, Lawrence, to whom the treasures of the Church had been confided, went through the city, distributing them to the poor and suffering. When this was known to the prefect, he could not by any means persuade the young deacon to tell him where the treasures of the Church were hidden. When thus questioned, Lawrence simply pointed to the sick and poor, and declared them to be the treasures of Christ’s Church. At length the prefect gave him over to the executioners, and sentenced him to be roasted alive on a bed made of iron bars, like a gridiron.
Saint Lawrence is a most important saint. In Spain the Escurial is dedicated to him; in Rome six churches are known by his name; the Cathedral of Genoa is sacred to him, and, in short, there is rarely a city or town in Christendom which has not consecrated a monument to him, England having about two hundred and fifty churches called by his name.
Devotional pictures of Saint Lawrence are almost numberless, and when the gridiron is present as his symbol, they cannot be mistaken. He wears the dress of a deacon, and his other emblems are the cross, the palm, a book, a censer, or a dish full of coins. The gridiron is rarely absent, and when not large and absolutely prominent, a miniature one is frequently suspended by a chain around his neck, or embroidered on his robe.
Titian’s picture of the Martyrdom of Saint Lawrence, painted for Philip II, to be placed in the Escurial, is famous, as well as a second of the same subject now in the Gesuiti, Venice. Such night scenes require a good light, which, unfortunately, these have not, and both are blackened by age and smoke. They are wonderfully dramatic, and are remarkable for the grandeur of their composition, as well as for the exactness of the anatomical drawing, and seem to unite the pictorial talent of the great Venetian with the sculptural genius of Michael Angelo.
The picture of the Charity of Saint Lawrence by Fra Angelico, in the series mentioned above, is very attractive. The saint is in a rich dress, and has a large aureole about his head; his eyes are cast down as if carefully choosing his path, and in one hand he holds a money bag.
Saint Hippolytus, who is frequently introduced in pictures of Saint Lawrence, was a soldier whose duty it was to guard the saint at the time of his terrible death. The wonderful faith and constancy of Saint Lawrence converted Hippolytus to Christianity, and he in turn suffered a frightful death, being tied to the tails of wild horses. These saints are naturally companions in works of art. A picture of the martyrdom of Saint Hippolytus, by Subleyras, now in the Louvre, is very effective. The saint is on the ground, tied to two horses, which are held with difficulty by a group of soldiers. The head of the saint and the expression of his face as he gazes heavenward are very fine.
The Bible story of Saint Mary Magdalene is too well known to require repetition here, but there are many curious legends connected with her. That which relates that after the Ascension of Christ she came to France, and after preaching to the people, making many converts, and seeing her brother Lazarus established as Bishop of Marseilles, she retired to a desert and devoted thirty years to severe penance for her past sins, is the foundation of the well-known and numerous pictures of the Penitent Magdalene. She is frequently represented as a patron saint, is many times introduced as a worshipper of the Infant Jesus in Madonna pictures; she is present in the scenes connected with the life and death of Our Lord, as related in the New Testament, as well as in some legendary subjects. The Magdalene is the patroness of Provence, and also of sinning and repentant women.
Her special symbol is the box of ointment, and she is rarely represented without it; this is much varied in size and shape, is sometimes in her hand, and again is placed near her, and in some cases is carried by an attendant angel. When pictured as a penitent, the cross, skull, and scourge are introduced, as well as a crown of thorns, the latter being sometimes presented to the saint by an angel.
The Magdalenes of Spanish pictures are frequently dark haired, but the abundant blonde or golden-tinted hair is that which is customarily seen. Her draperies are red when her passionate love is expressed, and blue or violet when penitence or mourning are indicated; when red and violet are present, both love and sorrow are symbolised.
In the early pictures of the Magdalene as the patroness of erring women, she is emaciated, and most unattractive, being frequently nude except that her hair is like a cloak about her. A very ancient picture of this type is in the Academy of Florence, and above the altar dedicated to her, in the baptistery of the same city, is the famous statue carved in wood by Donatello. It is painful, and almost repulsive in its realism, and intensely expressive of grief and severe penance.
As time passed, this representation was abandoned, and gradually the Magdalene became a beautiful woman, magnificently attired, with no traces of suffering, dignified and gracious, with the precious ointment ever in her hand, or very near her.
It has been more than once suggested that many pictures of the Magdalene and her alabaster box would as well represent Pandora, except for the aureole which is always given to the saint. Several Magdalenes of this character, by Guido Reni and other painters of the Caracci school, are seen in European collections.
The Magdalene of Raphael, in the famous picture of Saint Cecilia in Bologna, is a graceful figure, and her face is sweet and gentle in expression. In this work she is opposite Saint Paul; she has been represented with Saint Peter and Saint Jerome, and even with the Prophet Isaiah; in such pictures the Magdalene may be considered as suggestive of love as these others are of the power of the spirit. In Correggio’s celebrated Madonna in the Gallery of Parma called The Day, – because of the diffusion of the pure, radiant daylight, in contrast with the artificial lights in The Night, at Dresden, – the Magdalene kisses the foot of the child, and an angel near her bears the box of ointment. This picture is also known as the Madonna of Saint Jerome, as that saint is standing near the Virgin.
Pictures of the repentant Magdalene vary greatly in expression, and Mrs. Jameson well says:
We have Magdalenes who look as if they never could have sinned, and others who look as if they never could have repented; we have Venetian Magdalenes with the air of courtesans, and Florentine Magdalenes with the air of Ariadnes; and Bolognese Magdalenes like sentimental Niobes; and French Magdalenes, moitíe galantes, moitíe devotes; and Dutch Magdalenes who wring their hands like repentant washerwomen. The Magdalenes of Rubens remind us of nothing so much as of the ‘unfortunate Miss Bailey’; and the Magdalenes of Vandyck are fine ladies who have turned Methodists. But Mary Magdalene, such as we have conceived her, mournful, yet hopeful, tender, yet dignified, worn with grief and fasting, yet radiant with the glow of love and faith, and clothed with the beauty of holiness, is an ideal which painting has not yet realised. Is it beyond the reach of Art?”
Oëlenschläger called the Reading Penitent Magdalene, by Correggio, in the Dresden Gallery, “The Goddess of the Religious Solitude,” and by all who have seen the picture itself, or are familiar with it by means of good reproductions, I fancy it is more frequently recalled than any other of the numerous pictures of this subject, and to many it is the only one worthy of remembrance.
The Magdalene which Titian painted for Charles V is a most dramatic work. The penitent has one hand on her breast and the other resting on a skull; her golden hair floats all about her shoulders; her tearful eyes are raised to heaven; a book and the box of ointment are near her on a rock, and the whole composition is thrown into full relief by a desolate background and jagged rocks. This was so much admired that the master and his pupils repeated it, and Titian boasted of the money he had made from this subject. One of these replicas is in the Pitti, one in the Doria Gallery, Rome, one in the Museum of Naples, and still another in the Hermitage, Saint Petersburg.
The Magdalenes of Guido Reni are lovely pictures of a beautiful woman in low spirits, but are quite innocent of any religious or spiritual elements or expression. Two Magdalenes by Guido are in the Louvre, where is Murillo’s Magdalene also. By the latter she is represented kneeling in prayer, with the hands crossed on the breast; the crucifix, skull, book, and alabaster box are all near her. It is a far more satisfactory portrayal of devout repentance and perfect trust than it often expressed in Art. The whole work is sincere and simple in the extreme.
The Magdalenes by Rubens and Vandyck are too numerous to be catalogued here, since the subject of these pictures is easily recognised. In Rubens’ so-called Four Penitents, in the Munich Gallery, we see a Magdalene of profound humility, pure pathos, and tender love, wonderfully painted. The other penitents are David, Peter, and the Penitent Thief. Vandyck’s picture of the same subject is in the gallery at Augsburg.
The personal characteristics and the symbols of the Magdalene are so pronounced that she can scarcely fail to be recognised, even in illustrations of Scriptural subjects in which she is one of a group; for example, the Supper at the House of Simon; Christ at the Home of Martha and Mary; the Raising of Lazarus; the Crucifixion, and the Descent from the Cross; the Marys at the Sepulchre; and the picture known as the Noli me tangere, – touch me not, – which shows the Saviour with Mary Magdalene after his resurrection.
The Supper at the House of Simon has been represented in every possible manner, from the most simple composition by Taddeo Gaddi in the Rinuccini Chapel, Florence, to the magnificent banqueting scene by Veronese, in the Turin Gallery, which is a splendid example of the gorgeous pictures which this master loved to paint.
In quite another manner Mabuse represented this Supper, and made it as elaborate as any Venetian could desire, and yet its effect is a striking example of the difference between the style of the Flemish and Venetian schools. This work is now in the Brussels Museum. The architecture of the picture is elaborately ornate; every bit of space is covered with ornament of some kind, while the arrangement of double staircases and openings into several apartments gives the house of Simon the appearance of spaciousness. In the banqueting-hall are two tables, sitting at one of which are Jesus, Simon, and another, probably “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” The Magdalene is about to kiss the foot of our Lord; her jar of ointment is beside her; her posture is that of great humility, and she is largely concealed by the table beneath which she crouches. Jesus has his hand raised, and is answering Judas, who objects to the waste of the ointment:
Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this. For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always.
Simon is a dignified man, richly dressed. At a second table a number of guests are seated, and glimpses into other rooms show servants moving about. This picture bears out the words of Kugler, who says that Mabuse, before going to Italy, was one of the first artists of the Van Eyck school,
displaying great knowledge of composition, able drawing, warm colouring, an unusual mastery in the management of the brush, and a solidity in the carrying out of every portion such as few of his contemporaries attained. His only deficiency consists sometimes in a certain coldness of religious feeling.
The picture of the Magdalene at the House of Simon, by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, is an especially interesting work. Here it is the outside of the house that is seen, and the Magdalene is making her way up the steps to the entrance, through a crowd of people, all of whom are intently watching her, and of whom she seems unconscious, her whole attention being fixed on what she can see through the open door of the supper-room.
The manner of the people in this crowd plainly shows that they consider the Magdalene one to be stared and even leered at in the most insolent manner; but all this now means nothing to her. She knows that Jesus is within the house she is about to enter, and it is of him alone that she thinks; she has left her past behind her and is pressing forward in the new path which Jesus has opened to her.
We can see in the picture what she cannot, since Jesus at a window is visible to us, and she can only see those who sat at meat with him. One of these, a gross looking man, near the door, regards her scornfully, while an attendant behind him views her approach with curiosity.
The face of the Magdalene is beautiful, and full of a fixed purpose. She tears the flowers from her hair, which is streaming about her shoulders; the box of ointmen hangs from her girdle.
The details of the picture are numerous. In the lower corner of the work, beneath the window where Jesus is seen, a lamb – emblem of innocence and of sacrifice – is eating of the flowers which grow abundantly.
The draperies on the two prominent figures at the side of the steps, in the foreground, have a tapestry effect, and are very rich; this pair seem like a gay youth and his mistress -suggested by the familiar and disrespectful manner in which he places his hands on her foot and knee – who have known the Magdalene in another phase of her life, and regard her with scornful surprise in this, her new character.
The beggar girl sitting on the lower step is a beautiful and effective figure. She turns from her bowl of food, holding her spoon in one hand, and lifts her face above her shoulder, looking up at the Magdalene; thus she reveals her own attractive features and her luxuriant hair, and makes one tremble for her future when her surroundings are considered, for the men and women in the street below and beyond the Magdalene are not such as this child should be exposed to. Quite in the background musicians are playing, and through an opening figures are seen gradually growing indistinct in the distance.
Christ at the house of Martha and Mary has also been variously represented by painters of religious subjects. In some pictures the house, the sisters, and Lazarus are very commonplace in appearance, and suggest an ordinary labouring family in their home; again the brother and sisters are seen in a luxurious dwelling, with all the accessories of wealth surrounding them.
The legend relates that Martha, who was a Christian, and sadly mourned the life led by her sister, presented the erring Mary to Jesus. An engraving by Marc Antonio Raimondi, after Raphael, – no picture being known to exist of this scene, – represents this presentation, though not in the home of the sisters. Jesus is seated in the pillared entrance to the temple, to which a flight of steps ascends, on which are the sisters, Martha leading Mary and being a little in advance. Martha is looking in her sister’s face, and pointing toward Jesus as if to assure her that with him she would find forgiveness and peace. Mary’s eyes are cast down while Jesus holds out his hand as if in encouragement and benediction. Near Our Lord is a group of three men, probably his disciples, and just behind him another, who is thought by some critics to represent Lazarus, as his regard is fixed on the sisters intently. In the street below a crowd of people watch the ascent of Martha and Mary with great interest. This engraving is in the Louvre, and is not uncommon in other public collections.
Jouvenet’s picture of the same subject is also in the Louvre. Here Mary kneels before Jesus, who is seated, while Martha, standing near by, is evidently talking, and gesticulates with vehemence.
In pictures of the Raising of Lazarus the two sisters are present and are easily distinguished. This subject was frequently represented in the early centuries of Christianity, and was thought a fitting emblem of the resurrection of the dead as taught in the Apostles’ Creed. It is seen on the ancient sarcophagi, is one of the series of the miracles of Christ, and is never omitted in scenes from the life of Mary Magdalene.
In the Berlin Museum is the picture of this miracle by Rubens. Lazarus, who emerges from the tomb on one side, is already partly freed from his cerements and has his eyes fixed on the face of Our Lord, who, standing on the opposite side of the picture, raises his hands in benediction. Lazarus is apparently unconscious of the presence of his sisters, who kneel between him and Jesus.
Mary regards her brother earnestly and is busy unwinding still more of the graveclothes, while Martha, looking up to Jesus, raises her hands in awe and amazement. Two men are behind this group, one of them looking at Lazarus attentively, while the other assists in removing the winding-sheet.
A criticism has been made of this pic- ture because Mary is evidently thinking only of her brother, for the moment forgetful of jesus, as if more vitally interested in the restoration of Lazarus than in the power which had effected it. This is very human, as Rubens was accustomed to be, but this scene is not usually so represented.
The picture by Fra Angelico, in the Academy of Florence, is remarkable for its directness and simplicity. At the command of Christ, Lazarus, wrapped in grave-clothes, comes forth from his tomb; his hands are clasped as he looks at Jesus, before whom his sisters are kneeling; behind Christ is a group of four figures, and near Lazarus are two others, one of whom covers his nose with his hands. Giotto, in his picture in the Arena Chapel, Padua, makes this reference to the truth that Lazarus had been actually dead less disagreeably suggestive, by representing those nearest the risen man with their robes wrapped over their faces below the eyes.
Tintoretto’s picture in the Scuola di San Rocco, Venice, is not so fine a work as one would expect to see from the hand of this master. In the lower portion Christ is in a half-reclining position; in the upper part the grave-clothes are being taken off Lazarus; a group of spectators exhibit neither awe nor surprise; they are apparently as calm as if the dead were raised in their sight daily.
Naturally, the most interesting picture of this subject is that by Sebastian del Piombo, in the National Gallery. The accepted story of this work is that, when Cardinal Giulio dei Medici commissioned Raphael to paint the Transfiguration, he also gave an order to Sebastian to paint a companion in size, representing the Raising of Lazarus. Michael Angelo being in Rome, and, as it is said, sympathising with Sebastian in his dislike of Raphael and jealousy of his fame, determined to aid Sebastian, and made a design for the picture which Del Piombo coloured. The Lazarus is believed to have been thus produced. It is one of the most important and interesting pictures of the sixteenth century.
The moment chosen is after Lazarus has left the tomb; he is seated on a sarcophagus in the right centre of the picture, while his grave-clothes are being removed by others. Christ stands in the centre, and, with one hand raised, he points toward Lazarus with the other; he is evidently speaking, and various words have been attributed to this moment by different critics; to me it seems that he is uttering the command, “Loose him, and let him go.” The figure of Christ is artistically inferior to the rest of the work. At his feet Mary Magdalene is kneeling, and gazes in the face of the Master with faith and gratitude, while Martha stands on one side, turning her face away, as if afraid to look at the risen Lazarus.
Many figures surround the principal personages in the scene, all expressing astonishment and curiosity. The background represents Jerusalem, and a bridge above a river, in which a group of women are washing linen; in the middle pround is a huge tree, the top of which is cut off by the size of the canvas. One may well study the draperies and all the different details of the figures, which are wonderfully modelled. The light and shade, too, are fine, parts of the picture being in shadow, while other portions are brilliant with sunshine.
We are so accustomed to see the Magdalene at the foot of the cross in pictures of the Crucifixion – a representation said to have originated with Giotto – that it is scarcely needful to speak of it; in some cases she embraces the cross; the box of ointment is frequently near her, in order that she may be distinguished from the Virgin and the third Mary.
I have studied the Crucifixion by Rubens, in the Antwerp Cathedral, many times, and admire it beyond all other representations of this subject, but have always regretted that the Magdalene, with her arms around the cross, does not look at Jesus rather than at the executioner. By this regard of the saint Rubens gave himself an opportunity for a remarkable expression of detestation and horror on her face, but the, more one studies the picture and realises the full meaning of the scene, the greater is the surprise that in this supreme moment the Magdalene could have realised the presence of any other than Our Lord.
Vandyck painted several Crucifixions; one is in the Cathedral of Mechlin; one in Vienna, in the Belvedere; and a third in the Museum of Antwerp. Vandyck’s pictures of this and kindred subjects are full of profound emotion, and of an intense and elevated expression of religious faith and love. In the Crucifixion, the passionate feeling which he depicts in the face, figure, and action of the Magdalene is in striking contrast to the profound and patient pathos which he imparts to the Virgin.
In some pictures of the Crucifixion, the Descent from the Cross, and the Entombment, the Virgin faints in the arms of the Magdalene. At other times this saint is weeping, or embracing the feet she once anointed, as is the case in a design for a window made by the late Sir Edward Burne-Jones, in which Jesus is seated above the Magdalene, and she, with great humility, embraces his feet.
In the Pietà the Magdalene is often a conspicuous figure, as in pictures of this subject by Fra Bartolommeo and Andrea del Sarto, both in the Pitti; in the first she passionately presses the feet of the dead Christ to her bosom while her whole figure speaks the very abandonment of hopeless grief; in the second, she is kneeling and wringing her hands.
The pictures of Mary Magdalene at the Sepulchre, when she is alone, are founded on the account of Saint John the Evangelist. In the other Gospels, both two and three women are mentioned, and they frequently appear like representations of the myrrh-bearers of the Greeks, who. carried spices and perfumes to the tombs of the dead. This picture is very easily recognised, and I shall speak of but two, one very modern, by Sir Edward Burne-Jones, and a second, by Mantegna, almost four centuries old.
In the first, two shining angels sit on the empty sarcophagus; between them Mary stands, looking back over her shoulder and lifting her hand in her surprise, – wonderfully expressed both in her face and figure, – at seeing Jesus, although Saint John tells us that in this moment she “knew not that it was Jesus.” The angels, too, seem greatly moved by his appearance. one, whom Mary has been facing, points to Jesus, and turns his eyes toward him without turning the head; it is apparently the gesture of this angel which has caused Mary to look over her shoulder. John’s account does not represent her as entering the sepulchre, only as looking in, and when she turned herself back she saw Jesus. The second angel, nearest to the Lord, looks directly at him, with surprised face, and rests one hand on the sarcophagus and bends slightly, as though drawing away from the risen Christ. Both the angels hold their robes over their mouths with one hand, in a manner which recalls the expression, “the silence of the tomb,” and also symbolises a reverence that forbids speech; each has a flame above the brow, and their wings are folded behind their heads.
Mantegna’s picture is in the National Gallery, London. It represents the sarcophagus from which Jesus has risen, on a platform in the midst of rocks which tower behind it. Below this platform there are rude steps cut in the rock itself. One exquisite angel, with wonderful wings, sits on the empty tomb and lifts the grave-clothes from it, as if to show the Magdalene, who stands near by, that there is no body here. She, holding her jar of spices, makes a gesture of surprise. She is a most graceful figure. Meantime the Virgin Mary, and the other Mary, who have been at the foot of the rock, begin to ascend, as if to assure themselves of the miracle which has been wrought.
The details of this picture are curious. In the foreground is a bit of water, on which are ducks; a turtle is lying on a small rock, and various small bunches of homely herbage are springing up. It is altogether a quaint and acceptable picture.
There are series of pictures of the life of the Magdalene, founded on extraordinarily wild legends, of which I shall not speak. The colouring, the abundant hair, and the general character of the representations of this saint are such as make her easily recognised. Several such series, like that by Giotto, in the Bargello, Florence, are so much injured as to be ineffective; another series is in the Chapel of the Magdalene at Assisi; and separate scenes occur in the windows of some French cathedrals, as at Bourges and Chartres, while around the porch of the, Certosa, at Pavia, a series of bas-reliefs tells the same story.
The appearance of Jesus to Mary Magdalene in the Garden – known as the Noli me tangere – has been many times represented, and is less subject to variation than are many other pictures in the lives of saints. The Scriptural account of this event fixes the scene and the number of persons present, leaving to the artist the choice of their positions and the expression to be given the faces and figures.
This subject did not appeal to the earliest painters, but from the fourteenth century, both in Italy and Germany, its artistic importance was recognised. Much might be said of the manner in which the Christ has been pictured in this scene, many painters making the fatal error of extreme realism and putting a spade in the hand or on the shoulder of Jesus, – a most unhappy allusion to the declaration of Saint John that when the Magdalene first beheld the risen Lord she supposed him to be a gardener, – even the spiritual Fra Angelico permitting himself to commit such an error; and when – as in a design which I believe to be wrongly ascribed to Raphael – the figure of Jesus is that of an old labourer, with a large pickaxe on his shoulder, wearing a broad shade hat, beyond which a generous and brilliant aureole appears, one cannot pardon this absurdity, nor even smile at it when connected with so sacred a motive. But these considerations are more suitable to a life of Christ than to one of the Magdalene, who, in these works, with few exceptions, is properly represented. She is adoring and humble, and as one looks at a fitting picture of the scene he wonders why Jesus should have denied the saint that touch which would have assured her of his identity as it later removed the doubts of Thomas. Was it not a recognition of her greater faith? and was she not thus included among those of whom he spake when he said: “Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed?”
Lorenzo di Credi, in his picture in the Uffizi, painted a sweet and loving Magdalene, but one who scarcely represents a woman who has sinned and repented, and shown such force of character as had Mary Magdalene. Titian, in his picture in the National Gallery, has depicted a most beautiful woman, with more of the earnestness and energy which belong to this saint.
Baroccio, in his picture in the Uffizi, has represented the moment of the recognition of Jesus by Mary; she has knelt in order to look into the sepulchre, and, hearing the one word, “Mary,” she has turned to exclaim, “Rabboni”.
The picture by Angelico, in the Museum of San Marco, Florence, represents a later moment. The scene is a garden; on one side is the opening of the tomb, from which, not finding the body of Jesus, Mary has turned away, and then, seeing the risen One, she has dropped on her knees and holds out her hands as if to touch him; but he, looking at her sorrowfully, gently motions her away. The whole work is simple and quaint, and very characteristic of the Beato.
The Assumption of Mary Magdalene has been frequently represented, she being borne to heaven by angels. Ribera’s picture in the Louvre is a triumph of that master’s composition and colour, and is a delightful example of his art since it has none of the repulsive features of many of his pictures. In too many cases the Magdalene of the Assumptions might as suitably be called a Venus or a Cleopatra, upheld by cupids.
Above the high altar in the Madeleine, at Paris, is Marochetti’s marble group representing this subject. The saint is borne upward by two angels, while on each side an archangel kneels in adoration.
In considering the many artistic subjects illustrating the life of Mary Magdalene, and showing the importance of her consideration in the Church, – only a portion of which I have mentioned, – and reflecting upon the manner of their representation, I recall with sympathy Mrs. Jameson’s words:
In how few instances has the result been satisfactory to mind or heart, or soul or sense! A noble creature, with strong sympathies and a strong will, with powerful faculties of every kind, working for good or evil, – such a woman Mary Magdalene must have been, even in her humiliation; and the feeble, girlish, commonplace, and even vulgar women who appear to have been usually selected as models by the artists, turned into Magdalenes by throwing up their eyes and letting down their hair, ill represent the enthusiastic convert or the majestic patroness.
The name of Saint Geneviève of Paris is rarely heard outside of France, and her place in Art is in the French school. A peasant shepherdess, remarkable for her piety at a very early age, it was revealed – according to tradition – to the Bishop of Auxerre, when the child was but seven years old, that she was predestined to perform glorious works in the service of Christ. The bishop hung about her neck a chain on which was a coin, bearing the sign of the cross, and solemnly consecrated Genevieve to God’s service. From this moment the little maiden regarded herself as separated from the world, and many wonderful deeds are attributed to her.
But the chief example of her Heaven-sent power was given when Attila, with his Huns, besieged Paris. Then Genevieve addressed the terrified people, beseeching them not to fly before the barbarians, from whom God would surely deliver them. While she eloquently pleaded and the people hesitated, news was brought assuring them that the pagans had withdrawn from the city and marched in another direction. Then the inhabitants fell at her feet, and from that time Geneviève performed many miracles of healing and consolation, and was greatly reverenced.
When Childeric took the city of Paris he respected Geneviève; and through her influence King Clovis and Queen Clotilde were converted to Christianity, and the first Christian church in Paris was built upon Mont Saint Geneviève, as the eminence was called, in her honour. Dying when eighty-nine years old, the saint was interred by the side of the sovereigns whom she had converted.
The splendid Church of Saint Geneviève, now better known as the Pantheon, can scarcely be considered a suitable memorial of this humble, holy woman. The, commemorative monuments of modern days are often quite out of keeping with the characters of the persons thus honoured, and Paris furnishes two notable examples of this in the churches dedicated to Saint Mary Magdalene and Saint Geneviève.
The symbols of this peasant saint are a lighted taper, a breviary, and a demon crouching at her feet with a pair of bellows, referring to the legend that demons constantly extinguished the tapers she burned in honour of God, which she as constantly relighted by prayer. The earliest representations of Geneviève show her with all these symbols, and wearing a veil, but later she has been pictured as a simple shepherdess with her distaff and spindle, adn her sheep near at hand. Occasionally she has a book, a loaf of bread, or a basket of food, in allusion to her charities.
The numerous pictures of Saint Geneviève in the churches and galleries of France are easily recognised, and no special description of them is required. They are not impressive as a rule, and even the painting in the dome of the Pantheon, in which the saint receives the homage of four kings, is in questionable taste.
It is interesting to note that more than nine centuries after the God-inspired bravery of Saint Geneviève had saved Paris from its enemies, another peasant maiden, Jeanne d’Arc, by the command of her “voices” led the army of France to victory; and now, more than four centuries and a half having elapsed since her death, this Holy Maid of France is about to be canonised.
She has already been declared “Venerable”, that is, worthy of veneration, and the second title of “Blessed”, and the third of Saint, will doubtless follow at no distant day. I have already seen a window, recently placed in a chapel in Georgetown, D.C., on which she is presented as an object of religious veneration.
Pictures of Jeanne d’Arc represent her as listening to the voices which directer her to raise the siege of Orleans and conduct Charles VII to be crowned at Rheims; in her interview with Charles at Chinon, when she said:
Gentle dauphin, my name is Joan the Maid, the King of Heaven hath sent me to your assistance; if you please to give me troops, by the grace of God and the force of arms, I will raise the siege of Orleans, and conduct you to be crowned at Rheims, in spite of your enemies;
again, when armed and riding to conquest, or on foot leading the attack at Orleans; in the scene of the coronation in the cathedral at Rheims; the Maid at her trial, and, lastly, the scene of her martyrdom.
The pictures illustrating her life, on the walls of the Pantheon, by Lenepveu, are most interesting. That in which Jeanne leads the attack on the besieging army, on foot, is spirited and full of motion. The Coronation Scene most impressive; Jeanne, standing in the midst of the cathedral, appears as the moving spirit of this important event, as indeed she was.
The decorations for the cathedral at Domremy, by Boutet de Monvel – which are still in progress – are of the greatest possible interest, and no doubt many of those who have seen his recent exhibitions in this country will make pilgrimages to the birthplace of “the Maid,” when these pictures are in their destined location. Together with the temple thus consecrated to her memory, in the midst of the scene in which she actually lived and evolved her saintly and patriotic impulses and character, they will constitute an important and fitting monument to the second peasant maiden who so gloriously saved the honour of France, and through base ingratitude lost her own life.
The story of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary presents to us a woman who was the very ideal of Christian charity, love, and tenderness; and when we remember that most of what is related of her is historically true, – with so little of the mystical that it also appears to be true, – the interest in her is greatly enhanced.
She was the daughter of the King of Hungary, and was born in 1207. From her cradle the loveliness of her person and her character was so remarkable that its fame reached the ears of Hermann of Thuringia, who dwelt in the Castle of Wartburg. The visitors to his court brought news of the little princess, and so wonderful and charming did these reports make her to be, that Hermann sent an ambassador to ask her hand in marriage with his son Louis.
Thus it happened that Elizabeth, when but four years old, was carried to the Wartburg to be reared with the boy who was to be her husband. Here they were constant companions and playmates, even sleeping in the same cradle, and loving each other fondly through all their childhood. The room which Elizabeth occupied at the castle is now carefully shown to visitors, because in it Martin Luther lived and worked at his translation of the Bible.
When still a mere child Elizabeth practised such works of charity as were possible. She saved the scraps of food from the table, and sometimes ate sparingly herself, that she might better fill her basket to carry to the poor of Eisenach. So long as Hermann of Thuringia lived Elizabeth was peacefully permitted to do as she liked, but he died when she was nine years old, and those to whose care she was left found her humility and Christian graces but little to their liking in the maiden destined to preside at their court. The aunt and sisters of Louis treated her most unkindly, all of which she bore with patient sorrow. Louis, however, watched her tenderly, and when he reached his twentieth year he married her.
Elizabeth, now feeling her new responsibilities, redoubled the fervour of her piety, and even imposed severe penances on herself for her own sins and those of her people. Louis sometimes reproved her zeal, but secretly felt that he and all about her must profit by her devotions. Being told by her confessor that food for the royal table was taken from the people unjustly, and fearing lest she should eat of this, she often took but a piece of bread and a cup of water at the royal banquets.
Louis remonstrated with her, and one day drank from her cup in a playful spirit, when, to his surprise, he tasted a more delicious wine than he had ever drunk, and calling the cup-bearer he demanded the name of this vintage. But the cup-bearer declared that he had poured water only for his mistress, to which Louis made no reply, as he had already suspected that Elizabeth was cared for by angels.
Having, on an occasion when Louis made a splendid feast, given her royal mantle to a beggar who asked aid in the name of Christ, she greatly feared that Louis would upbraid her; but when she entered her chamber the mantle had been miraculously restored, and she wore it to the feast, where the guests were amazed at her beauty, for there was a light about her which was dazzling and more celestial than earthly in its glory.
Again, she so pitied a poor leprous child, who had been cast out to die, that she gathered him in her arms and put him in her own bed. Her mother-in-law, furious at this, called Louis to see what Elizabeth had done, and he found there a beautiful infant, who smiled on him and then disappeared. These are examples of the miraculous tests which Our Lord was believed to employ for the trial of the faith of his servants, and whether he assumed the form of a loathsome beggar or a leprous child, Elizabeth was true to her Christian character.
Louis feared that in her charities she exposed her health, and meeting her one day, as he was going up to the castle and she was going down, with but a single attendant, he observed that she had in her apron what seemed a heavy burden; it was, in truth, a variety of food for the poor. She was much disturbed when Louis asked what she carried, and feared his displeasure; but loosing her apron, showed him, and was herself astonished to see many red and white roses.
Then Louis would have kissed her, but so radiant was her face he dared not touch her, and, taking one of the roses, he bade her go on her way.
In 1226 Louis was in Italy, and his people were afflicted by famine and plague. Elizabeth devoted herself to the children of Eisenach, who called her, “Mother, mother”, and clung to her skirts whenever she appeared. She founded a hospital for them, and, besides emptying the treasury, she sold her own jewels for charity. When Louis returned she met him with their children, saying: “See! I have given the Lord what is his, and he has preserved what is ours!” and Louis could not chide her for what she had done.
Then Louis joined the third Crusade, and died in Jerusalem. His brothers now persecuted Elizabeth, but when the knights who had gone with Louis returned with his body, they insisted that she should have justice, and the city of Marburg was given her as her dower. Thither she went with her children, and, as she already wore the cord of Saint Francis, she desired to give all she possessed to the poor, and beg her way through the world. This her confessor would not permit, but she gave away all that she could, and earned money to increase her gifts by spinning. Thus taxing her strength by labour and penance, she faded from the world when but twenty-four years old.
In pictures Saint Elizabeth of Hungary should be young and beautiful, and Italian artists so represented her, but some German painters made her mature, and even elderly. Her symbols are roses, red and white, such as are said to bloom in Paradise; she also has a crown, and sometimes even three are given her, to signify her blessedness as a virgin, wife, and widow; a beggar is usually seen near her.
In Fra Angelico’s picture in the Academy of Perugia, the roses are seen in her apron, and she wears a crown, indicating her rank.
Holbein’s picture in the Munich Gallery is very attractive. The saint is in royal attire, with a crown and aureole. Her face is serious, and her bearing dignified. On one side of her, and half-way concealed by her robe, is a kneeling beggar; on the other side, two are partly hidden in the same way, but one of them holds forward a bowl, into which the saint is pouring milk. In the background the Castle of the Wartburg is seen. This picture is most easy and natural as a whole, and the saint herself is a refined and elegant woman. Originally this work made a wing to an altar-piece executed in Augsburg, about 1516, by Hans Holbein the younger, although sometimes attributed to his father.
But all other pictures of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary are overshadowed by that of Murillo, painted for the Charity Hospital at Seville, and now in the Academy of San Fernando, at Madrid. Here the saint, in the dress of a nun, is in attendance on the poor in one of the halls of her hospital, and is engaged in washing the scalled head of a beggar boy, from which the work is called in Spanish el Tiñoso. Other unpleasant-looking beggars are about her in close contact with the exquisite ladies of Elizabeth’s court, who are evidently not in sympathy with their queen, although they aid her by holding such articles as she requires in her work. Behind them is an old woman in spectacles, peering over to see what the saint is doing. It has been said of this work that the figure of the saint equals the best pictures of Vandyck; that the beggar-boy’s face would have done credit to Veronese, and the old. woman to Velasquez. When one studies this picture he is as much disgusted by its sickening exhibitions of repulsive disease as are the court ladies near the queen, but, – as Mr. Stirling remarks in his , after noticing the extreme realism and the lifelike effect of the scene, -
the high-born dame continues her self-imposed task, her pale and pensive countenance betraying no inward repugnance, and her dainty fingers shrinking from no service that can alleviate human misery and exemplify her devotion to her Master.
Saint Francis of Assisi, known as the Padre Serafico, the founder of the Order of the Franciscans, is of great importance in the study of saints in Art. The parent convent and church of this Order, at Assisi, was, during three hundred years, the scene of the achievements of many notable artists, and remains to this day one of the most frequented, interesting, and instructive of the splendid edifices decorated by the painters and sculptors of the Renaissance.
Again, in Florence, the Church of Santa-Croce is a famous monument of this Order, in which not only excellent examples of the works of early Florentine painters, but also the wonderful sculptures of Della Robbia and Maiano, are treasured. The Church of Saint Antony, in Padua, rich in frescoes, marbles and bronze; the Frari in Venice, in which Titian is buried; the Santa Maria-in-Ara-Creli, in Rome, and many other religious institutions scattered over Italy, Spain, and other countries, are noble witnesses to the patronage of Art by the Franciscans. Murillo owed much to these monks, who were his earliest patrons in Seville. He first painted eleven pictures for a small cloister for one of the Franciscan Mendicant Orders, and later, twenty others for the Capuchins of Seville, also Franciscans; and these were among his finest works. Indeed, could a list of the works of art executed for the churches, hospitals, and other charitable institutions of the Franciscans – in which order are the Capuchins, Minims, Observants, Conventuals, and several others – be made, all lovers and students of Art would feel themselves their grateful debtors. Mrs. Jameson says,
Some of the grandest productions of human genius in painting, sculpture, and architecture signallised the rise of the Mendicant Orders.
The life of Saint Francis is interesting from the fact that his varied personal experiences included all that would commonly be shared by several men in different walks in life. Born of a rich family, he was reared in luxury, and was famous for his love of magnificent attire and of golden youth of all countries and periods. In the years of his prodigality he was also distinguished for his generosity, which even then foreshadowed the unselfishness of his after life.
When still but a youth, in a quarrel between Assisi and Perugia, Francis was made a prisoner, and spent a year in the fortress of Perugia, and on his release suffered a severe illness. During the months passed in prison, and on a bed of sickness, his thoughts became more serious than before, and soon after he resumed his accustomed life and rich apparel he was so moved by pity of an almost naked beggar that he gave his garments to the man, and wrapped himself in the rags of the mendicant.
At this period Francis began to have dreams, or visions, in which Christ appeared to him, and in one of these he received the command, “Francis, repair my church! it falleth in ruins!” At first he did not understand the full meaning of this charge, and incurred the anger of his father by selling goods and giving the proceeds for the reparation of the Church of Saint Damiano.
At length the deeper intent of the command was revealed to him, and he abjured his former life, and dedicated himself to the service of God and to poverty. For seven years he worked in hospitals and among the poor, begging his living, and saving every penny that he could spare for the reparation of churches. He lived in a cell, went barefooted, with barely such clothes as would cover him, these being girdled with a hempen cord. Preaching Christ and his salvation, Francis made many converts, and applied to the Pope for permission to establish an Order, that he might bind his converts more closely to himself and to each other. This Innocent III. refused; but, being shown in a vision that the begging preacher merited his aid, he granted the founding of the Brotherhood, and Francis made the first condition of admission the taking of a vow of absolute poverty. In ten years from this beginning five thousand Franciscans assembled in Assisi.
Francis then went to the Orient and spent four years in austere devotion to good works. Soon after his return he had a vision which impressed on his soul that it was not by good works alone, but by divine love, that he was to become the image of Christ. When this vision had passed he found himself marked with the Stigmata, – the wounds of Jesus in his hands, feet, and side. In the eleventh canto of the Dante wrote:
He had, through thirst of martyrdom, stood up
In the proud Soldan’s presence, and there preach’d
Christ and his followers, but found the race
Unripen’d for conversion; back once more
He hasted (not to intermit his toil),
And reap’d Ausonian lands. On the hard rock,
‘Twixt Arno and the Tiber, he from Christ
Took the last signet, which his limbs two years
Did carry. Then the season came that He,
Who to such good had destined him, was pleased
To advance him to the meed, which he had earn’d
By his self-humbling; to his brotherhood,
As their just heritage, he gave in charge
His dearest lady; and enjoin’d their love
And faith to her; and, from her bosom, will’d
His goodly spirit should move forth, returning
To its appointed kingdom; nor would have
His body laid upon another bier.
The Stigmata were believed by the contemporaries of Saint Francis to have been inflicted by supernatural power, and on account of these he was called the Seraphic Father, which title was also given to his Order.
Two years after the death of Saint Francis he was canonised, and in the same year, 1228, the foundations were laid for the church in which his relics now rest. To its erection the wealthy of all Europe contributed; Assisi supplied the marbles, and artists were sent from various parts of Italy to decorate this shrine.
The pictures of Saint Francis are probably more numerous than those of any other saint. He is distinguished by his plain. cord-girdled robe, with long, loose sleeves, always of a gray colour in the oldest pictures, and changed to dark brown at about the end of the fourteenth century; a scanty cope and a hood hanging behind complete the habit. His symbols are the crucifix, the skull, the lamb, and the lily, all of which he shares with other saints, but the Stigmata are his distinguishing emblems, no other male saint having these. He has been many times represented in the act of opening his robe to disclose the wound in his side.
The most beautiful pictures of Saint Francis alone represent him in a devotional attitude, with clasped hands, bending above a crucifix, looking up to one in prayer, or with uplifted eyes and ecstatic expression, apparently gazing at the glories of heaven revealed to him in visions.
Of mystical subjects, Saint Francis receiving the Stigmata is very important, especially to the Franciscans. In the Upper Church at Assisi, Giotto represented this in the simplest and most childlike manner. The saint kneels in a broad landscape and raises his hands, looking to the clouds, where an angel shoots out five direct lines which apparently inflict that number of wounds on the hands, side, and feet of Saint Francis. Cigoli, whose picture is in the Academy of Florence, uses nearly the same design. Other artists have elaborated it, but no picture of so mystical a subject could be other than too realistic, or even absurd. Rubens painted this ecstasy, and the picture is now in the Museum of Cologne, and is by no means a good example of his art. Agostino Caracci also represented it, and his work is in the Belvedere, Vienna, together with his picture of Saint Francis in Contemplation.
A far more poetical subject, and a favourite one, is the Vision of Saint Francis, in which he, a beggarly and emaciated ascetic, beholds the Virgin and child. In pictures of this subject the saint merely gazes at the glorious vision, or he holds the child in his arms, or the Virgin herself gives the child to him. The legend relates that Saint Francis was in the Porzioncula when he beheld this vision; this was the small chapel, since called that of Santa Maria-degli-Angeli, at Assisi. Almost all Spanish churches have a chapel called the Porciuncula, which is dedicated to this vision, and Murillo’s picture of this subject is known by the same name. Here there are thirty-three exquisite cherubim above, who cover the saint with the beautiful red and white roses that have blossomed from the briars with which he had scourged himself. This picture is now in the Madrid Museum.
The Capuchin pictures by Murillo numbered more than twenty, seventeen of which are now in the Museum of Seville, and it has been said that the reason for the long stay of this artist in the convent – three years without once leaving it – was on account of his fear of the officers of the Inquisition, who wished to punish him for having painted the Virgin Mary with bare feet. The protection of the Capuchins, who were powerful, enabled him to pursue his art peacefully, and no works of Murillo’s are more imbued with a fervent spirit of religion than are these, which were executed between 1670 and 1680.
One of these works at Seville represents another vision of Saint Francis, in which the saint looks up in adoration to Christ on the cross; the Saviour has released one hand, – while the other remains nailed to the cross, – and touches the shoulder of the saint, as if in blessing; two angels hover above the scene.
A picture very frequently mentioned is Saint Francis espousing Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience. Giotto painted this subject in several scenes on the walls of the Lower Church of Assisi. Interesting as they are in themselves, and as the work of Giotto, this interest is largely increased by the apparently well.founded belief that the artist received many suggestions regarding these pictures from Dante, who was a friend of Giotto.
Of Giotto’s four scenes, the first represents the vow to Poverty, of which Dante wrote:
A dame, to whom none openeth pleasure’s gate
More than to death, was, ‘gainst his father’s will
His stripling choice: and he did make her his,
Before the spiritual court, by nuptial bonds,
And in his father’s sight: from day to day,
Then loved her more devoutly.
In Giotto’s picture a woman, Poverty, stands among thorns, and is given in marriage to the saint by Christ, while groups of angels appear as witnesses. On one side an angel conducts a youth who gives a garment to a beggar; on the other side are the rich, who are invited to approach by a second angel, but they turn away haughtily.
The allegory of Chastity is represented by a young woman, sitting in a fortress, to whom angels pay homage. Warriors are there for the defence of the fortress; on one side Saint Francis leads men forward to pay their devotions to the maiden, and on the other side, Penance, as an anchorite, drives away impurity.
The illustration of Obedience is more vague. Here, an angel in black robes places a finger of the left hand on his mouth, and with the right passes a yoke over the head of a kneeling Franciscan. Saint Francis stands above this group, while two hands appear from the clouds holding the knotted cord of the Order.
In the fourth picture Saint Francis, in a deacon’s dress, is enthroned in glory, and surrounded by hosts of angels, who praise him with instruments and voices. These works are of remarkable interest as important among those of Giotto, who was the chief representative of this allegorical style of painting. Kugler says:
Popes and princes, cities and eminent monasteries, vied in giving him honourable commissions, and were proud in the possession of his works.
The life of Saint Francis is illustrated in the Upper Church at Assisi in twenty- eight pictures which have been attributed to Giotto, but probably were executed by different artists at various periods, as they can be attributed to no one school or single century.
There are many pretty stories of the love which Saint Francis showed for all living creatures, calling them his brothers and sisters. A picture in the series of his life shows him preaching to birds, and the legend gives the words which he used.
Brother birds, greatly are ye bound to praise the Creator, who clotheth you with feathers, and giveth you wings to fly with, and a purer air to breathe, and who careth for you, who have so little care for yourselves.
Another series of six pictures from the life of this saint, by Ghirlandajo, is in Santa Trinita, Florence. It is needless to add that they are most interesting, as are the reliefs’ by Maiano, in Santa Croce. A series of small pictures by Giotto was also painted for Santa Croce, but are now separated, twenty being in the Academy of Florence, four in private collections, and two in the Berlin Gallery. Considerable space is devoted to a discussion of these works in Kugler’s” , it having been thought that in them a comparison is drawn between the life of Our Lord and that of Saint Francis.
An entire volume could be devoted to pictures of Saint Francis and his disciples, and to the serious student of Art it would have great value. In the Gallery at Bologna is a picture of the Madonna with Saint Paul and Saint Francis, by Francesco Francia; in the Brera, Milan, a picture of the saint by Moretto; in the Museum of Antwerp is Rubens’ picture of the Last Communion of Saint Francis; in the Dresden Gallery, an Angel appearing to the Saint, by Ribera; in the Munich Pinacothek, Saint Francis Healing a Paralytic, by Murillo; in the Belvedere, Vienna, Saint Francis and Saint Andrew, by Bonifazio; in the Madrid Museum, Christ and the Virgin with Saint Francis, by Murillo; in the Museum of Valencia, Saint Francis and Christ on the Cross, – as already described, – by Ribalta; in the Louvre, Pope Nicholas and the Body of Saint Francis, by Laurent de la Hire; in the Hermitage, Saint Petersburg, the Madonna, Child, and Saint Francis, by Guido Reni; and in the Academy of Florence, twelve scenes from the life of Saint Francis, painted by Taddeo Gaddi after designs by Giotto.
The above are among the best works relating to this saint. Many others exist in churches and galleries, but I believe that all will be recognised from what has been written above.
Saint Antony of Padua, being a Franciscan, resembles Saint Francis in his habit, and among his symbols has the book and lily also; but he is distinguished by a flame of fire, which is in his hand or at his breast, by a mule kneeling, and by the infant Christ on his book or in his arms.
Saint Antony, through his sympathy with persecuted Christians and martyrs, determined to become a missionary, and, through circumstances quite beyond his control, it happened that he was landed on the coast of Italy, and reached Assisi just as Saint Francis held the first General Chapter of his Order, of which Antony became a member. He was a learned man, and a distinguished professor of theology in the Universities of Bologna, Padua, and Toulouse; but he at length resigned his honourable position, and determined to devote himself to teaching the common people.
In this work his intimate knowledge of the theological teaching of all schools, his eloquence, his ease with all conditions of men, and the benevolence of his manner, conspired to render him most successful in his self-appointed mission.
Many miracles are ascribed to Saint Antony, and much of poetical and romantic incident are mingled with the story of his life. We are reminded of this saint by numerous representations of him, in both pictures and statues, but even more impressively by the church which is dedicated to him in Padua.
Here his chapel, which required more than a half century of time, and the devotion of four master sculptors and many assistants for its completion, remains a rarely splendid monument of the marble, alabaster, bronze, gold, and silver work of the sixteenth century. Indeed, I doubt if any church in Italy is richer in monuments of great interest in the history of Art than is Sant’ Antonio di Padua.
It is remarkable rather than beautiful in its exterior architecture, with six domes in an elaborate Byzantine style, rising above a Gothic basilica, and it is difficult to imagine or describe in words the effect of this arrangement.
The interior is rich in works of early Italian masters; series of bas-reliefs in bronze, the choir screen, and several other works by Donatello; frescoes by the earlier artists of the Verona school; candelabra by Andrea Riccio, which are especially fine; a few frescoes by Giotto, and some exquisite examples of goldsmith’s work, and the greater part of all these devoted to the illustration of the life of Sant’ Antonio.
In the Scuolo del Santo – school of the saint – the hall of the Brotherhood of Sant’ Antonio is also rich in art treasures. Of the seventeen frescoes telling the story of the saint’s life, three are by Titian, the others principally by Domenico Campagnola, a pupil of the great Venetian, who, it is said, became jealous of his disciple; at all events, the frescoes of Campagnola do not suffer by contrast with those by his master in this hall.
In the Church of San Petronio, in Bologna, there is a chapel dedicated to Sant’ Antonio, in which is a statue of the saint, by Sansovino, and a series of pictures of eight miracles of Saint Antony in grisaille, by Girolamo da Treviso. The most interesting representations of his miracles and of the prominent events in his life are, however, seen in a series of bas-reliefs on the walls of his chapel in Padua, which are the work of several different sculptors. Here, too, is the earliest portrait of Saint Antony, which has usually been made the groundwork of pictures of him by later artists.
Several miracles ascribed to Saint Antony are concerned with restoring life to the dead; such pictures explain themselves, but the so-called legend of the mule has been many times the subject for both painting and sculpture, and is not so easily understood. It is related that a heretic, who doubted the real presence in the Sacrament, demanded a miracle in proof of it. Saint Antony was about to carry the Host in procession, and meeting the mule of the heretic on the way, the saint commanded the beast to kneel before the consecrated wafer. The animal obeyed at once, and, though his master tempted him with a portion of oats, the mule would not rise until the Host had passed.
Vandyck painted this subject for the Recollets at Malines; it appears in almost every edifice of the Franciscan Order, and is several times repeated in Sant’ Antonio di Padua, one fresco of it being by Domenico Campagnola, and a relief by Donatello.
The most attractive and beautiful pictures of Saint Antony represent him with the Infant Jesus. Ludovico Caracci pictured the saint in a half-kneeling posture, holding the child lovingly in his arms, the lily being in the hands of the infant, as if he had brought it to the saint from heaven. Elisabetta Sirani’s picture of Saint Antony adoring the Virgin and Child is in the Bologna Gallery; in the Brera, Milan, there is a lovely Madonna and Saint Antony by Vandyck; Saint Antony’s Vision, by Alonso Cano, is in the Pinacothek at Munich; a picture of Saint Paul and Saint Antony, by Velasquez, is in the Madrid Museum; two pictures of Saint Antony and the Infant Jesus, by Murillo, are in the Provincial Museum of Seville, a third is in the Hermitage, Saint Petersburg, and a fourth in the Gallery at Berlin.
The preference is given, by general consent, to Murillo’s pictures of this saint, above those of all other artists. He painted this subject, which seemed to fascinate him, nine times, and each one of these works is admirable, but the large picture in the Cathedral of Seville is doubtless the most beautiful. Of this Stirling, in his , says:
Kneeling near a table, the shaven brown-frocked saint is surprised by a visit from the Infant Jesus, a charming naked babe, who descends in a golden flood of glory, walking the bright air as if it were the earth, while around him floats and hovers a company of cherubs, most of them children, forming a rich garland of graceful forms and lovely faces. Gazing up in rapture at this dazzling vision, Saint Antony kneels with arms outstretched to receive the approaching Saviour. On a table is a vase containing white lilies, the proper attribute of the saint, painted with such Zeuxis-like skill that birds wandering among the aisles of the cathedral have been seen attempting to perch on it and peck the flowers.
The story is current in Seville that the Duke of Wellington vainly offered the canons of the cathedral a sum of about two hundred and forty thousand dollars for this picture, and when, in 1874, the canvas was cut from its frame and stolen, all Seville was in mourning. For a long time no trace of it could be found, when two men took it to Mr. Schaus, the picture dealer in New York, and offered it to him for two hundred and fifty dollars! He recognised the work, bought it, and through the Spanish consul returned it to Seville. I have since seen it in its place, and had I not known of its wanderings I could not have imagined that the rapturous saint kneeling in the solemn cathedral had ever been thus wantonly disturbed.
I have said that Saint Francis of Assisi is the only male saint to whom the Stigmata is given in works of art, which is, of course, equivalent to saying that no other had the supreme honour of bearing the wounds of Christ. Among female saints this is equally true of Saint Catherine of Siena, although these marks are given to Saint Maria Maddalena di’ Pazzi, without authority from the saintly legends.
Saint Catherine is one of the patron saints of Siena, her birthplace, and from the artists of the Sienese school she received loyal and generous recognition. Her father was a wealthy dyer of Siena, who was blessed with a numerous family, of which Catherine was the youngest. From her infancy, as we read of many chosen servants of God, she was a serious child, who loved solitude, and seemed to be gazing into a visionary world rather than watching the life about her. She had heard the story of Saint Catherine of Alexandria, and when but eight years old she dedicated herself to a religious life and to chastity.
When older, she refused to marry, and her parents could not forgive her peculiarities, and imposed the most menial tasks on her, hoping that hardships would induce her to do what their wishes and commands had failed to recommend to her. She, however, accepted her burdens without a murmur, and laboured incessantly. One day her father suddenly entered her room and saw her kneeling in prayer, while a white dove sat on her head, of which Catherine seemed to be uncon- scious. This greatly affected the stubborn dyer and convinced him that his child was protected by the Holy Ghost. He withdrew his opposition to her wishes, and Catherine soon took her vows as a penitent.
She never became a professed nun, but she lived a most rigorous life, which was full of spiritual temptations and a constant struggle for peace. At length, in the convent church, she had glorious visions, when Jesus, her mystical spouse, appeared to her and comforted her with sweet counsel and his visible presence.
To the care of the most unpleasant diseases and to all possible penances Catherine devoted herself, and shrank from no mortification or labour that could benefit others. At length, in Pisa, is she prayed before an especially sacred crucifix, she was lost in an ecstasy in which she received the Stigmata; this must have assured her of her acceptance with Christ, and brought peace to her troubled soul.
The influence which Catherine exerted in inducing the Pope, who was then at Avignon, to return to Rome, with all the diplomatic service which this required of her, is a matter of history, and is recorded in the accounts of her life. Such a record of great interest is that by Adolphus Trollope in his charming book, .
Catherine of Siena died when but thirty-three years old, in 1380, full of the faith in which she had lived.
A fresco in the Church of San Domenico, in Siena, is probably the oldest picture of Saint Catherine, and may be considered an actual portrait, since it was painted by Andrea Vanni, who was long a valued triend of the saint. She is represented standing, with her black mantle drawn about her; in one hand she holds a stalk of lilies, while she presents the other – on which the sacred wound is plainly seen – to a kneeling nun, who, with hands folded on her breast, reverently touches her lips to the fingers of the saint. This picture can be seen but imperfectly as it is covered with glass for its preservation.
Besides the Stigmata and the lily, the symbols of Saint Catherine of Siena are the palm, a church, and a crown of thorns, as her legend relates that Christ appeared and offered her two crowns, one of gold. and a second of thorns, which last she accepted and pressed on her head until the thorns penetrated her brain.
One of the most beautiful and famous pictures of Saint Catherine is known as the Madonna of the Rosary, and is in the Church of Saint Sabina, in Rome. It is by Sassoferrato, and represents Saint Dominic and Saint Catherine kneeling before an enthroned Madonna, who, turning to Saint Dominic, drops a rosary into his hand, while the child gives a second rosary to Saint Catherine and presses a crown of thorns upon her head, which is covered by her hood. Above are two angels and three cherub heads. The picture is well composed, well balanced, and both dignified and elegant in effect.
In the chapel in the Church of San Domenico, Siena, is the fresco by Razzi, which represents Saint Catherine receiving the Stigmata. She is swooning, and supported by two nuns of her Order. The black mantle has fallen entirely off Saint Catherine and partly off the nun who kneels beside her; the sister who stands behind, and bends tenderly over the saint while still guarding her from falling, retains the black garment. By this arrangement the light and shade in the work are good; the faces of the nuns are beautiful, and the contrast between the fainting saint and the expression of reverent sympathy on the countenances of the others is very fine and most effective.
The picture of the same subject in the Borghese Gallery, Rome, shows the fainting saint supported by two angels. It is by Agostino Caracci. In one hand Saint Catherine holds a lily, and with the other presses his heart to her bosom, in reference to the legend that on one occasion, when she was praying to Jesus for a new heart, he appeared, and, taking his heart from his breast, gave it to her. Here, too, the saint wears her hood, upon which rests the crown of thorns. The heads and faces of the angels are lovely, and the expression of the one who looks in the face of the saint is remarkable for its intense interest in what is occurring.
Other interesting works illustrating the life of Catherine are in San Domenico, and in her oratory, once the shop of her father, which Trollope says the veneration of the Sienese has not permitted to remain as when she lived in it. The walls are covered with frescoes by Salimbeni and Pachierotti, and the altar-piece is by Sodoma.
In tracing the stories of the saints and their association with Art, from its infancy to its prime,- even in outline,- how many kinds of interest are awakened: the religious, artistic, aesthetic, romantic, poetic, and historical are all involved. The suggestiveness of such an outline to travellers or stay-at-homes is of value, and I trust that the many pleasant hours that I have spent, from time to time, during thirty-five years in searching for the history and traditions of the saints, and studying their relation to the Arts, may have gained for me the privilege of interesting others in this rich and inexhaustible subject. And I trust that in this book
Th’ unlearned their wants may view,
The learned reflect on what before they knew.