Western Art No.15
Akira AkiyamaBetween the Sacred and the Secular
In the Case of the Church Treasure
Until now Hellenistic civilizations have been sought out and examined primarily in the Mediterranean World. But according to the definition of the term proposed by J.G. Droysen, Hellenism should properly include the propagation of Greek civilization onto the Ancient Orient as well. Embracing this expanded purview would deepen our understanding of the history of European Art, one of whose primary characteristics lies in its power of outward transmission. This article attempts to do so by focusing on a newly found “Dionysus and Ariadne” terracotta from Kampyr-tepa in Central Eurasia as a hub between the western, southern and eastern regions of the Eurasian Continent. By discussing an image of a quintessentially and universally human act, the kiss, it explores the global spread of the language of Hellenistic form and its local interpretations. A perspective from the East is sought to explain why and how images of such a profane act find their way into various religious contexts, where they are conceived of as highly sacred.
This article aims to present a historical reconstruction of a very powerful “spatial icon”: the miraculous Tuesday performance with the Hodegetria of Constantinople, which was probably created in the twelfth century as a reenactment of the Virgin’s miraculous appearance and protection of the city. The spatial icon of the Tuesday performance could be transferred to other environments. In this way a mystical link between geographically distant areas was established, and these were included in the Christian hierarchy of sacred spaces rooted in the Holy Land and Constantinople perceived as the New Jerusalem. The spatial icons played the role of vehicles of divine energy radiating from the most sacred centers. This kind of phenomenon might be considered as a special type of Byzantine creativity, which the author terms Hierotopy.
Documents and chronicles?both of the period and later?have referred to the princesses (Infantas) of the Kingdom of Leon in the 10-12th centuries as women dedicated to God (devota), abbesses (abbatissa), heads (domina) of a monastery, or brides of Christ. These appellations notwithstanding, it seems that the Leonese princesses did not make an official vow and remained present at the court. Some of them, as sisters of kings, played significant roles in politics, which was unusual in the Europe of that time. They were also notable patronesses of art, because of their economic power, which resulted from their ownership of monasteries in the kingdom (Infantado). This essay studies the characteristics of the activities of these women and the art related to them, which encompass both secular and religious aspects. The case of the princess Urraca Fernandez (†1101) is examined in detail, relying on the relatively abundant data on her life and politico-artistic activities. The importance of Urraca’s patronage of Early Romanesque Art in Northern Spain is also emphasized.
How did still life painting emerge in Dutch art at the beginning of the seventeenth century? It is generally thought that still life gained independent as a painting genre at the same time as religious subjects in Dutch art went into decline. In other words, it still life was equated with secularization. Such a view, however, oversimplifies the problem. This article examines this issue from two perspectives. One is the proposition that still life painting became independent as a painting genre in order to gratify the taste of connoisseurs, joining religiosity and allegory. The other one is that this kind of descriptive representation of nature was used as a means to arouse religious feeling, though this was opposed to secularization. In conclusion this article proposes that the sudden rise of still life painting took place in the intersection of these two phenomena, in this crossing between the sacred and the profane.
In 1890 Maurice Denis stated that “whereas the Byzantine Christ was a symbol, the Jesus of modern painters was merely literary, even if he was cloaked in the exact kaffiyeh.” But nineteenth-century French religious painting cannot easily be segregated into realistic and non-realistic modes. The present paper attempts to demonstrate this point through an analysis of two texts concerning the representation of religious themes: Alexis-Francois Rio’s De la poesie chretienne dans son principe, dans sa matiere et dans ses formes (1836) and Horace Vernet’s “Des rapports qui existent entre le costumes des anciens Hebreux et celui des Arabes modernes” (1848), as well as critiques of the interior decor of two Parisian churches, the Saint-Vincent-de-Paul and Saint-Genevieve (now known as the Pantheon)5.
In his last years, Henri Matisse (1869-1954) undertook a major decorative project for the Chapel of Rosary (Chapelle du Rosaire), aimed at realizing a permanent exhibition space of ideal character, centered on a large-scale work of murals and stained glass windows. I consider the circumstances behind Matisse’s deliberate choice of this religious space in southern France in the years following World War II, when exhibitions and venues for displaying works were increasing in number. I look in particular at how this choice was related to conditions affecting the display of collected works at two modern art museums that had opened in Paris after the war. I additionally show how Matisse independently raised funds for the project and in other ways sought to avoid the limitations that working at the chapel of a religious order imposed on his creativity. Giving concrete examples, I furthermore demonstrate how, through artistic devices in his rendering of the works and by carefully selecting venues for exhibiting his preliminary maquettes, he endeavored to avoid having this decorative project?the culmination of his entire working life?evaluated only in the context of French religious art.
Although the art of Andy Warhol seems entirely secular in its reflection of twentieth-century mass consumer society, it is in fact highly sacred in nature. This is evident not only when religious themes such as the cross and the Last Supper appear in his later years, reflecting the influence of his lifelong faith in Catholicism, but also in his works from earlier years that resemble Christian icons or are iconic in nature. In his portraits of famous people such as Marilyn Monroe and Chairman Mao as well as his “death and disaster” paintings, the power of the image overrides style or technique. Warhol claimed that he wanted to be a machine and attempted to remove the trace of the hand or the author’s individuality from his paintings through silkscreen or blotted line technique, thereby leaving to others the reception and interpretation of his works. Similarly, Christian icons were believed to have been made without human intervention and a concept of authorship. It is here that Warhol found the ideal mode of art-making.
Kayo Exhibition Review: Cranach der Altere
Edited by Akira Akiyama
Rosso Tintoretto: la mostra del Prado
Note by an Art Historian
On the Madonna of the Thumb of the Tokyo National Museum