Friday, April 22, 2011

Dominicans: At the Foot of the Cross

The Dominican History blog has a very good post on the famous painting by Flemish painter Abraham van Diepenbeeck (1596-1675), "Christ on the Cross Adored by Eight Saints of the Dominican Order". It is truly a masterpiece of art. The painting is presently housed at the Louvre in Paris. From the museum website:
"This grisaille work was a model for an engraving by Adriaen Lommelin (c. 1616-after 1673). It is dated 1652 and dedicated to the newly appointed bishop of Ypres, the Dominican Ambrosius Capello. The saints represent the qualities a bishop should aspire to: doctrinal wisdom, Marian devotion, courage, rectitude, zeal in pastoral work and in preaching, charity, and intelligence - all under the sign of the cross, Verbum Crucis...

Dominican iconography

The identity of each saint is indicated by his or her attributes. Each illustrates a particular quality that should inspire Capello in his ministry. Saint Thomas Aquinas, representing doctrinal wisdom, is about to begin writing, directly inspired by the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove. Saint Hyacinth of Krakow, representing Marian devotion, is pointing at a statue of the Virgin. Saint Peter of Verona, tortured with daggers and cutlasses, represents courage. Saint Catherine of Siena, wearing a crown of thorns and bearing the stigmata, is the image of pure devotion. Saint Dominic, carrying a Marian lily, represents zeal in pastoral work. His name, domini canis, the Lord's dog, explains the presence of the black-and-white dog at his feet. Saint Vincent Ferrer's zeal in preaching is evident as he points towards Heaven to remind us of the Last Judgment, while the little child is an allusion to one of the miraculous cures he effected. The elderly Saint Raymond of Peñafort, the theologian of the sacrament of penitence, is the symbol of vigilance and rectitude. Finally, Saint Antoninus, archbishop of Florence, symbolizes just intelligence and charity. His scales are tipped towards the paper bearing the words Deo Gratias (legible only on the engraving), which are thus heavier than the fruit offered to the saint by a peasant in the hoping of winning his good favor."
Read more at Dominican History and the Louvre website.

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