DRAWING by DANIEL MITSUI
This is an ink drawing on calfskin vellum. I drew it using calligraphers’ inks applied with dip pens and brushes.
The original was created on private commission.
It depicts an event told in the Gospel of Luke:
There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zachary, of the course of Abia; and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name Elizabeth. And they were both just before God, walking in all the commandments and justifications of the Lord without blame. And they had no son, for that Elizabeth was barren, and they both were well advanced in years. And it came to pass, when he executed the priestly function in the order of his course before God, according to the custom of the priestly office, it was his lot to offer incense, going into the temple of the Lord. And all the multitude of the people was praying without, at the hour of incense.
In the foreground stands St. Elizabeth; the annunciation to St. Zachary appears in the background, at the Temple’s altar. The words of St. Gabriel announcing the coming child are written in blackletter in the border.
And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And Zachary seeing him, was troubled, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him: Fear not, Zachary, for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elizabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. And thou shalt have joy and gladness, and many shall rejoice in his nativity. For he shall be great before the Lord; and shall drink no wine nor strong drink: and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb.
And he shall convert many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. And he shall go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah; that he may turn the hearts of the fathers unto the children, and the incredulous to the wisdom of the just, to prepare unto the Lord a perfect people. And Zachary said to the angel: Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years. And the angel answering, said to him: I am Gabriel, who stand before God: and am sent to speak to thee, and to bring thee these good tidings. And behold, thou shalt be dumb, and shalt not be able to speak until the day wherein these things shall come to pass, because thou hast not believed my words, which shall be fulfilled in their time.
I designed two damask patterns for the textiles that appear in the drawing: the one on the rose-colored cloth combines Northumbro-Irish knotwork (also present in the border) and pseudo-Arabic lettering that spells Amen Alleluia. The one on the blue cloth has fish, flowers and bamboo. The floor tile pattern I designed with my children’s pattern blocks; the backdrop behind the altar has an orthogonal repetition of the words VETUS and NOVUS. I wrote the name Elizabeth in Latin letters designed to resemble Hebrew ones.
Objects obscured by incense smoke I drew as ghost images on the opposite side of the translucent calfskin. The details can be seen more clearly when the image is held up to a light. (These effects are not as apparent in the giclée print, which is printed on one side only).
I have been developing a more precise symbolism of the astronomical bodies, that especially affects the manner in which I draw haloes. The Sun represents the New Testament, and thus figures of God, the Angels, John the Baptist and saints that died after Jesus Christ are depicted with golden haloes. The moon represents the Old Testament; figures of holy persons who died before Jesus Christ have silver haloes. The full-moon halo I reserve for certain persons intimately connected to the coming of the New Testament, such as Ss. Elizabeth and Zachary.
I drew the original picture on a sheet of calfskin together with a picture of Sarah the Matriarch. For the giclée print (shown here), I separated the two images. The print measures 4 3/4" × 6 1/2".
An open-edition giclée print of this drawing is available for $29. You may use the button below to pay via PayPal, debit card or credit card. Be sure to confirm the shipping address.
Please note that the original drawing was made on calfskin vellum, which is not perfectly white, flat or homogenous. Natural variations in the color and thickness of the calfskin show up in the giclée print, especially in the outer borders. These are not smudges or printing errors, but part of the artwork itself.
See this page for additional ordering instructions and general information. If you want to pay via a check or money order, please e-mail me at danmitsui [at] hotmail [dot] com.